The Humble Cranberry: We Can’t Have Thanksgiving Without it.

Do you know how to test a cranberry’s freshness? Bounce it.  A cranberry that bounces means the skin is taut and unbroken and it is ready to be sold fresh to consumers.  Only 5% of cranberries are sold fresh. The other 95% goes into products such as cranberry juice, sauces and dried cranberries.

Did you know the cranberry is only one of three fruits that are entirely native to North America?  The other two berries are the blueberry (a cranberry cousin), and the Concord grape. you know that the name is derived form the word “craneberry,” as the blossom bore a resemblance to the neck and head of a sandhill crane back in colonial times?

Did you know the cranberry is native to the swamps and bogs of northeastern America and is a member of the Heather family?  It grows in cooler climates as a low-growing, woody perennial with runners that grow along the surface of the soil to form a dense mat.  Flowers form from May to June and fruit ripens from late September to early October.

Did you know that the cranberry beds remain moist until harvest when the beds are flooded with water six to eight inches above the plants?  A harvester is driven through the bed, whipping the plants which removes the fruit.  Cranberries float and are corralled and conveyed or pumped out of the bed to processing stations.

Did you know there are distinct differences of opinion and often heated discussions among family members on the tastiest cranberry recipe that must be served on Thanksgiving Day?  Many families serve two or more recipes just to keep the peace.

Here are three of the more common ways to serve cranberries:

Cranberry Relish: 1 lb fresh cranberries, 1 seedless navel orange, 1 cored apple, 3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.  Wash and pick over cranberries.  Place in food processor and process until finely chopped, not liquified.   Pour into bowl. Wash orange and quarter. Do not peel. Process until finely chopped. Pour into bowl of cranberries.  Wash, core and quarter apple.  Do not peel.  Process until finely chopped. Pour into bowl with other fruits.  Add sugar and walnuts. Stir. Add more sugar if needed.  Refrigerate overnight.  Serve cold.

Cranberry Sauce: 1 lb fresh cranberries, 1 c. water, 1 c. sugar.  Place the berries and water in a pan and cook over medium high heat until all the berries burst. Lower the heat and stir until the mixture has thickened. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.  Taste and add more sugar if needed. Refrigerate overnight.

Jellied Cranberries: Slide it out of the can onto a silver dish, hearing the familiar suction sound.  Make sure the lovely can ridges are visible around the middle. Slice and enjoy.

My personal favorite is the Cranberry Sauce, eaten with dinner, then later as a turkey, dressing and cranberry sandwich.  Umm umm good.

Have I left out any good recipes?

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

6 thoughts on “The Humble Cranberry: We Can’t Have Thanksgiving Without it.

  1. This is my first time doing this blog on the computer but I am so impressed by your various talents and knowledge. The fog photos are great! Try adding some fresh pineapple to your cran relish as well as some cinnamon. My recipe has made me famous with family and friends. Happy 2010


    • Thanks for the nice words, Alice. I’d love to be famous with my family and friends, so I will certainly add the fresh pineapple and a bit of cinnamon to the cranberry relish. It sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip.


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