The Cranberry—More than Just a Pretty Face
Long before foreign settlers came to North America, indigenous people harvested wild red berries and cooked them with venison, maple syrup, and honey. Early settlers and explorers called the tart fruits “crane berries”, perhaps because the blossoms of the plant sits on a slender stem resembling the neck of a crane. Another version of the story holds that the berries were named for that same swamp-dwelling bird, which ate them. Either way, the name eventually became the one we know today.
Cranberries no longer grow wild. The crimson harvest is big business in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington State. The first fresh berries hit the markets in in late October, winding down by the end of the year. Select berries are plump, firm and colorful. Overripe berries will be wrinkled and wet. Cranberries should be placed in a tightly sealed plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Frozen, they retain their shape quite well and needn’t be thawed before cooking. And don’t overlook dried cranberries or think of them only as snacks. Toss dried cranberries into waffle or pancake batters, bread doughs, salads, or dressings.
Cranberries, with all their healthful, colorful attributes, deserve a better fate than relegation to a few holiday side dishes. While classic cranberry sauces, relishes, and jellies will always have a place at one’s holiday table, cranberries are turning up in less expected places these days—cocktails, soufflés, soups, ice creams, puddings, and cookies. The culinary adventure is destined to continue as long as we are intrigued by the blending of new ideas with traditional food memories!
- During Thanksgiving week alone, Americans consume 10 million pounds of cranberries.
- Research has shown that cranberries are not only beneficial in maintaining a healthy urinary tract; they may also fight Coli bacteria, the ulcer-causing bacteria H pylori, and others.
- Cranberries are loaded with Vitamin C and anti-oxidants that may improve blood flow and ward off heart disease and certain cancers.
- Cranberries are thought to help prevent plaque buildup responsible for gum disease.
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Click to Download: dried-cranberry-chapatis
Dried Cranberry Chapatis
Makes 12 chapatis
These round unleavened breads studded with “rubies” make an excellent accompaniment to a soup or curry. Brushed with melted ghee or spread with cream cheese, if desired.
1½-cups whole wheat flour
2/3-cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
½-teaspoon sea salt
1/2 to ¾-cups cool water
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour and dried cranberries; mix in the oil, salt and just enough water to form a soft dough.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5 minutes; cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes—or up to 2 hours.
- Knead the dough again for 3 minutes, and divide into 12 equal pieces; roll each piece into a 6-inch round.
- In a dry skillet over medium heat, cook each chapati until lightly flecked with brown, about 1 minute per side. Serve.
NOTE: This is a vegan recipe; however, one can substitute melted ghee or butter for the oil and achieve the same delicious outcome.
Click to Download: cranberry-and-beet-soup-with-wild-rice
Cranberry and Beet Soup with Wild Rice
Makes 8-10 servings
This soup is lovely hot or chilled. For a more elegant presentation, puree the soup before adding the wild rice. Cranberry juice nectar is presweetened with apple and pear juice.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 medium beets, peeled and sliced (about 3 pounds, without tops)
2 cups rich chicken stock
2 cups cranberry juice nectar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 bay leaves
½-teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cooked wild rice (generous)
Sour cream (optional)
- In a large soup over medium heat, melt the butter and swirl in the olive oil; add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the beets, chicken stock, cranberry juice, apple, bay leaves, salt and black pepper, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 20-30 minutes until the beets are tender.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
- To serve, ladle into warm bowls and top each serving with a scoop of warm wild rice and a dollop of sour cream if desired.
Click to Download: cranberry-corn-fritters
Cranberry Corn Fritters
Makes about 12 fritters
These fritters make a great breakfast or brunch dish, or a light supper accompanied by broiled chicken or fish and steamed broccoli spears.
1½-cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 extra-large eggs, separated
½-teaspoon sea salt
¼-cup Turbinado sugar or other raw sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
To serve: Honey or maple syrup
- In a medium bowl, stir together the corn, cranberries, flour egg yolks, sugar and salt, mixing well.
- In another medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for about 5 minutes to stiff peaks; gently fold whites into the corn mixture.
- Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush with some melted butter and drop a heaping tablespoon of batter on to the griddle; cook until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side, adding more melted butter as needed. Cook in batches, keeping fritters warm in a low oven of 200 degrees F. Serve as is, or with honey or maple syrup tableside.
NOTE: Turbinado sugar is a partially refined, granulated, pale-brown sugar obtained by washing raw sugar in a centrifuge until most of the molasses is removed. Other raw-type of sugars include muscovado and demerara. All three have different flavor heights and aromatic depths. All are considered “raw” sugars, but, as stated, are processed to some extent to be used in cooking. They are delicious and so much better than white granulated sugar.
Click to Download: ruby-red-slaw-with-cranberry-brazil-nut-mayonnaise
Ruby Red Slaw with Cranberry-Brazil Nut Mayonnaise
Makes about 2 quarts
Brazil nuts are high in protein, thiamine, and magnesium—combined with the tart/sweet flavor of cranberry sauce makes a rich and lovely mayonnaise-type dressing. It is a good way to use up leftover cranberry sauce and this will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 week. Stuff any leftover slaw into sandwiches for a good and tasty crunch.
½-cup blanched Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
½-cup cold cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½-teaspoon sea salt
1/4 to ½-cup sunflower oil
1 medium-size head of green cabbage, finely shredded
½-cup dried cranberries
2 carrots, shredded
1 small onion, grated
- In a food processor or blender, combine Brazil nuts, cranberry sauce, water, lemon juice, and salt, and puree until smooth. With the machine running, very slowly add the oil—you can use from ¼-cup to 1/2-cup until you like the texture.
- In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, dried cranberries, carrots, and onion. Spoon in dressing and mix—more if you like a creamier slaw, less if you like a drier slaw. If possible, let the slaw sit for about 20 minutes before serving for the flavors to come together. Delicious!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thank you for subscribing!