Hear us out on this one.

The one Thanksgiving staple that has always puzzled me is cranberry sauce. I'm talking about the gelatinous mixture that slides, sleekly, out of the can to add a pleasantly sugary contrast to the turkey on classic holiday menus. I have always been undecided, and to be honest, it usually comes as an afterthought on my family's Thanksgiving table.

I have come to understand that many canned-cranberry enthusiasts will insist on serving it room temperature, sliced, and garnished. However, I recently stumbled upon the case for heating up cranberry sauce and decided it was paramount that I put it to the test.  

canned cranberry sauce
Credit: Getty Images

By test, I mean I skimmed the article's recommended cranberry sauce heating techniques and decided to wing it. After wrestling the congealed cylinder out of the can—pretty sure that was the first time I've actually cracked one open—I roughly diced the jelly and slid it into a saucepan.

In my impatience, I immediately turned the heat to medium high and left it there until the sound of sizzling sauce caused me to panic and back down to medium-low. I grabbed a Meyer lemon from my fridge and added a little zest. I'd estimate about a teaspoon or two, but as we have established, I am a flippant cook, so the measurements are uncertain. This should be done to taste, though, as everyone has a differing opinion on the tartness of their sauce. It didn't take much zest to cut the zing, but I was okay with that.

To round out my mixture, I threw in a few frozen strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. After they were warm, I evaluated my work. The sauce had not exactly simmered down to what I had expected (gravy consistency) and took on that of freshly made jam instead.

When I spooned it onto water crackers piled high with melted brie, as well as some canned, buttery biscuits, I was pleasantly surprised. The fruit added sweetness without sugar, and the berry seeds a nice, textural crunch. Thanks to the lemon zest, the sauce wasn't overly tart, but just enough to hold up against the creamy cheese. The conclusion?

If you're looking for an easy, warm cranberry sauce this holiday, try heating up a can of it and throwing in some extras. While I kept it simple, nuts, mandarin oranges, and juice, among other ingredients, are all in the realm of possibilities. It's quick too. The whole process took me about 15 minutes.

Tight on time but still want to go homemade? Let your slow cooker do the work with our Slow-Cooker Cranberry Sauce.