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CHEFS In Season Featuring Cranberries: Cranberry Recipes, Tips, Informaion and more from CHEFS Catalog.
Featured Cranberry Recipes
About Cranberries
The little red cranberry: sweet, tart and delicious in sweet and savory dishes. Twenty years ago cranberries rarely made an appearance outside of the holiday season where it was cranberry sauce—complete with can-ridges molded right into the surface. Cranberries have bounced their way out of the holiday season stereotype and can now be found and enjoyed throughout the year. From roasted pork with cranberry glaze to white chocolate cranberry cookies, this little red berry is leaving a delicious impression.

History of the Cranberry
The cranberry is one of the few native fruits in North America. Native Americans enjoyed cranberries fresh, ground, or mashed with cornmeal and baked it into bread. They also mixed berries with wild game and melted fat to form pemmican, a survival ration for the winter months. The berry’s tangy, sour flavor was often tempered by using maple sugar or honey. Other common uses for the cranberry included adding it to poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds, brewed in tea to calm nerves, and as a dye. English Pilgrims learned about cranberries from the Native Americans, and legend has it that cranberries were included in the first Thanksgiving meal.

Native Americans called the berry Sassamanash and in northeastern Canada they were called mossberries. The traditional English name was fenberry, originating because berry vines were growing in fen (marsh) lands. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called "bearberries" as bears were often seen feeding on them or “bounceberries” because ripe berries will bounce when dropped. Where the name “cranberry” came from is something of a mystery. One theory has German and Dutch settlers having named the berry “craneberry” because it appeared to be a favorite food of the cranes who nested near the bogs. Another theory has “craneberry” coming from the shape of the blossoms, which resemble the head and neck of an English crane. Either way, eventually the name was shortened to “cranberry.”

Cranberry sales in the United States have traditionally been associated with holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cranberry sauce came into the picture via General Ulysses S. Grant who ordered it served to the troops during the siege of Petersburg in 1864. It would first be 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.
Cranberry Scare of 1959
On November 9, 1959, Arthur S. Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare announced that some cranberries grown in Oregon and Washington State had been found to have been contaminated with a weed killer that had been found to cause cancer in rats. When questioned, he said that if a housewife is unable to determine the origin of fresh or canned cranberries, "to be on the safe side, she doesn't buy."

The announcement, coming shortly before Thanksgiving, caused a crisis in the industry. Cranberries were pulled from grocery shelves and sales dropped precipitously. After testing it was found that very few shipments of cranberries were contaminated. Both Flemming and Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson made a point of announcing that they would have cranberries with their Thanksgiving dinners. By Christmas, large quantities of cranberries were available bearing labels saying that they had either been tested by the Food and Drug Administration or otherwise certified safe. However, the "cranberry scare of 1959" had caused its damage. It would take years for the cranberry industry to fully recover.

A common misconception about cranberry production is that the beds remain flooded throughout the year. During the growing season cranberry beds are not flooded, but are irrigated regularly to maintain soil moisture. Beds are flooded in the autumn after the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red color, usually in September through the first part of November.

Although most cranberries are “wet-picked,” 5–10% of the US crop is still dry-picked. This entails higher labor costs and lower yield, but dry-picked berries are less bruised and can be sold as fresh fruit instead of having to be immediately frozen or processed. Originally performed with two-handed comb scoops, dry picking is today accomplished by motorized, walk-behind harvesters which must be small enough to traverse beds without damaging the vines.

To wet-pick cranberries, the beds are flooded with six to eight inches of water above the vines. A harvester is driven through the beds to remove the fruit. Harvested cranberries float in the water and can be corralled and collected from a corner of the beds. From the farm, cranberries are taken to receiving stations where they are cleaned, sorted, and stored prior to packaging or processing.

White cranberry juice is made from regular cranberries that have been harvested after the fruits are mature, but before they have attained their characteristic dark red color.

Cranberry Selection
Truly fresh, ripe cranberries will bounce if you drop them and are quite firm to the touch. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled, bruised, or brown cranberries should be discarded.

Cranberry Storage
Fresh cranberries can be stored for up to two months in a tightly-sealed plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one begins getting soft or starts decaying, it will quickly spread to the remaining fruit. Be sure to remove any softening fruit 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 the proper temperature (0 degrees F).
Drying Cranberries
It is best to “pop” the skins of the cranberries before drying. Pour boiling water over clean cranberries to pop their skins. After popping the berries, freeze them to further break down cell walls before dehydrating. Spread the fruit in an even layer on the dehydrator tray and place on dehydrator for 24-48 hours, or until dehydrated.
Freezing Cranberries
If you buy cranberries in a plastic bag, the bag can go directly into the freezer. Bulk cranberries can be frozen in a freezer bag container. Cranberries will last up to a year in the freezer. Frozen cranberries can be used in recipes without thawing. Since frozen berries will be soft when thawed, it is easier to chop or grind them while frozen.

Cooking with Cranberries
Fresh cranberries can be found in most supermarket produce section from September to December. To prepare cranberries for cooking, sort out bruised berries, then rinse in cold water. Frozen cranberries and sweetened-dried cranberries can be found all year long.
Cranberry Cooking Tips
  • To help neutralize the berry acid, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 12 ounce bag of cranberries when cooking. You may find you will need less sugar with this method.
  • Reconstitute dried cranberries just as you would raisins, by soaking them in hot water and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Fresh cranberries should be cooked until they pop. Overcooking will cause fresh cranberries to begin to turn to mush and may turn the fruit bitter.
  • Frozen cranberries need not be defrosted before using.
  • A food processor on pulse is the quickest and easiest way to chop fresh and frozen cranberries.
  • 12 oz cranberries equals 3 cups whole or 2-1/2 cups chopped berries. If a favorite recipe calls for 4 cups (16 oz) of cranberries, it can be adapted to the 12 oz bag size by cutting all ingredients by one-fourth.

Cranberry Trivia
  • There are 440 cranberries in one pound; 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of juice; and 440,000 cranberries in a 100-pound barrel
  • Only 5% of cranberries are sold fresh. The remaining 95% are turned into cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, and other cranberry products.
  • One cup of fresh cranberries contains about 50 calories.
  • The cranberry is one of only a handful of major fruits native to North America. Others include the blueberry and the Concord grape.
  • Growers do not typically have to replant their cranberry vines since an undamaged vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old
  • In 1550, James White Norwood made the first known reference to Indians using cranberries.
  • In James Rosier's book "The Land of Virginia" there is an account of Europeans coming ashore and being met with Indians bearing bark cups full of cranberries.
  • In 1648, preacher John Elliott was quoted in Thomas Shepard's book "Clear Sunshine of the Gospel" with an account of the difficulties the Pilgrims were having in using the Indians to harvest cranberries as they preferred to hunt and fish.
  • In 1663, the Pilgrim cookbook appears with a recipe for cranberry sauce.
  • In 1667, New Englanders sent to King Charles 10 barrels of cranberries, 3 barrels of codfish and some Indian corn as a means of appeasement for his anger over their local coining of the Pine Tree shilling.
  • "The Complete Cook's Guide" published in 1683 made reference to cranberry juice.
  • In 1816, Henry Hall first commercially grew cranberries in East Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.
  • New England sailors took cranberries, a good source of vitamin C, on their voyages to help fight off scurvy.
  • Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year, 80 million pounds of which are eaten during Thanksgiving week.
  • Cranberries are sometimes used to flavor wines; however, they do not ferment as naturally as grapes, making them unsuitable for the traditional winemaking process

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