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

Our minds are blown.

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

Why Is the Cranberry Sauce Can Upside-Down?

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 were 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 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.

How Much Canned Cranberry Sauce Do Americans Eat?

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, making it an American tradition:

  • 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.

How Do You Serve Canned Cranberry Sauce?

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 best at the end of the meal.

classic cranberry salad
Emily Laurae/Southern Living

Get the Recipe: Classic Cranberry Salad

Canned Cranberry Sauce Q&As

If you're in the canned cranberry sauce camp, here are some tips for storing and serving this holiday side.

How long does canned cranberry sauce last?

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.

Can I heat up canned cranberry sauce?

Maybe you prefer the nostalgia of serving the entire roll of canned cranberry, and that's just fine. But if you're looking to jazz it up a bit, cook it for a few minutes over low heat in a saucepan to give it a more traditional, separated look.

Can I freeze canned cranberry sauce?

Hopefully there are enough Thanksgiving leftovers to enjoy with your cranberry sauce over the holiday weekend, but if not, leftover canned cranberry sauce freezes well. Just place it in an airtight container or a zip-top plastic freezer bag and pop it in the freezer.

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