Cranberries that jewel-toned all-American fruit are about to be gobbled up in full force as holiday tables fill with Thanksgiving favorites.
Whether it's as cranberry sauce, quick bread or juice, the sweet-tart flavor is refreshing with any menu. Fresh or canned, there are a multitude of ways to cook and serve cranberries. In fact, there are only a couple things you can't do.
Cranberries are too tart to eat raw. And although they are sometimes used to flavor wines, they do not ferment as naturally as grapes, making them unsuitable for the traditional winemaking process.
Legend has it that the Pilgrims may have served cranberries along with wild turkey and succotash at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass. There are only three native American fruits: the cranberry, the blueberry and the Concord grape.
Cranberry recipes date from the early 18th century. But it wasn't until the 1930s that cranberries and cranberry sauces became the centerpiece of the American Thanksgiving table when three cranberry growers merged to form the Ocean Spray Cooperative. They were looking for a market for their surplus cranberries. Seventy years later, there are 920 cranberry and citrus growers in the United States and Canada.
Cranberries grow in only five states: Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. The fruit is also grown in Chile, Quebec and British Columbia. In recent years, cranberry products have proliferated, because the fruit is such a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Currently there are more than 700 products from cereals to salsa.
While holiday recipes can be made from canned sauces or dried berries, this is the time of the year to use fresh cranberries. Take advantage of the supply by buying enough for November and then several more packages to freeze.
Berries can be frozen, without prewashing, in the plastic bag for up to one year. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator, wash, drain and follow recipe directions. Store fresh, packaged cranberries in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Make your own cranberry relish or sauce to serve on Thanksgiving. For the weekend, have cranberry fruit syrup ready for pancakes or waffles for a holiday breakfast. Poached apples with cranberry-cinnamon sauce is a humble dessert less filling, but still full of flavor.