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.
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.
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.
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.