Crazy for Cranberries


Cranberry History:  Cranberries are one of the few fruits (along with blueberries and Concord grapes) that are native to North America.  They grow on long vines in bogs and marshes.  Cranberries grow in many places across North America; the northeast, some areas of the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest.  Native peoples are the first to have discovered the joys of cranberries, making pemmican out of them.  Pemmican was made by mixing deer meat with mashed cranberries and drying it to use as a food to sustain them through long journeys and long winters.  Native healers made poultices of cranberries to help draw the poison out of wounds caused by arrows and they used the juice of the cranberry as a dye for textiles. Some tribes served cranberries at all their special feasts and so they became associated as a symbol of peace.   It is said that cranberries were on the menu for the first American Thanksgiving as well.  Cranberries got their name from early Dutch and German settlers who called them “craneberries” because the shape of their flowers resembled the head and neck of a crane.

Cranberry Farming:  In the 1800’s, people began to farm cranberries.  They began by picking them by hand but as with other farming methods, these methods were modernized, first with a dry harvesting method and now by an even more efficient method known as wet harvesting.  When the berries are ready, the bog where they are grown is flooded, causing the cranberries to float to the surface and they are easily picked up.

A cranberry harvest  

Picking and Storing Cranberries:  Because they are so acidic, cranberries keep better if in the refrigerator or freezer.  Cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.  Because of the way they grow, cranberries are not among the types of fruits and vegetables that you can get at a “pick your own” farm or at a typical roadside stand.  It is not always easy to pick out the best cranberries at the grocery store either because for the most part, they are only available in prepackaged bags.  When you get them home though, you should take them out of the bag and sort through them prior to storage.  Cranberries should be firm, not wrinkled, and if you drop them on a clean surface, they should bounce.  The best way to freeze them is to spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them like that.  Once they are frozen (it only takes a few hours), you can put them into plastic freezer bags or containers.  Of course, cranberries are also available as a dried fruit.  I keep these on hand as a staple in my kitchen so that I can add them to recipes or just nibble on them for a healthy snack…well relatively healthy anyway.  Due to their naturally bitter taste, it is very difficult to find dried cranberries that have no sugar added to them.  I have seen some on occasion that are sweetened with a fruit juice but you generally have to seek them out. Need fresh cranberries but only have dried on hand?  They will plump up very well in warm water!

Check out Ocean Spray’s bogcam!

The Health Benefits of Cranberries:  Cranberries have a lot of health benefits to them.  They are an excellent source of vitamin C and are filled with antioxidants.  Most people are aware of the value of cranberries and cranberry juice in promoting urinary tract health.  Many have been given the “prescription” from their doctors when diagnosed with a UTI to go home and drink up the cranberry juice because it helps to flush out the bacteria.  Cranberries are also known to help keep away the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, to promote cardiac health (preliminary research shows that one glass of cranberry juice per day may be just as effective as a glass of red wine), and once again the bacteria reducing capabilities can help with keeping your teeth and gums healthy as well. 

Video on using cranberries  from Cooking Light 

Cranberry Recipes:

Ruby Chicken in the Slow Cooker:


2 lbs. chicken pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

2 T. vegetable or olive oil

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate

2 tsp. grated orange peel

1 lb. fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar

Directions:  This is so easy.  Simply put all ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours until cooked through.  Delicious served over rice or noodles.

 Cranberry Balsamic Turkey Recipe

Cranberry Ketchup:

I just love this ketchup as a condiment served alongside ham or turkey or it makes a great sauce to use as a sort of glaze over chicken meatloaf, ham and more.  Of course it is also really tasty on a sandwich!  (Note:  I also use cranberry mustard in this same manner.  I have not yet tried a recipe for it but I purchase it each holiday season from Hickory Farms.  Here is a recipe I found online that I will be trying soon though) 


A 3 inch cinnamon stick, broken up

3 thin slices of fresh ginger

2 12 oz. bags of fresh cranberries

1 ¼ cups cider vinegar

1 ¼ cups water

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

 Grated orange zest from 1 large orange

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

Directions:  Create a bag out of cheesecloth to hold the cinnamon and ginger.  You need to use a nonreactive pan to prepare this ketchup in due to its acidity.  Put the cheesecloth bag and all the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the brown sugar into the pan and bring it up to a simmer.  Continue to simmer for approximately 20 minutes until the cranberries are softened.  Puree this mixture (minus the cheesecloth bag!) in a blender, food mill, or by pushing it through a strainer.  Put the puree back into the pan and add the brown sugar.  Bring it up to a simmer again and continue simmering for approximately 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy in appearance.  Pour the ketchup into mason jars making sure to leave a ¼ inch headspace.  Close the jars tightly and put into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  As with all preserves, the jars should be stored in a cool, dark place.  Makes 1 ½ pints.

 Cranberry Salad


1 bag (12 oz.) of cranberries

¾ cup sugar

1 can of crushed pineapple

2 ½ cups of mini marshmallows (that’s about half a 10 oz. bag)

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:  I make this by simply stirring these ingredients together.  That’s it!  I make it earlier in the day or the day before and store in the refrigerator until serving time.  I have since seen a recipe that calls for putting the ingredients other than the nuts into a food processor and pulsing to create a coarse mixture.  Stir in the nuts and serve.

 Cranberry sauce – a variation made with port wine  

 Turkey Cranberry Monte Cristo Sandwich

Make a sandwich out of thick sliced crusty bread, Swiss cheese, turkey, and whole berry cranberry sauce.  Dip the sandwich into a mixture of egg and milk or cream (generally whatever you use for making scrambled eggs will work here) and grill in melted butter until golden on both sides.  MMMMMMMM!

 Cranberry Crème Brulee


1 cup cranberry sauce

1 cup table cream

2 cups milk

8 large egg yolks

½ cup sugar

pinch of salt

8 tsp. sugar (this is for the topping)

Directions:  In a heavy bottomed pan, heat up the cranberry sauce over medium heat until it is liquefied.  Divide the cranberry sauce evenly among 8 ramekins and allow it to cool.  Using the same pan, heat up the cream and the milk until hot but just short of at the boiling point.  Remove this mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Beat together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt for about a minute until creamy and light yellow.  Slowly pour the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, stirring continually.  You want to use a steady hand with the stirring but don’t whisk or whip this mixture.  Place this mixture in the refrigerator for an hour.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Pour the mixture into the ramekins over the liquefied cranberry sauce.  Put the ramekins into a roasting pan and place on the middle rack of the oven.  Carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan around the ramekins.  Using something like a plastic lid from a container and pouring the water gently down the lid helps to direct the water and prevent splashing.  The water should reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 65-75 minutes until the custard is set.  Take the ramekins out of the roasting pan and place them in the refrigerator for approximately 2-3 hours until well chilled.   OR you can keep these covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 2 days ahead of time.  When ready to serve, sprinkle each of the custards with 1 tsp. of sugar and place under a hot broiler for about 2 minutes until the sugar has caramelized.  Allow this to cool and for the caramel sugar topping to harden before serving.

 Love the Cranberry Bliss Bars from Starbucks?  This video shows you how to make them yourself at home!

 Cranberry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin  with Port Wine Sauce


2 cups chopped unpeeled apples (Royal Galas are suggested)

2 cup fresh cranberries

2 T. brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 lb. pork tenderloin – butterflied (cut it down the middle lengthwise but not all the way through and open it out as they do for butterfly pork chops)

pinch salt

½ cup water

1 ½ T. Dijon mustard

Directions:  Set the oven on broil.  Combine the apples, cranberries, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle the salt over the tenderloin and then spoon half of the cranberry filling lengthwise down the centre of the meat.  Mix the remaining half of the cranberry filling with the water and set aside.  Roll up the tenderloin, tuck the ends in to keep the stuffing from leaking out, and secure with twine.  Rub the outsides of the meat with the mustard.  Place the meat in a roasting pan and broil for 10 minutes.  Remove the tenderloin from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees F.  Pour the reserved cranberry-water mixture in the bottom of the roasting pan and cook the meat for 20-30 minutes.  A meat thermometer should register 155 degrees F.  Take the meat out of the oven and put a tent of foil over it.  Allow it to stand for 10 minutes.  A meat thermometer should now register 160 degrees F.  Serve the tenderloin with the fruit compote from the bottom of the pan and the port wine sauce below.

Port Wine Sauce:

Combine ½ cup cranberry sauce with ½ cup port (or if you don’t have port on hand you can use the same amount of red wine mixed with ½ T. sugar).  Put in a pan over medium heat.  Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Thin the mixture down with 1/8 cup water before serving.

 Some other yummy ideas for cranberry sauce (great for using up those leftovers!):  Combine cranberry sauce with yogurt and granola or put it in the blender with some cottage cheese and this makes a delightful breakfast spread.  Thin it down by heating it up slightly and then serve it over ice cream or cheesecake.  It also makes a yummy condiment on sandwiches without anything else mixed in!


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