This easy spiced cranberry jam takes just a few minutes to make. It's so simple and uses just a few easy to find ingredients. This spiced cranberry jam is just the right balance of sweet and tart, with a hint of orange and lots of warm spices!
Serve it warm at Thanksgiving or on a cheeseboard with brie and crackers.
If you've never made jam from scratch before, have no fear. Homemade cranberry jam is one of the easiest jams to make, and I'm here to guide you through every step of the process. You got this!
I love making this spiced cranberry jam in the fall when cranberries are perfectly in season. Then, I use the canning process I've shared below to save jars of it to eat all year round.
Last year, I shipped jars of this spiced cranberry jam across the country to friends and family who I couldn't see at Thanksgiving because of the pandemic. Sending jars of this easy spiced cranberry jam was my way of joining their Thanksgiving celebrations even though I couldn't be there in person.
What you think of as a homemade "cranberry sauce" is actually a type of cranberry jam, so this spiced cranberry jam really is perfect on a Thanksgiving table.
This sweet-and-tart cranberry jam would also be right at home on a cheese board paired with creamy brie and a sweet-and-spicy pineapple habanero jam. And it can be made in advance, just like this make-ahead turkey gravy to save you time when you're doing your holiday cooking.
🥘 Ingredients for Spiced Cranberry Jam
Every fruit jam requires pectin to thicken and gelatinize. Pectin occurs naturally in fruits like oranges, lemons, apples, and, lucky for us — cranberries! When pectin combines with sugar and an acid (usually lemon juice), it turns fruit into what we think of as jam.
Because cranberries are high in pectin and acid, we don't need any additional pectin or acid here.
Here's what you will need to make this spiced cranberry jam.
- Cranberries — I wrote this recipe to use one bag (12 oz) cranberries. They're best when they're in season (October-November).
- Sugar — Plain white granulated sugar.
- Orange zest — I use large naval oranges and always look for ones with bright orange skin. Use a microplane to zest the skin (try to avoid the white pith — it's bitter!).
- Cinnamon — I like a Vietnamese cinnamon (sometimes called Saigon cinnamon) for its stronger flavor. I recently picked up a jar of Burlap & Barrel's cult-fave Royal Cinnamon and it was so good in this jam.
- Ground Cloves — Dark brown in color with a warm, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor. A little goes a long way here!
- Nutmeg — Whole nutmeg, freshly grated. So much better than if you buy the pre-ground stuff. I buy mine from Spicewalla, where a small tin will last you literally for years.
🔪 How to Make Cranberry Jam
Start by combining all the ingredients except for the sugar in a pot. Measure the sugar and have it ready to go.
Put the cranberries in the pot first so the spices and zest don't burn on the bottom of the pot. Heat the berries over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
At first, it will seem like nothing is happening. What you can't see is the liquid inside the cranberries slowly heating up. And after a few minutes, the berries will start bursting. You'll actually be able to hear them popping!
TIP: If the spices and zest seem like they're sticking or burning before the berries start breaking down, add a splash (1-2 tablespoons) of water. The water will protect the spices and zest until the berries release their juices.
Depending on the size of your pot and how hot your stove gets, breaking down the cranberries can take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. Be patient! Keep stirring and mashing them up.
When the cranberries are pretty mashed up and there's not a lot of liquid in the pot, use an immersion blender to break them up even more. (If you prefer a chunky jam, you can skip this step!)
If you don't have an immersion blender you can use a cocktail muddler or even a potato masher here instead. Just be careful, the cranberries are very hot!
Add the sugar and stir well. The sugar will immediately melt and combine with the berry mixture. In this case, the sugar is operating almost more like a liquid than a dry ingredient!
Bring the spiced cranberry jam mixture to a low boil, stirring constantly.
You'll be able to tell when it's boiling you see some slow, sluggish bubbles bursting on the surface when you stop stirring for 5-10 seconds. Boil for 1-2 minutes to thicken.
Remove from the heat and transfer immediately to sterilized canning jars for long term storage or to an airtight container if using immediately. Let cool completely before serving.
Hint: To tell if the jam is at your preferred consistency, dollop a small amount on a plate and pop it in the freezer for 20-30 seconds. Then try spreading the jam on the plate. If it moves like jam, it's done! If it moves like liquid, keep boiling 30-60 seconds more.
⏲️ How to can fruit preserves for long term storage
Canning might seem like a big, laborious process that requires lots of specialized equipment, but it can actually be done small scale — just be careful with the boiling water and slippery tongs. This is the process I learned in pastry school, and it's super easy.
If you're going to use your jam immediately, you don't need to take this step. But if you're planning on keeping it for a while before use, or are giving it as a gift, this step creates an airtight seal and ensures it remains safe to eat for a year or more.
You will need: Glass jars with the two-part lids. The disc part of the lids need to be new and unused (the rubber gasket seal is one-time use only) but the rings and jars can be used over and over again. You can buy replacement disc lids online. I usually use small 4 oz (½ cup) jars or medium 8 oz (1 cup) jars.
- Sanitize the jars and lids — The empty glass jars should be submerged, upright, in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. The lids (not the rings) should be submerged in simmering (not boiling) water for at least 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the boiling water and dry the insides with a paper towel right before filling with jam.
- Fill each jar with jam — Leave about ¼"-⅛" space at the top.
- Remove air bubbles — Run a knife or small offset spatula around the edges of the jar, all the way to the bottom.
- Clean the rim — Use a damp paper towel to remove any debris from the rim of the jar. If anything gets in the way of the rubber seal on the lid, you won't get an airtight seal.
- Screw the lid on —You want it to be "fingertip tight" meaning you could unscrew it with minimal effort using just your fingertips. No water should be able to get in, but the air trapped inside the jar needs to be able to get out.
- Submerge the jars in boiling water — There needs to be at least 1-2 inches of water above the top of the jar. Submerge the jars all at once, then cover the pot and leave the jars at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. The pressure inside will force the air out of the jars, giving you an airtight seal. After 10 minutes, remove the lid, turn off the heat, and leave the jars for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from water and seal — Remove the jars from the water. The lids should all be flat on top, or will pop flat within a few minutes of being removed from the water. Use a towel to carefully tighten the lid rings the rest of the way. Caution: JARS WILL BE HOT!
TIP: If the lids don't pop flat, you'll have to repeat the canning process. Or you can try leaving them to cool upside down — sometimes that helps push any extra air out of the jar. (h/t Chef Jody O'Sullivan for this tip!)
Storing Homemade Jam
Sugar and acid are natural preservatives, so homemade cranberry jam will stay good for at least 1 month in the fridge in an airtight container. "The expected shelf life will be shortened by keeping the container frequently open and/or out at room temperature for long periods of time during use," advises the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP).
If you follow the canning process, and store your jam jars in a cool, dark place, the airtight seal will keep the spiced cranberry jam good for a year. Once opened, it will stay good in the fridge for at least 1 month.
From the NCHFP: "For safe eating practices, store your opened jar of jam or jelly in the refrigerator until consumed, and examine it frequently for signs of spoilage (like mold or yeast growth, or off-odors, including 'fermented,' 'alcohol' or 'yeasty' odors). Discard the product immediately if any signs of spoilage are detected."
🍽 Serving Suggestions
There are so many ways to serve this spiced cranberry jam. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Slathered on toast or english muffins with homemade butter or goat cheese.
- On a cheese board with brie and lots of crackers.
- Warmed up, as cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving table. You may want to double or triple the recipe in this case!
- As a condiment with Swedish meatballs (traditionally served with Lingonberry jam).
- Swirled in to your favorite oatmeal.
- As a filling for homemade pop tarts or hand pies.
- Dolloped into pancakes or spread on waffles.
- Added to a yogurt and granola parfait.
💭 Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- Sugar gets really hot and retains heat very well. Be careful when bringing it to a boil — you don't want it to splash on you.
- You can use the immersion blender again after adding the sugar, you'll just want to be very cautious to only turn it on when the head is submerged in the jam. You don't want to fling hot sugar around your kitchen!
- The flat part of the ring lids on the jars is not reusable for canning purposes. The rings and the jars can be reused, but the flat part of the lid with the rubber rim can only be used once to get an airtight seal. You can use the flat part of the jar as a regular lid, you just can't use it again in the canning process.
- You can totally swap the cloves for other spices if you want. This is also great with warm spices like allspice, apple pie spice blends, ground ginger, a pinch of cayenne, etc.
- This recipe makes enough jam to fill (2) eight fluid ounce jars or (4) 4 fluid ounce jars of cranberry jam. An eight fluid ounce jar can hold approximately 9 ounces of jam by weight.
- If you don't have a microplane for the orange zest, you can use a regular peeler. If you go this route, your options are: (1) Remove the pieces of the peel from the pot before adding the sugar, (2) mince the peel well before adding it to the pot, or (3) make sure you really get the immersion blender in there to break it up so no one ends up with a whole piece of peel in their bite of jam!
👩🏻🍳 Recipe FAQ
I haven't tried so I don't know! I would recommend looking for a recipe designed specifically for dried cranberries if that's all you have to work with.
Yes! Just remember, sugar gets hot and retains heat very well. I recommend heating it up in a pot on the stove. If you're using a microwave to heat it up, microwave in 10-20 second bursts, stirring between each one so it heats evenly.
I usually use grams because they're simpler. In this case, ounces is simpler. Cranberries usually come in 12 ounce bags. That's 340 grams. And 10 ounces is simpler than 284 grams sugar. (Oh look, there's the measurements in grams if you need them!)
Most digital scales can do both grams and ounces, so it's easy enough to switch! I've even included cups measurements for both. Just know that if you use the 2X or 3X buttons the cups measurements won't automatically adjust, so you'll have to do that multiplication for yourself.
Easy Spiced Cranberry Jam
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries (3 cups)
- 10 ounces sugar (1¼ cups)
- 1 orange (zested)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon whole nutmeg (freshly grated)
Spiced Cranberry Jam
- Measure sugar and spices and set aside.
- Cook cranberries in a medium sauce pot over medium heat until they start popping and breaking down, 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently, using a spatula or wooden spoon to mash the cranberries up as you go. If the berries start burning on the bottom of the pot in the first few minutes, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of water.
- When the cranberries are as mashed up as you can get them and there's no liquid pooling in the bottom of the pot, reduce heat to low and use an immersion blender to break them up even more. (Skip this step for a chunky cranberry jam!)
- Add the sugar, orange zest, and spices at all once and stir well to melt the sugar into the cranberry mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the spiced cranberry jam mixture to a low boil, stirring constantly.
- Cook at a low boil for 1-2 minutes until jam thickens. To check consistency, dollop a small amount of jam (¼ teaspoon) on a non-plastic plate and pop in the freezer for 20-30 seconds. Test it by spreading it on the plate with a knife or your finger; if it's runny, keep cooking the jam a few minutes more. If it spreads like jam, it's done!
- Remove jam from heat and transfer to sterilized canning jar or airtight container to store.
- Sterilize jars: Submerge glass canning jars upright in large pot with at least 1-2" of water of headroom. Bring to a boil for at least 10 minutes. They can stay longer than 10 minutes, just make sure to keep them fully submerged.
- Sterilize lids: In a separate pot, submerge the flat part of the lids (not the rings) for at least 10 minutes, or until ready to use. Do not boil!
- Carefully remove a jar from the water. Dry out the inside with a paper towel, then pour jam into the jar, leaving at least ¼" headspace at the top.
- Run a knife or small offset spatula around the jar to knock out any air bubbles trapped inside. Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel to remove any debris or jammy bits.
- Place one of the flat sterilized lids on the jar and screw the ring piece on so that it's "fingertip tight." (You should be able to unscrew it with little effort using just your fingertips.)
- When all the jars have been filled, submerge them in a pot of boiling water with at least 1-2" of water above them. Cover with a well-fitting lid to create pressure inside the pot. Maintain a rolling boiling for 10 minutes, then uncover and turn the heat off. Let sit for 5 minutes, then remove the jars to a clean towel.
- The lids should be perfectly flat on top or will "pop" flat within a few minutes of being removed from the water. Once they do, tighten the rings the rest of the way. Caution: Jars will be hot! If the lids don't pop flat, try flipping them upside down to cool. Otherwise repeat the canning process, knocking out air bubbles and making sure there's no debris in the way of the rubber seal.
- This recipe makes enough jam to fill (1) sixteen fluid ounce jar, (2) eight fluid ounce jars, or (4) four fluid ounce jars of cranberry jam. An eight fluid ounce jar can hold approximately 9 ounces of jam by weight.
- Shoutout to Chef Jody O'Sullivan for the tip to flip the jars upside down if the lids don't pop flat! It doesn't work every time, but when it does it's great to not have to repeat the canning process!
- I've included cups measurements here because this doesn't rely on super precise measurements the way baking does. If you use the 2X or 3X buttons, only the weight measurements will scale up. Do the cups measurement multiplication on your own!
- Recipe duration does not include canning time.
- Jam will stay good for about a year in the fridge once opened. Canned jam should be stored in a cool, dark place where it will stay good for up to a year. Once opened, it should be refrigerated.
Really tasty, quick and simple. The cranberries broke down totally with just a flat potato masher. Freezing half for Christmas but could probably devour it on toast or oatmeal.
Jordan Rae Cox
This was the first time I made jam and it was delicious- on my second go! During the first round I mixed up tb and tsp and the spice level was overwhelming. I went back and did it the right way and to my delight everyone at thanksgiving loved it. This went well on rosemary biscuits and we even had some with brie and crackers.
Ooof yes — tablespoons would be too much hahaha. I'm glad you got it right on the second try — brie and rosemary biscuits sound like the perfect combo for it
Thank you! We had a ton of extra cranberries after thanksgiving and I made a bunch of small jars for stocking stuffers! Any idea how long this will last out of the fridge?
If you canned it according to my instructions it will be fine out of the fridge for 1 year. Once opened, it will be good for about a month unrefrigerated or up to a year stored in the refrigerator. If you didn't use my canning instructions and just put lids on the jars without removing the air, it will be good for about a month unrefrigerated, or up to a year if stored in the fridge!
This sounds delicious and easy to make, but do you have any special instructions for freezing?
Because I can my jam in sterilized jars with an airtight seal, I don't usually freeze it. I don't have special instructions for how to do so, but a quick google turned up some posts with lots of great tips for freezing cooked jams!
Made this for the first time as part of your class and then just made it again on my own! I LOVE this recipe! My kids love it so much and I am going to make some more for teacher gifts this year. It is such a Warm and cozy jam recipe, the spices included really make me feel a holiday vibe while we eat it. Bonus it goes amazing with the homemade goat cheese!
Kaitlin!!! This makes me SO HAPPY! Thank you so much for joining the class and I'm so thrilled to hear you've continued enjoying and making the jam (and the goat cheese!). <3
This is so good. First time making jam and canning, and this recipe followed correctly is perfect and so easy. I made 14 6oz jars to give out for the holiday, I know this will be a big hit.
So glad you enjoyed the recipe, and congrats on a successful first time canning experience! Enjoy your holidays. 🙂
I purchased the clearance cranberries after Thanksgiving at my local store for 50 cents a bag and this was the perfect recipe for them! Full disclosure I added cardamom to mine, as I think it goes with the spice pallet and it's one of my favorite (so aromatic!). I will definitely be serving this at my family Christmas party next weekend. Thank you for this recipe!
Yess cardamom is one of my favorite warm spices and is a perfect fit here! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂
(PS - Would you mind adding a star rating to your comment?)
I made a double batch of the jam (after only being able to watch the class due to my broken stove). It came together so quickly including time for canning. Probably the quickest and easiest canning I’ve ever done. I canned them in 4 ounce jars to give as gifts and have some for myself. First use use was on a turkey burger with Brie cheese, absolutely delicious!! Thanks for the wonderful recipe and virtual class!
I made a comment about a print friendly version, my bad, i found it! and the recipe is fantastic, we're working on a second batch.
I took Rebecca's jam making class to learn to make this - it was my first jam and I was intimidated but it is so fun and easy to make that I've now made probably 10 batches. I gave them to all my kids' teachers for holiday gifts and I bring this jam to every gathering I'm invited to! It's always a hit! My family loves it with some toast in the morning, or with some goat cheese on a baguette for a snack. Thank you for this amazing recipe!
I love this so much!! Thanks for joining the class, so glad to hear it's become a recipe staple!