The Brilliant Reason Cranberry Sauce Cans Have "Upside-Down" Labels

Mind = blown.

Love it or hate it, cranberry sauce has managed to become as synonymous with Thanksgiving as the Macy's parade. But, as Adweek recently pointed out, its polarizing presence on Thanksgiving Day menus isn't the only intriguing thing about it.

There's Something About the Can

Before you decant your gelatinous side dish this year, look at the can. Is the thicker, rounded edge at the top as opposed to the bottom?

The label will, most likely, appear upside down.

Confused? So are we. Fortunately, a spokesperson for Ocean Spray explained the science behind the seemingly topsy-turvy cans to CNN Business.

The cans are "filled and labeled upside down with the rounded edge on top and the sharp can-like edge on the bottom to keep the jelly whole." This creates an air bubble vacuum on the rounded side (the top) so customers can "can swipe the edge of the can with a knife to break the vacuum and the log will easily slide out."

Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce
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So, the cans aren't upside down at all, they're simply designed differently to make opening and serving cranberry sauce easier.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce Is an American Tradition

If you're stumped by the appeal of canned, jellied cranberry sauce, you might be out of touch. According to Ocean Spray, a majority of Americans prefer jellied cranberry sauce to homemade sauce for Thanksgiving:

  • 76% of Americans serve store-bought cranberry sauce at their Thanksgiving meals versus homemade.
  • 73% of Americans prefer their cranberry sauce jellied in the shape of a can, with another 15% who say they love the way it jiggles.

A Brief History of Canned Cranberry Sauce

The idea for canned cranberry sauce started as a way to preserve the excess harvest of berries so they were not wasted during their short growing season. In 1912, Marcus Urann, a lawyer-turned-cranberry-growing entrepreneur, created a prototype canned cranberry sauce he called Ocean Spray, according to the company's website. By 1930, he and two other cranberry growers, John Makepeace and Elizabeth Lee, formed a co-op and started creating cranberry products. Their first product, jellied cranberry sauce, became commercially available in 1941, writes Smithsonian Magazine's K. Annabelle Smith, and it is still one of Ocean Spray's most popular products.

Canned Cranberry Sauce Tips

If you're in the canned cranberry sauce camp, here are some tips for storing and serving this holiday side. Unopened canned cranberry sauce can last a year in the pantry but make sure to check the "best before" date to make sure it hasn't expired, and "once open, it can be stored in a container with a tightly fitting lid for up to two weeks," reports Southern Living's lifestyle editor Patricia Shannon.

Cranberry Sauce Recipes

If you want to step outside of the majority who serve jellied cranberry sauce straight from the can—sliced and at room temperature—on Thanksgiving, there are many recipes you can try to add a personal touch to your holiday table. Perhaps even serve two competing sauces, canned and homemade, and see which fares at the end of the meal.

For a set-it-and-forget-it cranberry sauce, this slow cooker recipe is perfect for multitaskers. To take jellied cranberry sauce to the next level, make your own jiggly side dish with these molds: Spiced Cranberry Mold and Molded Cranberry Salad are an updated nod to the nostalgic jelly salads of yore. Most homemade sauces aren't too complicated—often using cranberries, orange, sugar, and spices—and can be made ahead of the holiday feast. To get ideas, these cranberry recipes are worth exploring.

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