The Cranberry - A Fruit of Distinction
The Virtual Chef
Copyright 1994, All Rights Reserved

Autumn and the cook's fancy quietly turns to cranberries! It may be a lousy paraphrase,
but the cranberry should receive  poetic accolades if given its due.  The berry has
distinction in our culinary culture. The berry grows on the plant, Vaccinium, a member
of the heath family and is native to the northern reaches of North America and Europe. 

It does indeed grow wild in bogs and places with wet, acidic soil, and is a woody, trailing
sort of plant. Native Americans cooked it with maple sugar or honey into a sauce much
like the one we all know and love long before the Europeans set foot on America's

It is quite likely that it was the first Native American fruit eaten in Europe for the ripe
berry is noted for its excellent staying power and when shipped in plain water across the
Atlantic, the cranberry stayed viable for the trip. In fact, sailors nibbled the berry to
prevent  scurvy on long ocean voyages. 

To this day, the cranberry is highly prized in northern Europe, particularly in the
Scandinavian countries. Their local version of the berry is called a lingonberry and
tastes just a bit spicier than those native to the U.S.

The cranberry has been cultivated in the United States since 1840 and is probably the
only berry that is as tasty cultivated as it is wild. It is an important commercial crop in
Massachusetts. The Cape Cod region of that state alone grows about 70% of the total
cranberry crop. 

When the cranberries appear in the supermarket produce section, it is a true sign of fall
in the United States. Visions of turkey dinners at Thanksgiving accompany those clear
plastic bags or vermilion berries in mind of shoppers across the nation. They are usually
widely available from early October through the end of the Christmas holidays, and
dried as the cran-raisin throughout the rest of the year. They do make a dandy treat in
muffins and scones in their dried state. Tarter than raisins from grapes or currants, but
quite tasty nevertheless. 

The fresh berries should be firm and plump and quite glossy. That high luster indicates
ripeness. Avoid cranberries that are soft and shriveled. The color varies from bright to
dark red, with the bright red berries being larger and the dark red berries a smaller
variety. Store fresh cranberries unwashed but covered in the refrigerator until ready to
use. Moisture will hasten spoilage.  Most commercial varieties can be stored in their
original wrapper and if they are to be used for sauce they can be frozen in the bag they
came in from Thanksgiving to Christmas if you fear they may be in short supply later in
the season. (This happened a few years ago, and in at least our local market, a mild panic
ensued as gourmet cooks discovered the shortage too late to stock up and  were forced to
resort to canned cranberry sauce for Christmas dinners!) 

High in vitamin C, 3 1/2 ounces of raw berries yield but 46 calories; 3 1/2 ounces of sauce
weighs in at 146 calories, and 3 1/2 ounces of cranberry juice contains 65 calories. The
juice, by the way, is said to be excellent for kidney health and helps hold infection in the
urinary track at bay due to the high acid content of the juice.

Here are some wonderful cranberry recipes to use for your autumn and winter meals.

Nantucket Cranberry Meringue Pie

1 baked pie shell
2 cups sugar
3/4 C cold water
4 cups cranberries
4 tbsp. powdered sugar
1/c tsp. salt
4 eggs, separated
1 tbsp. corn syrup
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. flour

Cook the sugar and water into a syrup. Add the cranberries and cook until they stop
popping. Mix the flour, salt and egg yolks until smooth. Stir in 3 tbsp. of the juice from
the cooked cranberries. Then add to the berries and simmer for three minutes. Stir in
the butter and vanilla. Set aside to cool. Turn filling into the pie crust. Cover with
meringue made from the stiffly beaten whites of the eggs, corn syrup and powdered
sugar. Place in a 300 degree oven for about ten minutes to set the meringue and brown it

Cape Cod Cranberry Sherbet

1 C jellied cranberry sauce
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 C orange juice
1 C heavy cream, whipped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Break up cranberry sauce with a fork and add the lemon rind and sugar, dissolved in the
orange juice. Freeze in refrigerator until partially set and then fold in the whipped
cream. Freeze until firm.

Cranberry Float

6 pints of cranberry juice cocktail
5 large bottles of ginger ale
2 quarts lemon or pineapple sherbet
Lemon peel and sprigs of fresh mint

Place sherbet in bottom of a punch bowl and pour cranberry juice and ginger ale
over...Break up sherbet with ladle and float sprigs of mint and curls of peel on top as a

Hot Cranberry Wassail

2 1/2 quarts cranberry juice
1 quart apple cider
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 6-ounce cans frozen orange juice concentrate
4 quarts boiling water

Pour boiling water over combined ingredients. Heat just to boiling point and serve
piping hot.

Cranberry Muffins

1 C unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. melted shortening
1/2 C chopped cranberries
1 egg
1/2 C milk

Mix and sift dry ingredients together. Add cranberries and mix well. Add egg, milk and
shortening and blend. Turn into greased muffin tins. Bake 12-18 minutes in a 400 degree
oven. Makes 8 muffins.

Jellied Chicken-Cranberry Salad

1 envelope unflavored jello
1 1/4 C diced cooked chicken or turkey
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 c cold water
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 C diced celery
dash pepper

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water. Heat cranberry juice. Dissolve gelatin in hot cranberry
juice and chill until syrupy. Add the chicken, celery, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Chill
in a ring mold until firm. Unmold on a bed of lettuce and fill center with mayonnaise.
Garnish with fresh whole cranberries and sprigs of parsley.

Molded Cranberry Salad

1 1/2 C cranberries
1/3 of an orange rind
1/2 C sugar
1 package orange or lemon jello 
1 C boiling water
1 C cold orange juice
1 Granny Smith apple, cut fine
1/2 C diced celery

Put cranberries and orange rind through grinder. Cover with 1/2 C sugar and let stand.
Dissolve jello in boiling water. Add orange juice. Cool. Add cranberry mixture, apple
and celery when cool and slightly thickened.  Pour into mold and chill until firm.

Cranberry Casserole

3 C unpeeled chopped apples
2 cups raw cranberries
1 1/4 C sugar

1 1/2 C uncooked quick oats
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1/3 C chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Combine the apples, cranberries,  and sugar
in a 2 quart casserole. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, sugar, flour, pecans. vanilla,
and butter. Top fruit mixture with the oat mixture. Bake for one hour or until bubbly
and light brown. Serve hot as a side dish or with ice cream for dessert.

The Doctor's Cranberry Sauce
1 pound fresh cranberries
1/2 C sugar
1 12 oz. can regular Doctor Pepper (not diet)

Pick over the berries and wash. Combine with Dr. Pepper and sugar in a saucepan and
boil slowly until transparent, about 45 minutes. Chill and serve.

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