It’s actually more of a jam or jelly than a sauce. The tart acidic flavor of the berries is buried under an avalanche of sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) in order to create this holiday classic.
We took a look inside the label of Ocean Spray’s Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce.
What you need to know:
The product has just 4 ingredients:
Cranberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water
If the company had used just sugar instead of corn syrups, the list would have been even shorter and better.
Nutritionally there’s not much here, as the processing has taken away most of the fiber from the cranberries. A serving is a quarter cup, or four tablespoons. It contains 22 grams of sugar, or about five and a half teaspoons worth. Most of the 110 calories from this serving come from sugar. There are virtually no vitamins here, despite a high vitamin C content in raw cranberries (25% of the daily value).
If you think about it, a serving of cranberry sauce on the dinner plate is sort of cheating - you’re having dessert before the main meal is even over.
In the past, and in some places to this day, the cranberry sauce is not as heavily sweetened. It adds a delightful twist to your stuffing and turkey without the empty sugar calories. Too bad Ocean Spray doesn’t have a less sweetened option.
What to do at the supermarket:
Unfortunately, all the big brand and store brand cranberry sauces are more or less the same. But if you want to make your own, less sweetened sauce, it couldn’t get any easier:
In a small pot, mix 4 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries with one cup of water and half a cup (or less) of sugar, bring to boil and then simmer until the cranberries “pop”. Cool. The sauce thickens as it cools. Best to prepare a day or two in advance.
You can also opt for an uncooked cranberry sauce. Here’s an interesting option from Maria Rodale.
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