Ode to My Pantry: Cranberry Sauce Leftovers

Learning to feed yourself can be one of the most terrifying things. Am I about to give myself food poisoning? If I eat this too often will I end up with scurvy? How can I get the most nutritional bang for my buck? Why does this still taste like ass?

With Ode to My Pantry, learn to navigate a grocery store without having a meltdown in aisle three. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a queer to cook and stave off malnutrition for another semester.


It’s mid-January! The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to real life by taking down your decorations, stashing away your holiday playlists and resigning yourself to eating single course meals again. If you’re anything like my family, you overestimated how much cranberry sauce you could consume in a single meal when you bought out aisle three. Or maybe you found the red crack jelly severely discounted post-Christmas and simply couldn’t say no. Either way, if your pantry shelves are as bloated as my stomach is, you’re starting to get the same buyer’s remorse you felt on Boxing Day when you came home clutching a peplum dress.

It’s easy to get rid of post-Thanksgiving cranberry sauce since December forces you to share a holiday spread with your parents, roommates, significant other(s), family-less friends and/or coworkers every other weekend. You have plenty of sandwich opportunities to rid yourself of the relish, but what happens once you’ve used up your turkey vector? It’s harder (but not impossible) to deplete your stores in January, you just need to scheme a bit more.

Keep the cans stashed by your entryway, ready for the next door-to-door food drive? Show up at every single potluck bearing a can of cran? Practice your cylindrical object stacking skills in preparation for the upcoming roller derby season?

I'll just pretend that this looks like cranberry sauce

You have to build up your beeramid skills sooner or later.

You could just sit on your stash until next Festive Bird Season or you could try disguising your jelly in a way that doesn’t gobble. Even though the red crack-sauce is most associated with turkey and wintry dinner tables, it can find its way into your kitchen well into spring and summer. Get your handy dandy can opener ready to open your sauce and your mind!

Sweeten Something Up

What is cranberry sauce really besides berries, sugar and pectin? Treat it like such and you’ll find baked goods and desserts can be a lot easier with a can handy.

I personally find store-bought pie fillings sickeningly sweet, but there are tons of ideas that put them to good use. You don’t need to go Sandra Lee and perversely empty a can where it needn’t belong, but you can call in cranberry when you legitimately need a sub. My mom would add a swirl of cranberry sauce into her cheesecake tarts and those post-Christmas treats were always a hit.

Whip out the cranberry jelly next time you need to glaze fruit for a cake or a tart. Dissolve it in boiling water as you would apricot jelly and smear away.

Don’t have time and/or patience and/or resources to make a compote? Melt a can of cranberry sauce with a bit of boiling water, orange zest and Cointreau (or any other orange liqueur) and you’re ready to take on any pancake, waffle or bowl of ice cream that comes your way.

Stash Your Extra Cans at Your Bar

There are worse things you could do than drink your leftovers. Cranberry sauce is the perfect mixture of tart, sweet and fruity, making it an especially helpful substitute when your bar has been depleted by holiday parties. Attack your Christmas dinner’s red remnants with the immersion blender you found under your tree and you’ll be able to get yourself out of any cocktail jam.

Run out of sloe gin? (Or don’t even know what sloe gin is?) I’m a sucker for frothy drinks so if I don’t have all of the ingredients for a Sloe Gin Fizz I’ll make do. The traditional cocktail calls for egg whites to give the drink a frothy head, but drinking raw egg whites isn’t for everyone. If you happen to be vegan or worried about salmonella poisoning, know that your stomach’s safe since the sauce slurry supplies your sip with a similarly sudsy structure.

Shake ingredients 1,2,3,4 and 6 over ice and top with 5 to taste. I should learn to order my lists properly.

Shake ingredients 1,2,3,4 and 6 over ice and top with 5 to taste. I should learn to order my lists properly.

Run out of sour mix? Follow Chow’s lead and mash up a bit of the jelly with bourbon, amaretto and ginger ale for a fruitier take on an amaretto sour.

Run out of grenadine? Use your homemade syrup in your next Tequila Sunrise or Sex on the Beach. Keep your kiddies happy as well by using said syrup in their Shirley Temple. Keep a few whole cranberries aside if you happened to run out of Maraschino cherries as well.

Fill an ice cube tray with your leftover jelly to keep your cocktails cool. If you’re a vodka-cranberry type of person, this will come in handy.

Just Eat the Damn Stuff

When in doubt, it’s still jam, damnit. Spoons, bagels and sandwiches are all appropriate vectors. Be merry and keep munching and let me know if you have your own way to use up your leftovers.

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Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 139 articles for us.


  1. I can Cranberry Sauce & 1 12-oz jar Heinz Chili Sauce cook over low heat until smooth. Add mini-meatballs (I use packaged vegetarian-balls). Pull out the toothpicks and you have Cocktail Meatballs, a very classy hors d’oeuvre.

    • Mom, is that you? Don’t you usually use those itty bitty hot dog things for this? Either way, it’s still my favorite!

  2. The best (well, only) drink I ever made with cranberry sauce is a cranberry Negroni! It was great, it came from Mark Bittman, and all it is is:

    Equal parts gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and cranberry sauce (like an ounce each, but it’s really flexible)

    Shake it with ice, strain it, and you have a wonderfully tart, refreshing, rose-colored beverage!

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