Taste Test Thursday: Cranberry Sauce

The holiday side comes in a variety of flavors, shapes and consistencies. But which one is the best?

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and while your Pinterest board may be overflowing with mouthwatering recipes that you’ve been daydreaming about making since April, it’s important to keep alternative, quick options on hand. Let’s face it, life throws curveballs — especially around the holidays — and that heavenly turkey and cranberry strudel that you’ve been dreaming of might never materialize.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tasting Thanksgiving staples that can be purchased at grocery stores in and around Dallas. We’re kicking things off this week with cranberry sauce. The holiday side comes in a variety of flavors, shapes and consistencies. My personal favorite is the gelatinous blob that takes on the shape of the can it’s been packaged in. The more can rings imprinted on the mold, the better. On the other hand, there are some delectable whole-berry, organic sauces out there that are sure to delight even the snobbiest of dinner guests.

I ran around to a handful of grocery stores in town and picked up a few varieties of the classic holiday side, and some helpful D Magazine staff members tasted them. Here’s what they thought.

The cranberry sauces:

A. Pacific Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
B. Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce
C. Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
D. Crane Berry Cranberry Sauce with Imported French Brandy
E. 365 Organic Jellied Cranberry Sauce
F. Wholesome Home (Kroger) Cranberry Celebration Salad
G. Wild Thyme Cranberry Orange Sauce

 

Tasting notes:

Pacific Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

  • Nice chunky texture, pleasantly tart.
  • Good. Like. Mild but sweet. Nice texture.
  • Very grainy with a very sweet aftertaste. Not a huge fan of all the seeds in this one.
  • This has a pleasant yet sinewy texture. It doesn’t taste cheap and has a lingering sweetness that makes me want to eat candy. I thought I was done with that after Halloween.
  • To me, this is the perfect texture with its chunky berries and mushiness. But it’s too sweet.
  • Tart, seedy, I like that you get good chunks of the cranberry skin.
  • A bit on the sweet side.

 

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

  • Shaped like the can. Melts away in the mouth. A little too sour.
  • I refuse to eat gelatin.
  • I miss the fruit. It has a good tart level to it, but the fact that it looks like the can it came in, and has no berries, is off-putting.
  • This has those classic can marks. Cranberry sauce of this factory-made variety should not work, but it has a lunchroom charm that’s hard to shake.
  • Sour + gelatinous = no.
  • Seems like a raspberry taste. More of a Jell-O texture, doesn’t seem all-natural or fresh.
  • Canned shape. The texture is a real turnoff.

 

Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

  • Full cranberries in there. Nice texture but not much flavor.
  • A little astringent. OK.
  • Very runny. Has a nice color. There’s nothing terribly exciting about it.
  • This is sauce without any negative connotation. Not as sweet as the others, but not that remarkable.
  • Tastes like what a raw cranberry is like, but I want MORE.
  • Runny consistency, seems more like a jam. Would be great on an English muffin.
  • This is what I think about when I think about cranberries. Classic.

 

Crane Berry Cranberry Sauce with Imported French Brandy

  • Not really saucy. Would like it a little sweeter.
  • Looks icky. Don’t want to eat. OK, I ate it. It’s good-ish. Nice pecans.
  • I think all the juice from this made its way to C.
  • On the contrary to the previous example, these are just cranberries. Refugee fruits that avoided ever becoming actual sauce. Not really qualifying to be part of a table spread this holiday.
  • The pecans are a nice touch. This citrus flavor is a great compliment.
  • This is just like eating straight-up cranberries. Crunchy, cool and delicious.
  • I appreciate the whole cranberries and pecans, but I didn’t like. Too tart.

 

365 Organic Jellied Cranberry Sauce

  • Another one shaped like the can. Tastes like bad strawberry jelly.
  • Say “no” to gelatin.
  • Again, no fruit. But it does have a nice flavor.
  • This has some extra spice. Is it cloves again like with those awful pickles from a previous Thursday? Practicing holiday carols in the sixth grade came flooding back.
  • Good God, this tastes like preservatives.
  • It looks like the can it came from. So, it’s nostalgic to eat. Not a strong flavor.
  • Again, canned texture is a turn-off.

 

Wholesome Home (Kroger) Cranberry Celebration Salad

  • Tastes like they mixed in pineapple juice. Loses cranberry tartness. All sweet.
  • Muy good. Creamy, sassy and playful.
  • Pretty color. I like the addition of the nuts in this one. This texture is the most like Thanksgiving to me.
  • Also sweet, but too medicinal. Like Hall’s Cranberry Cough Drops.
  • This tastes more like maraschino cherries, and not the good kind either.
  • Vibrant color, tastes like cherry cough syrup.
  • Is this candy? If so, I like it!

 

Wild Thyme Cranberry Orange Sauce

  • Has a brownish tint.
  • Looks like pinto bean applesauce. I refuse.
  • Scary color. Doesn’t taste too cranberry-ey, not a big fan. Too many seeds, not enough cranberries.
  • This has been pulverized. I’m impressed by the process but the taste doesn’t match.
  • Tastes like it’s been sitting out for a day or two.
  • Definitely more of a jam than a sauce.
  • Not an appetizing color, but nice flavor.

 

Tally up:

Pacific Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce 3

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce 0

Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce 2

Crane Berry Cranberry Sauce with Imported French Brandy 1

365 Organic Jellied Cranberry Sauce 0

Wholesome Home (Kroger) Cranberry Celebration Salad 2

Wild Thyme Cranberry Orange Sauce 0

 

The winner is: 

The Pacific Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce came out on top. There was a three-way tie between Pacific, Ocean Spray Whole Berry Sauce and Kroger’s Cranberry Celebration Salad. So, our very gracious intern Preston Hutcherson, dug his fork into the crimson mounds of gelatinous cranberries to help select a winner.

So, who makes your favorite cranberry sauce? Do you even like cranberry sauce? Let us know.

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