Cranberries, along with blueberries and Concord grapes, are one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who discovered the wild berries’ versatility as a food, fabric dye, and healing agent. First Nations people used cranberries to treat bladder and kidney diseases and frequently enjoyed them sweetened with maple syrup and honey.
The Wampanoag tribe first introduced cranberries and other native foods to the Pilgrims back in 1620, and ever since, cranberries have been a Thanksgiving and/or Harvest Celebration tradition. Early settlers from England learned to use the berry both raw and cooked for many ailments, including appetite loss, digestive problems, blood disorders, and vitamin C deficiency (scurvy).
Today, cranberries, are ranked #1 for high antioxidant content. In other words, they are full of cancer-fighting properties, vitamin C, and phytonutrients that improve our immune system, keep our cardiovascular system healthy, and even cure urinary tract infections. Simply put, cranberries are and have always been a mouthful of medicine.
When you are planning your holiday meals and harvest feasts, don’t forget to pass the cranberries and be thankful for their incomparable flavor and bountiful healing powers.
Here are a few recipes to help you learn to love these delicious and nutritious ruby red berries:
- 1 cup dry cranberries
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1-2 shallots or one onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp salt
- Directions:Heat orange juice over low heat in a pan. Add cranberries to the warm orange juice and cook until soft. Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth adding oil in at the end. Serve on crackers or with fresh vegetables.
* Using day-old bread for crumbs, instead of store-bought bread crumbs, is a great money-saver.
- 4 medium eggs
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 cups cooked pumpkin
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cranberries
- Directions:Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two loaf pans. Beat eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add pumpkin and oil; beat until well mixed. In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Add to pumpkin mixture; beat until just mixed. Gently fold in cranberries. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pans. Bake 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
Makes 2 loaves
If your experience with cranberry sauce is the red jelly-like substance that comes out of a can from the grocery store, you should give the homemade version a try. Try this recipe:
Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce
- 12-oz bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 tsp dried ginger
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- dash of dried cloves
- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
- 1/2 to 1 cup honey (dependent on taste)
- Directions:Bring orange juice, ginger, zest and cinnamon to a boil on high heat in a medium saucepan. Add cranberries to boiling liquid. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 10 to 15 minutes. When mixture starts to thicken, add the crushed pineapple and honey. Remove from heat and cool.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
Leftover Cranberry Sauce Suggestions:
- Try stirring left over cranberry sauce in a container of vanilla yogurt. Top with chopped pecans or walnuts for added protein.
- Holiday Pancake Breakfast – Top pancakes with warmed cranberry sauce. Serve with a side of smoked sausage.
Add-ins and modifications:
Commercially sold cranberry sauce is usually high in added refined sugars. You can offset this somewhat by adding in other fruits and juices. By expanding the amount of cranberry sauce you have with whole foods, you reduce the proportion of refined sugar in each serving. You’ll also create a much more interesting side dish with a minimum of effort. Here are a few possibilities.
- Chopped apples
- Chopped pears
- Pureed persimmons
- Pear or apple juice instead of citrus
- Chopped walnuts or pecans
- Chopped orange wedges
Denise Dill is a co-op livin', garden diggin', homegrown cookin' fool who creates soups of song out of local ingredients. She's currently working as a baker and soup maker while she completes culinary school. In the past, she worked as an urban gardener and community cooking educator. She has also toured the country as a folk musician, opening for such acts as Pamela Means and Hamell on Trial.