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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Last Minutes Christmas Gift, copyright 2013 gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Just a brief update on our temporary absence from the blogging scene. These last few months have been ultra busy and challenging for both of us – a new job, many new recipes being developed and tested for our upcoming new book (watch for it in the coming year as well as a rebirth of our present blog format),  a new roof being installed on our house, and sadly, the loss of our beloved cat Bhakti on September 4th. We posted about him earlier in the year, telling you about his struggle with lymphoma. What a challenging journey – so many ups and downs. He fought so hard to live, but in the end his body was too weak to sustain the life he desired. We’ll always treasure the gift of this beautiful and special soul’s presence in our lives. A peaceful spirit, filled with pure love and joy. Just thinking about him brings a smile to my face and fills my heart with joy.

I suppose this offers a nice transition to today’s post and our gift to you, our readers, for the holidays. A delicious chocolate recipe,  our “Delectable Goji Berry Chocolate Bark,” which is incredibly easy to make, as well as directions on how to make your own “Rudolph” gift bags.

To make the gift bags, you will need the following items, some of which may already be in your “arts and crafts” drawer:

  • brown paper lunch bags
  • small bells
  • red ribbon
  • glue stick
  • wiggly eyes (you can also draw then on the paper)
  • small red pom-poms (you could paint a red dot, or use a red sticker – be creative)
  • small cellophane treat bags
  • dark brown construction paper for the antlers
  • light tan paper for the ears

Most, if not all, of these items can be found in any crafts store.

Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

  1. Make a template for the antlers, trace it on the dark brown construction paper and cut out. If you make this with small children, you can  help them trace the outline of their hands on the construction paper. Cut out this design and voila ‘antlers.’ Many years ago we created some fun Thanksgiving and Christmas projects, using this idea. It is a great way to get little kids involved in their own gift giving projects.  Repeat the above steps over and over until you have the desired number of antlers. You need two per bag.
  2. Draw the shape of the ears, trace on the light tan paper (you can use the paper from an extra brown lunch bag), cut out and repeat, until you have enough to complete the number of bags you need.Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved
  3. Fold the top of the lunch bag over (roughly between 2 and 2-1/2 inches). Now punch two holes through the folded part (about 1/2 inch below the top fold). The holes should be at least 3/4 – 1 inch apart.
  4. Using the glue stick, attach the antlers on either side of the folded portion of the bag. Glue the ears over the beginning part of the antlers. Using a pencil, or marker, draw an inner outline for the ear (see  examples in the photos).
  5. Glue the wiggly eyes about 1 inch below the folded part of the bag. You could also draw the eyes on the bag. There is no need to run out and make a special purchase, especially facing all the craziness in the shopping malls and the ensuing traffic everywhere.
  6. Attach the red nose about 1-1/2 inches below the eyes.
  7. Draw a line (see photo) from each corner of the nose up to the outer corner of the fold of the bag.
  8. Fill each bag with the chocolate filled bag.
  9. String a bell on each red ribbon, thread through the two holes (start from the front of the bag – bell needs to face the front) and tie a bow.

For the “Delectable Goji Berry Chocolate Bark” you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 bars of at least 72% Dark Chocolate, each weighing 3.5 oz (100g)
  • 5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil/butter
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar, or sucanat
  • 4-5 Tbsp. goji berries, or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cashews (optional)
  • Himalaya salt, or celtic sea salt
  • 2 large cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper

Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

In a double boiler, over low heat, melt the chocolate together with the coconut oil/butter and coconut sugar. Stir constantly, until all ingredients are liquid and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate mixture on the parchment paper lined cookie sheets, dividing it up evenly. Spread it out evenly to about 1/8 inch thickness. Top the chocolate with the goji berries, seeds and nuts and sprinkle with a small amount of salt. Place the cookie sheets into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to keep the chocolate firm until you are  ready to place it into the cellophane gift bags. Ease the chocolate away from the parchment paper and cut into strips, then breaking each strip into  smaller pieces. Fill each bag with the desired amount and close. Place this bag inside the “Rudolph” bag, and close it with the red ribbon.

Last Minute Christmas Gift, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

From our home to yours, wishing you a most joyous holiday! Enjoy this time with your family and friends. Remember it is not about the presents, but about how to be present.

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Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

Gingerbread, for so many of us, is synonymous with the Christmas holidays. There are certainly many different types of recipes available, but this particular one is one of our family’s favorites, and has been converted into gluten free, using Oma’s special recipe. Gingerbread was Oma’s specialty around Christmas and I have many fond memories of her in her tiny kitchen, lovingly preparing this delicacy, made just once a year. If she invited one of us to help her, that was truly special. It is not a ginger cake, but a true traditional German-style gingerbread. While baking, it will fill your house with the beautiful scent of its combination of spices – ginger, anise, cloves and cinnamon.  In the olden days, this type of gingerbread was made using peculiar ingredients, such as “Hirschhornsalz,” “potash” and “natron.”  Some of these ingredients supposedly provided softness to the dough, and, no doubt, insured  greater longevity of the end product. After researching these ingredients, that  makes sense, especially considering the Ancient Egyptians used some of them  for embalming purposes. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?!? Naturally, we would never use any of these more questionable ingredients in our recipes. If you insist on their inclusion, you may do so at your own risk. However, they are simply unnecessary, and we don’t know why anyone would even want to.

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

This gingerbread is delicious and is very easy to make. Provided you have the following ingredients on hand, you can enjoy your first taste in a couple of hours. 

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of organic butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut sugar, or sucanat
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground anise
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4-1/2 cups gluten free flour, consisting of 2 cups brown rice flour, 1-1/2 cups tapioca flour, 1 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. guar gum
  • 1 tsp.  ground psyllium seeds
  • 2-1/2 tsp. gluten free baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Himalaya salt
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut milk
  • parchment paper, enough to line at least two baking sheets
  • your favorite cookie cutters, such as gingerbread men and women, trees, stars, hearts, etc.

Topping Ingredients:

White chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts (optional)

White Topping:

  • 1 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Dark Topping:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract

Measure out all the dry ingredients (flour, guar gum, baking powder, baking soda and psyllium seeds) and blend well in a bowl. Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, adding the sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, honey and spices, a little at a time. Blend well. Add the flour, about a cup at a time, to this batter, until you have a kneadable dough. Shape the dough into a thick log, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove the gingerbread dough from the refrigerator. Cut the log into three equal pieces. Leave out one third to roll out, and return the rest of the dough into the refrigerator, well wrapped.

Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Dust a baking board with a little sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to not less than 1/4-inch thickness. If you accidentally roll them out thinner, you will ultimately be making ginger snaps, instead of gingerbread cookies. Still very good, but a slightly different result.

Select your cookie cutters and cut out the gingerbread, placing them about one inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch this process carefully. We live at high altitude and they tend to bake very quickly. If you are at sea level, you may require an additional 2-5 minutes. Place the baked cookies on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Keep shaping any left over dough into a ball and roll out again. Remember to sprinkle a small amount of sweet rice on the board, before rolling out another batch of dough. Repeat this process as often as necessary. When the first batch of dough is nearly used up, add another third of the dough to it from the refrigerator. If you choose large shaped cookie cutters, naturally you will go through this process very quickly, and likewise it will take a little longer with smaller size cutters.

Let all the cookies cool completely before decorating, or frosting.

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

For the white frosting, simply blend the powdered sugar with the lemon juice. Then either spread even layers of it on the cookies, or place it in a pastry bag and decorate them to your heart’s content.

For the dark frosting, melt the chocolate chips, in a double boiler, adding the peppermint extract to the melted chocolate, combining the two ingredients very well. Again, either spread even layers of it on your choice of cookies, or use a pastry bag with the addition of a fine tip, for decorating.

Top them with your choice of white chocolate chips, dried fruit, or nuts (optional).

Gluten Free Gingerbread, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

This gingerbread will fill your house with the beautiful scent of ginger, cinnamon and cloves and stores well in a cookie tin, for several days.

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Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

This week’s TWD recipe heralds the beginning of the holiday baking season, at least for us. Anything involving gingerbread is a definite favorite in our house, invoking fond memories of baking with Mom and Oma – three generations in the kitchen, gathered around the table, cooking and baking together. Albeit a very rare occasion, made possible only during our not so frequent visits to Germany.

Instead of its namesake, today’s recipe  reminded us more of the British “treacle cake”, served on bonfire night, than the typical gingerbread, or German Lebkuchen, that we are familiar with.  Treacle cake, to the best of our knowledge, in addition to the liberal use of ginger, both fresh and dried, is made with other spices such as nutmeg and cloves, but otherwise is almost identical to this gingerbread cake.

Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

For anyone wishing to make this cake, the precise recipe can be found in Baking with Julia on page 247-248. Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories, is the host for this recipe and has the original directions and ingredients listed on her website.   Please also check out the contributions from the other members of our group by checking this link.

Naturally, our contribution is entirely gluten free with the following substitutions. Instead of 2 cups of regular flour, we substituted 1 cup each of brown rice flour and tapioca flour with the addition of 1-1/2 tsp. of guar gum. Since we couldn’t find espresso powder (is there such a thing?) we used instant coffee granules, which seemed to work just as well. We only had raw cocoa powder in the house and used that instead of the regular unsweetened cocoa powder. As always, we replaced the brown sugar with coconut sugar, but we cut down the recommended 2 cups of molasses to 1-1/2 cups. Other than that, we followed the recipe exactly as it is written in the book. We turned our recipe into a cake, using a 10-inch spring form, lined with parchment paper, instead of the called for baby cakes, requiring a 50 minute baking time.

Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

It baked beautifully, filling the house with the sweet and gingery smell of Christmas. What a very welcome change to the smell of house paint, that has taken up most of our spare time over the last two weeks. November and December, at least so far, have been exceptionally mild with temperatures that have allowed us to paint – a job that had been waiting to be completed for some time. The previous owners had selected a rather bright tone of red for the trim, which over time with the high UV at our high elevation had degraded into a rather unappealing orange brick red.  None of us  ever appreciated the color choice, and are happy to finally be able to change it into a more beautiful creamy white. A couple more days and it should all be done – weather permitting.

Gingerbread Cake, copyright 2012, gfcelebration.com All rights reserved

Yesterday, after coming in cold and sore from painting, we finally got to taste the cake, prepared yesterday morning. It was everything the recipe promised – just not gingerbread. It was moist and rich with the predominant flavors being ginger and molasses. This cake is delicious and we would be making it again, but only for the special occasion of the holidays. It is very rich. We served it with a dollop of whipped cream.

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In preparation for our new book, which will be available in just a few days, we wanted to add an updated recipe for a gingerbread house. In our first book, A Celebration of Gluten Free Baking, we featured a small traditional gingerbread house, which was very easy to make. This time we wanted to honor the Southwest traditions and build a two-story pueblo-inspired Southwest house, complete with vigas, the traditional chili pepper ristras and furnished with lights. Southwest cuisine, in general, is known for its indulgence in spices. So we adapted the recipe to reflect that, still keeping with the traditional spices, but more of it.  Our gluten free flour blend was also updated, leaving out one and adding another. I think we succeeded. The consistency and flavor is just like the one my grandmother used to make, and her recipe was not gluten free.

Our house filled with the most wonderful aroma of baking delicacies around the holidays. The recipe itself is quite straightforward. All you need is a willingness to do it.  It is especially fun to do this with children.

All parts used are edible and completely gluten free, except for the wooden skewers (unless you are a beaver) which represent the vigas and also allow for the main frame support of the house.

All the gluten free decorations are from surfsweets (gummy fruit), yummy earth (lollipops), Glutino (pretzels and pretzel sticks), as well as dried fruit and sliced almonds. You can easily find all of these ingredients at your local health food store, or, at this online retailer. We embellished the house with a couple of items from our local Hobby Lobby dollhouse section, because we just couldn’t reign in our ever increasing enthusiasm with this project.

The most complicated part involved threading the LED Christmas lights through both stories of the house.  But once the lights shone through the parchment paper lined windows, all the perceived difficulties quickly dropped into the background.

Once the icing was in place, we were only limited by our own imagination and/or the availability of gluten free decorations. The trees and bushes were created from juniper tree and lavender bush clippings from our property. The pond from glossy construction paper, lined with almonds. The little ducks we found at Hobby Lobby, together with a broom, ax and wood pile.

In the spirit of sharing, we agreed to display it at the Tijeras, New Mexico community library as part of  their yearly Christmas display.  The project was all the more worthwhile, seeing the wonder and excitement in the little kids’ eyes, once they got to explore the display. If you happen to live in the greater Albuquerque/Santa Fe area, go on over and take a look and let us know what you think.

As I am penning this post, the snow clouds have gathered all around and it is now snowing quite heavily and very cold outside, around 21°F.

At last we wanted to share this beautiful view from our kitchen window. This is one of the perks of living at a high elevation here in New Mexico.

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There is something so undeniably christmasy about gingerbread. Right along with the smells of fresh evergreens, and the delightful aroma of warm sugar cookies, the instantly recognizable combination of ginger, cinnamon and cloves immediately signals that we are smack in the middle of the holiday season. At this time of year gingerbread is everywhere, not only in delicious cookie confections and intricately constructed pieces of architecture, but in scenting candles, coffees, and even slightly more unique items like lip balm and shampoo. Why? I think because gingerbread, outside of being a common part of many people’s holiday celebrations, is the sort of thing that has the ability to evoke a host of memories just by its smell alone. Christmases past and present, celebrations spent with family, and that snowy afternoon you spent baking and cooking with grandma as a small child. Everyone has their own special memory that comes to mind.

Old Fashioned Gingerbread Mold by sevela p.

For us, nearly every year leading up to the holidays has included making gingerbread in some form (usually gingerbread people), to share with friends and neighbors. Even after discovering that we were gluten intolerant, those recipes were just slowly converted to gluten free ones. In fact, shortly after perfecting recipes for gluten free gingerbread, we had a lot of fun making elaborately dressed gluten free ginger bread people, and a beautiful gingerbread house, recipes for all of which can be found in our book.

When I was small, I remember always being enamored with the delicately iced gingerbread houses that you so often see in store window displays around the holiday season with their perfect icing snow, and sugar pane windows, mainly because sugar, certainly white sugar, was not something ever consumed in our house. I could never actually imagine eating any piece of the gingerbread houses I would see, instead looking at them with absolute amazement, like a magical dwelling inhabited by unseen residents that would possibly come alive when I wasn’t looking, with lights shining from the windows, and delicate smoke curling out of the tiny chimney.

Gingerbread House by dean michaud

When I was eight, I remember going into the Nutcracker Tea Room in Issaquah WA with my parents, a place that was a family favorite for special occasions. I’m sure that some of you reading this from the Seattle area must remember this wonderful place, which I know has since closed several years ago. I know the Nutcracker was a local favorite for many people, with its beautiful garden filled with flowers and roses in the summer, a touch of European elegance created through white table cloths, real china, wonderful food and pastries, and two large wooden nutcrackers that would preside over the entrance from the high street.

Anyway, we went there for tea near Christmas when I was eight, only to walk through the door and discover, to my absolute delight, a large, incredibly beautiful gingerbread house, sitting in all its glory on a side table. It had two stories, special chocolate candy shingles, sugar pane windows, gum drop lights, and a fence all made out of candy canes. No doubt seeing my intense interest, I was quickly informed by the owner  that this amazing creation was in fact part of a raffle for all the kids in the area; all that was necessary was my parents permission, and a filled out slip of paper with my name, and our address and phone number. Permission quickly obtained, we filled out our entry and dropped it into the brightly colored box that served to hold the raffle entries. Even though I was somewhat in awe of the gingerbread house, as I’m sure any little child would have been, looking at it from across the room over and over as we had tea, after submitting our entry, I eventually forgot about it. Nearly a week later, when an unexpected phone call came, I was completely thrilled to learn, amazingly, that we had actually won. Wonder of all wonders, the amazing gingerbread house was actually ours to keep. I probably grinned like the Cheshire Cat, a smile stretching from ear to ear as we picked up the gingerbread house and brought it home, to sit for the rest of the holiday season and be admired by everyone that came to our house. That gingerbread house, unlike most, was never eaten. I am sure my memory of an amazing Christmas does not stand alone. What are some of your favorite memories of gingerbread creations? We would love to hear them in the comments below.

Gingerbread Men

Beyond being simply a family favorite, a holiday dessert beloved by children and adults alike, gingerbread actually has a long and fascinating history, stretching all the way back to the early Greek and Roman empires. Their gingerbread was probably something more resembling the German Lebkuchen, a sweet and spicy cake preserved with honey.

The word “gingerbread,” itself is a variation of the Old French word, “gingebras,” again derived from the Latin word for ginger “zingebar.” In Medieval Europe, if you would have asked for gingerbread, most likely you would have simply been given pieces of dried ginger root, the name only later coming to be associated with sweet cakes and cookies. Originally, ginger itself was only added to breads and pastries not only for its spicy flavor, but for its preservative ability to make things last longer, in a time when something like the refrigerators that we all take for granted, would have only been a dream.

“and I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.” (William Shakespeare, Loves, Labors, Lost)

As its fame spread, gingerbread quickly became such a popular addition to nearly every local market and town fair during the Middle Ages in Europe, that they quite often became known as “gingerbread fairs,” and the cookies and cakes sold there as “fairings,” especially in England. Then, gingerbread was not only sold around the Winter holidays as it is today, instead every holiday and season had its own shapes; buttons and flowers for the Spring, animals and birds for the Autumn. If you are interested to learn more, click here.

Even though most of us are familiar with the traditional gingerbread cakes, cookies, and houses, many types of gingerbread exist throughout the world.

In England to this day, though the more common varieties do exist, gingerbread is most often a rich dark spice cake containing treacle (a thickened molasses), and a variety of spices, as well as sometimes more unusual additions like mustard, pepper, raisins, nuts, and dried apple.

Ginger Cake by pchemp

It is usually baked in a loaf shape, or a square like brownies, and often eaten as part of the Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night festivities, on top of being part of a traditional Christmas. This type of gingerbread is usually something that we would call “ginger cake” in the U.S, different from traditional gingerbread cookies, but similar to a French dessert known as “Pain d’epices”, a ginger cake which is slightly lighter, owing to the fact that it uses honey as the main sweetener instead of treacle.

Lebkuchen by zerohund

Probably the most famous country with a long history of making gingerbread is Germany. Lebkuchen, is a traditional soft gingerbread baked around the holidays, sweetened with honey, and flavored with spices like ginger, cloves allspice and anise seed. It was a cookie most resembling Lebkuchen that can be traced all the way back to the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman empires. At a time when sugar was extremely rare and very costly, honey was the primary way of sweetening any food. Considered to be a gift from the gods, honey cakes were sometimes worn as talismans for protection against evil. Though the soft varieties of Lebkuchen are well known, another common version is often made into iced hearts which are inscribed with special sayings, and given to friends and loved ones. This same variety of gingerbread was also popularized thanks largely in part to the story of Hansel and Gretel, and the Witches cottage made entirely out of candy that they discovered.

Will you be mine? Lebkuchen sold at a Winter fair in Germany by 4028mdk09

Throughout the world, the German city of Nürnburg, has become known as something of the unofficial gingerbread capital. Where in most other cities, artisan guilds formed during the middle ages for sculptors, painters, and weavers, in Nürnburg, an entire artists guild of master bakers formed, that dedicated itself to the perfection and creation of gingerbread.

A Master Gingerbread Baker at Work

To this day, gingerbread can only be called “Nürnburg Lebkuchen” if it does in fact originate within the city, otherwise it is simply in the style of, and has to state as much.

Hansel and Gretel Discover the Gingerbread Cottage

It is once again in great part to the Grimm’s brothers story of Hansel and Gretel that gingerbread houses have become popular. Though I am sure people created small buildings out of gingerbread for many years, it does not seem to be until after the fairy tale was published, and became wildly popular, that gingerbread houses just like the witches cottage, became well known. Now for many people, Christmas time would not be the same without them. Actually, in a true statement of life imitating art, a Swedish company created a life size gingerbread house inside the Stockholm main train station.

Art Imitating Life with Gingerbread by LA2

Inside the Gingerbread House by LA2

Personally, upon seeing the pictures, I am surprised that no one was tempted to break off a piece! Although I guess that would be hard to explain when part of the roof came crashing in, simply because you were hungry. Whoops!  ;)

Am I Not the Most Dashing Gingerbread Cookie?

Gingerbread cookies in the shape of people have an entirely unique history. Thought to be traced to Queen Elizabeth the I of England,  the making of gingerbread people was not really documented until her reign. As the story goes, she first requested ginger cookies to be made in the likeness of very important guests and foreign dignitaries, and served at banquet.

In modern popular culture, the sight of gingerbread  has somehow managed to sneak in all over the place. Of course, the famous children’s story of “The Gingerbread Man,” about a smart gingerbread cookie who runs so fast that he outwits everyone who tries to eat him, only to be tricked and eaten by a fox, is well known. It is upon this that the cute character of “Gingy” from the movie Shrek and all its sequels, is based. To see a funny clip of Gingy in action, click here.

One of the most famous gingerbread houses on display in the U.S. is most likely the one expertly created every year by the chefs at the White House.

White House Gingerbread House, by obamafoodorama

Usually an exact replica of the White House itself, the spectacular gingerbread creation can weigh up to several hundred pounds. For an interesting look at just what goes into creating this every year, click here.

What part will gingerbread play in your holiday celebrations this year? Is there a particular variety that is your favorite? Is it decorating gingerbread people, or creating an elaborate structure covered in icing snow? We would love to hear your stories and comments below.

Happy Holidays!

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Throughout North America, cranberries are a familiar staple on most Thanksgiving, or Christmas dinner tables. Everyone naturally has their own favorite recipe and preference as to how to prepare them. Some just like to keep it simple and buy it ready made in the form of jelly, or preserves. But many of us still prefer to make it using fresh cranberries. We love their beautiful vibrant red color, which the fruit only develops late in the Fall, when fully ripe.

Cranberry Bog

Some people assume that cranberries are only grown in wet bogs, but they are actually grown in sandy soil which is irrigated and kept fairly moist.  When it is time to harvest the crops,  the growing beds are flooded, typically with several inches of water, enough to cover the vines. A machine, called a harvester, is then driven through the growing beds to remove the fruit from the vines. The harvested berries then float in the water and can be collected, and either conveyed, or pumped from the beds. They are then cleaned, sorted and stored prior to being processed and packaged. We learned that approximately 95% of all cranberries are processed into juice, cranberry sauce and dried berries. Only 5% are sold as fresh cranberries to consumers. A detailed nutritional profile is available on the Cranberry Institute’s website here. It is being credited with a high antioxidant profile as well as numerous health benefits.

Cranberries along with blueberries and concord grapes are thought to be the only fruits native to North America. The Eastern Native Americans called them “sassamanesh.” the Cape Cod Pequots as well as the Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes referred to them as “ibimi,” or bitter berry. The Alonquins of Wisconsin called them “atoqua.”

Native Americans’ primary use of the fruit was for pemmican, medicine and dye. They most likely introduced this fruit to  the European settlers who came up with the name “crane berry,” in reference to the vine’s Spring blossoms, which resemble the neck, head and bill of a sandhill crane.

Cranberry Blossoms (Vaccinum Oxycocos), by Bernd Haynold

Today, cranberries are a huge commercial success and are primarily grown in the Northern Hemisphere. For those of you that would like to learn more about this interesting and popular fruit you can click on the following links for The Cranberry Institute, Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, and a fun resource site for anything involving cranberries which you can find here.

Map representing the growing area for cranberries (wikipedia)

Finally, this brings us to our own favorite recipe for preparing cranberry sauce. It is very easy to make and you will need the following ingredients:

1  12oz (340g) package of fresh cranberries

1 organic orange

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup sucanat

Wash the cranberries and place them in a medium sized saucepan, together with 3/4 cup of water. With a peeler, remove a long thin spiral of the orange rind and set aside. Peel the rest of the orange, carefully removing the white skin as well. Cut the orange slices into smaller pieces and add to the cranberries.

Bring the cranberries and orange slices to a low simmer, and let cook, covered, until the berries have “popped” and the orange segments are soft and well blended in with the cranberries. Add the sucanat to the sauce and let simmer for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Serve garnished with the reserved orange rind spirals.

This cranberry sauce has just the right balance between tartness  and sweet with a hint of citrus. A great side dish to your favorite Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner. Enjoy!

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