Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And for so many people cranberries start to take the stage. Maybe not CENTER stage, but they’re there. And for most, it’s a pretty boring experience. Assuming you don’t want to just peel open a can of that jellied cranberry sauce stuff. I know. I know. Some people do like it. And yes, it’s pretty darn sweet. And yes, there’ a bit of nostalgia that accompanies that can. But really. You’re a cook, doggone it. We expect more from you, don’t we? You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror with respect when Black Friday comes around. So, here are a few ideas about making cranberries rock.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Tell me you don’t think the idea of a cranberry bog and water harvesting are among some of the coolest things around. The cranberry is native to the bogs and the swamps of North America. Cultivated varieties have been farmed since the early 1800s. (By the way, these bogs were carved from receding glaciers tens of thousands of years ago.) Cranberries love that marshy, acidic, peaty soil. It’s a great environment for the long-running cranberry vines to happily grow.
Here’s something most people don’t know. (A little Thanksgiving trivia anyone?) The idea of water or wet harvesting. Most often we see the water-covered cranberry bogs (with those guys from the Ocean Spray commercials standing in them). But you’ll be interested to know that they aren’t grown that way. They grow in the bogs, yes. But not under water. The night before they are harvested the bogs are flooded with 1-2 feet of water. To harvest, the framers churn the water (they use a thing called an “eggbeater”) to help loosen the cranberries from their vines. The free cranberries then float to the top where they are gathered together. Now, this method is used for cranberries that will be processed into foods or canned. Why is this method used? Because harvesting cranberries is very labor-intensive. This process makes the process way easier - and takes advantage of the cranberries’ ability to float. The fresh ones you see in the produce aisle are dry-harvested.
Cranberries are at their peak from about mid-September to mid-November here in the US. And you can find them all over the place from October into January.
SO WHAT’S COOL AND DIFFERENT TO DO WITH CRANBERRIES?
Assuming you’ve decided not to just open that can of jellied cranberry sauce (and I hope you have), but to do something more fun and interesting, I thought I’d share some cool ideas that I found. Think about one or more of these during this holiday season.
- Cranberry Chocolate Tart (from Bon Appetit): http://bit.ly/2f22Y64
- Cranberry-orange Relish (from Martha Stewart): http://bit.ly/2fTV8c5
- Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce (from Food Network): http://bit.ly/2geJRHz
- Cranberry Apple Crostata Recipe (from Leite's Culinaria): http://bit.ly/2fVqYst
- Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon from Epicurious: http://bit.ly/2fVt8Zu
- Orange Glazed Cranberry Bread (from Sally’s Baking Addiction): http://bit.ly/2fSyH8q
And if you DID go with that jellied cranberry sauce after all - and have some left? Some ideas are to spread it on toast and bagels, serve it with some cheese and crackers, or to swirl it into some yogurt. Not bad ideas.
So, there you have it. A little primer on the world of cranberries - and some great ideas for how to make the most of them this holiday season. I hope you found this helpful. Now go get cooking, my friends!
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