I've liked the taste of cranberries even since I was very little. My earliest encounters with cranberries were Alaska cranberries. These berries grow in the wild and are reported to have more anti-oxidant properties than the cranberries grown in the lower 48 states. We had preserved some of these cranberries before we left Alaska in 1971. For several years, they were a part of our Thanksgiving dinners.
Fast forward a few years to my middle elementary years when the Alaska cranberries were gone, and we had to make our sauce using the cranberries that you buy in the store. I will confess that even though I liked cranberries and cranberry juice, I did have to get used to the new taste.
Cranberries are actually grown across the acidic bog regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The species most commonly associated with Thanksgiving Day is Vaccinium macrocarpon. It is typically grown in the area highlighted in green below, which includes New England. In the United States, Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries, followed by Massachusetts.
Regardless of the precise species of cranberry, it is grown on a dwarf creeping evergreen shrub. Although cranberry beds were traditionally developed in wetlands, today's methods of cultivation are engineered to support more precise engineering. Cranberries are harvested in the fall using a water reel harvester. The ripe cranberries actually float on the water. Here is a picture of a cranberry harvest in New Jersey.
So, back to the recipes. First of all, is the recipe for traditional cranberry sauce.
12 ounce bag of cranberries (this is the typical size you will buy in the store)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
- Rinse and sort the cranberries - sometimes you will find some squishy ones that need to be discarded.
- Boil the water and sugar together on the stove
- Reduce the heat, and add the cranberries. Stir together until the cranberries begin to "pop."
- The longer you boil the sauce, the more of a jelly-like consistency it will assume. You can take it off the heat as soon as the berries start popping or let it boil a few minutes longer.
Now for some cranberry relish:
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 whole red apple, remove the core. I will also cut it into slices.
1/2 of an orange, include the peel. I will remove some of the white membrane and center core to help reduce the bitter taste. I will also cut the orange half into about 4 pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
The directions are pretty easy - mix everything together in a food processor. I typically just add everything in order, pulsing the food processor as I go. Because the orange takes longer to get chopped up and mixed in, you could consider adding it first and chopping it before adding the other ingredients. I think I will try that approach next year.
Enjoy! and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!