mom McGahan’s cranberry jelly



This recipe dates back in my family to the McGahan’s and the Mahoney’s … and I’m not really sure how far back it goes …

…all I know is it’s not Thanksgiving without mom’s cranberry jelly.  And since I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving at my mother’s home in more than a decade, I was force to learn how to make this on my own.

Before proceeding, in the interest of full disclosure …

1. This is a two day commitment;

2. The cranberries may or may not jell.  There is no 100% guarantee . (You can always try to boil again and add a second box of Sure Jell) and;

3. Speaking of Sure Jell — finding it at this time of year can be tricky.  One year I had to search three different grocery stores.  If you can, pick some up earlier in the season.

Aside from tasting great, the main reason I’m sharing is because I was determined to put real times and measurements to this recipe … versus ‘put cranberries in pot and fill with enough water so that when you push down on the cranberries the water just covers the top of your hand.’ Or, ‘boil until you stop hearing them “pop.”’  It’s a miracle I ever made this recipe work!

Now — if I haven’t scared you away — let’s get started by gathering the ingredients and supplies ….

Cranberry Supplies (550x413) (2)

I used two 12-ounce bags of cranberries with a yield of five 12-ounce jelly jars.

The water-to-cranberry ratio comes out to 2 1/2 cups of water per one 12-ounce bag of cranberries.

Cranberries in Pot (550x413) (2)

But if you’d rather go old school you can follow the “push down on the cranberries and water should cover the top of you hand” crazy instructions …

Cranberry Jelly Hand Test (550x413) (2)

Turn the heat on high and cook for a total of 15-minutes.  Don’t panic if you hear the cranberries “popping” – they’re supposed to.

While the cranberries are cooking, you can prep your colander and cheesecloth …

Cranberries Cheesecloth (550x413) (2)
You need to put the colander inside of a large saucepan because we want to capture the liquid (the cranberries themselves will be discarded at a later point) …

Cranberries Cheesecloth 2 (550x413) (2)

… and then put the cheesecloth inside the colander like so …

Cranberries Cheesecloth 3 (550x413) (2)

After 15-minutes of cooking, your cranberries should look something like this …

Cranberries Boiled (550x413) (2)

Now it’s time to drain the cranberries and capture the liquid …

Cranberries Drained (550x413) (2)

… and tie them up overnight.

Cranberries Drained 2 (550x413) (2)
Cranberries Dripping (550x413) (2)

On day two, discard the cranberries and put the liquid captured back on the stove …

Cranberries Day 2 Start (550x413) (2)

Have your 4 cups of sugar and Sure Jell ready.  Now turn the heat on high.  Watch closely and when you see steam coming off, add the Sure Jell a little bit at a time and stir, stir, stir …

Cranberries Steaming (550x413) (2)

When your liquid comes to a full, rolling boil that you can’t stir down …

Cranberries Rolling Boil (550x413) (2)

Dump in the 4 cups of sugar all at once.  And now you need to stir, stir and stir like a crazy person until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Let it come back to a full rolling boil and boil for 2 more minutes.

Turn off the heat and transfer your cranberries to jelly glasses.  Tip: I first pour the cranberries into my Pyrex measuring cup to minimize the potential mess.

Cranberries Poured (550x413) (2)
Cranberries Poured 2 (550x413) (2)

As they cool down, they should start to jell.    If not, you may need to boil again and add another box of Sure Jell.

Once cool, cover with lids and refrigerate.  Or, if you’re a nutcase like me, dress them up with buttons and bows …

Cranberry Jelly Close Up (550x413) (2)
Cranberries Final 3 (550x413) (2)

I even designated jars for the three people who love this cranberry jelly the most …

Cranberries Final 5 (550x413) (2)


Linking up with …

Thistlewood Farms
Chef In Training
Moms Crazy Cooking
The Girl Creative
Delightfully Dowling
Make Ahead Meals for Busy Mom’s “Melt in Your Mouth Monday”
Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
Sisters of the Wild West
Lolly Jane Boutique
Home Stories A 2 Z
The DIY Showoff Fall Festival
The Shabby Creek Cottage
Funky Junk Interiors

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  1. ColleenB. says

    how long will this keep in the refrigerator and also; 1 more thing; can a person do a water bath to give a longer shelf life?
    Looks like a wonderful recipe.
    Thank you


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