The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America, who thought the cranberry flower resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called “bearberries” as bears were often seen feeding on them.
In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. The Pilgrims learned about cranberries from the Native Americans, who recognized the natural preservative power in the berries and often mixed them into pemmican (dried meat mixture) to extend its shelf life. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe where they became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. Cranberry sauce came into the picture via General Ulysses S. Grant who ordered it served to the troops during the battle of Petersburg in 1864. Cranberry sauce was first commercially canned in 1912 by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company which marketed the product as “Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce.” A merger with other growers evolved into the well-known Ocean Spray corporation now famous for their cranberry products. Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.
Cranberries grow on vines in boggy areas. Fresh whole berries are hand-picked and are more expensive. The remainder is harvested by machine. Damage to the berries from the machines is unavoidable, making them suitable only for juices, sauces and drying. The bogs are kept dry until harvest time and then are flooded with water to a knee-deep level. Special machines run through the bog, shaking the vines to loosen the berries and they are skimmed off. The collected berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to separate out the old berries (which do not bounce) from the fresh berries.
Purchase cranberries that are quite firm to the touch. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Dried berries are also available and are similar to raisins. Canned cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite and is available in a smooth or a whole-berry sauce. Frozen cranberries are also available year-round. One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries will yield about 3 cups of whole berries or 2-1/2 cups chopped.
Store fresh cranberries for up to two months in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft or show signs of decaying, it will quickly spread to the rest. Be sure to sort them out, if you plan on storing them for any length of time.
Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. If a liquor or liqueur is added to the cooked mixture, it can last up to a year in the refrigerator.
Fresh whole berries may be washed, dried and frozen in airtight bags up to one year at 0 degrees.
Cranberry Cooking Tips
• Cranberries are not only good in desserts, but also in savory dishes.
• To help neutralize their acidity, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda when cooking cranberries. You’ll find you will need less sugar.
• Try substituting sweetened, dried cranberries in place of raisins in recipes for a tangy change.
• Reconstitute dried cranberries just as you would raisins, by soaking them in hot water and letting them stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
• Cranberries should be cooked only until they pop. Otherwise, they will become mushy and bitter.
• Frozen cranberries need not be defrosted before using.
• Cranberries are easily chopped by pulsing in a food processor.
Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups coarsely chopped onions
- 3 tart apples – peeled, cored and chopped
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1 cup frozen cranberries
- 12 cups Italian bread, cubed, baked until slightly dry
- 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Cook and stir sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling coarsely, for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Clean out the pan.
Into the same pan heat the oil. Add the onions, apples, celery and poultry seasoning; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cranberries and cooked sausage.
Mix the sausage mixture with the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken stock.
Pour stuffing into a large covered greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top.
Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce
- Olive oil
- 6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
- Salt & pepper
- 2 cups cranberries – fresh or frozen
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium heat.
Brush chicken breasts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan or outdoor grill, cook until both sides are browned and the center is no longer pink, about 7 minutes each side or until a meat thermometer reaches 160 degees F (depending on thickness).
In a saucepan combine cranberries, water, sugar and balsamic vinegar and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 more minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Serve warm over grilled chicken breasts.
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
- 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup dried or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup chopped pistachio nuts or almonds
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and orange extracts; then beat in the eggs and orange zest.
Combine flour, salt and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts.
Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky so wet your hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.
Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven or until logs are light brown. Remove baking pan from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay slices on their sides back on the parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry.
Cool before storing.
Fig and Cranberry Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce
- 8 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
- 2 3/4 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
- 1/3 cup dried Calimyrna figs, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen unsweetened blackberries, thawed
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons blackberry brandy (optional)
Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending the wrap over the sides by 3 inches. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and white wine in a metal bowl to blend. ( I use the electric mixer bowl.) Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; whisk egg mixture constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in orange peel.
Beat chilled whipping cream in a separate bowl until peaks form. Add egg mixture and gently fold together. Fold in chopped figs, chopped cranberries and minced ginger. Transfer mixture to the prepared loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang; freeze overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)
To make Blackberry Sauce: Puree all ingredients in processor. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and cover and refrigerate liquid until cold. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Turn semifreddo out onto platter. Peel off plastic wrap. Let stand 5 minutes to soften slightly. Slice semifreddo. Place slices on serving plates and drizzle Blackberry Sauce over each slice and serve.
Cranberry Almond Crostata
For pastry dough:
- 1/4 pound whole raw almonds, toasted and cooled
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For filling and assembly:
- 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour just until finely ground.
Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg to a small bowl and refrigerate the for egg wash. Beat the remaining egg into the butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well.
At low speed, mix in almond mixture, lemon zest, salt and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture forms a dough consistency.
Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking dish and chilling in the refrigerator until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on the middle rack. Generously butter a 9 inch springform pan.
Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into the springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up the side of pan. Chill crust lined pan in the refrigerator.
Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in the same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with a pastry wheel while still on the parchment paper and slide the paper onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.
Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart diagonally across the first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with the edge of the pan. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Place the crostata pan on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry gets too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Mint sprigs (optional)
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Let sugar syrup cool completely.
Combine cranberries and juices in a food processor and process until pureed. Combine pureed mixture and cooled sugar syrup in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; stir well.
Cover and freeze at least 8 hours or until firm.
Remove mixture from the freezer; scrape entire mixture with the tines of a fork until fluffy. Place in serving dishes and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.
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