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Crazy For Cranberries

 

Crazy For Cranberries

 

Long before the Pilgrims arrived in to America in 1620, native Americans were mixing mashed cranberries with deer meat to make pemmican — a convenience food that kept for long periods of time. Cranberries were also used for medicinal purposes and their juice was a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing.

The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America – the Concord grape and blueberry being the others. As documented by the Pilgrims, cranberries were found in abundance in Massachusetts in 1620 and rumor has it that they may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner, although we have no way of knowing for sure. Written recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s and the first recorded cranberry crop in history dates back to 1816 in Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Cranberries soon cemented their place in New England life by serving as a vital source of vitamin C for whalers and a valuable natural resource to residents.

While the Pilgrims may have been the first westerners to use the berry it was Dutch and German settlers who gave it its name, calling the tart fruit “crane berries” because of the resemblance of the blooming cranberry flowers to the head and bill of a crane.

The hearty cranberry vine thrives in conditions that would not support most other crops: acid soil, few nutrients and low temperatures, even in summer. Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water, but in sandy bogs or marshes. Because berries float, some bogs are flooded when the fruit is ready for harvesting, giving the illusion that the fruit grows in water. Growers then use water-reel harvesting machines to loosen the cranberries from their vine. They are then corralled onto conveyer belts and into waiting trucks, which take them to receiving stations and eventually processing plants.

About 10 percent of the cranberries grown in Massachusetts are dry harvested and sold as fresh fruit. To dry harvest, growers use mechanical pickers with comb-shaped conveyer belts that pick the berries and carry them to attached burlap bags. These bags are emptied into bins and delivered to fresh fruit receiving stations where they are graded and screened based on color and the ability to bounce — soft berries do not bounce.

Cranberries are primarily grown in five states — Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Another 5,500 acres are cultivated in Chile, Quebec, and British Columbia. There are nearly 1,000 cranberry growers in America. Normally, growers do not have to replant since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old.

Cranberry Tips

* Look for bright, plump cranberries, avoid soft, crushed, or shriveled berries.
* Peak Season is September through December
* Fresh cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for 4-8 weeks.
* You can freeze fresh cranberries for longer storage.
* You can substitute frozen cranberries in most recipes calling for fresh.
* Do not wash cranberries until ready for use, as moisture will cause quicker spoilage.
* When a recipe says “cook until the cranberries pop,” don’t expect popcorn. This simply mean the berry’s outer skin will expand until it bursts.

Cranberry Marble Cheesecake

1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
3/4 C water
1/3 C sugar
1 ¼ C sugar
2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 pint sour cream, at room temp

Crust:
2 cups crushed graham crackers
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter

Serves 8-10

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix cinnamon and crushed graham crackers together. Add melted butter and mix until well blended. Using fingers, press crust mixture into bottom and 2/3 of the way up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake crust for about 6 minutes until set. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the mixture reduces to 1-1/4 cups, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup sugar until dissolved. Pour the mixture through a coarse sieve to strain and let the puree cool completely.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 F degrees. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 ¼ cup sugar and the vanilla at until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until just blended. Stir in the sour cream. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan. Drop 8-10 rounded teaspoons of the cranberry puree (about 1/3 of the puree) randomly over the batter. Spoon half of the remaining batter evenly over the first layer and dot with half of the remaining puree. Repeat with the remaining batter and puree. Try to space out the puree so one layer is not directly on top of the puree in another. Take a blunt knife and gently swirl it through the batter to distribute the cranberry puree, taking care not to disturb the crust.

Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake in the lower part of the oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in for 1 hour longer, without opening the door. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill overnight before serving.

Fruit and Turkey Salad with Cranberry Dressing

2 C cooked turkey, cubed
1 small head lettuce, torn into pieces
1 large red apple, cored and cut into small pieces
1 orange peeled and segmented (or use a small can of mandarin oranges)
1/4 C raisins or dried cranberries
3 tablespoons walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced

Dressing:
1 C jellied cranberry sauce
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

In a medium bowl, combine turkey, apple pieces, raisins or cranberries, orange and walnuts. In a small bowl, mix cranberry sauce and orange juice concentrate.

Arrange lettuce leaves among four plates. Just before serving gently toss turkey mixture with dressing top each plate with one cup salad mixture. Garnish with kiwi slices.

Classic Cranberry Sauce

3/4 C water
1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 C cranberries
1 T brandy
1 T orange juice
1 tsp. grated orange zest

Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and stir in sugar until dissolved, then add the cranberries and bring to the boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the berries begin to pop. Remove from heat and stir in the brandy. Chill until serving time.

 

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