Cranberries: A Traditional Fall Ingredient
Cranberries are one of those traditional ingredients expected to make an appearance on dinner tables during the Fall season. I’d venture to say that they are as synonymous with holiday dinners in the United States as rain is to winter in the Pacific Northwest. It is said that they were indeed part of the first Thanksgiving meal with Native Americans educating the Pilgrims of their preservative qualities.
Not just for holiday meals, however, they are easy to enjoy throughout the year and they should be! High in vitamins C, A, and K and packed with antioxidants, cranberries are highly nutritious and considered a “super fruit”. Another bonus – 1/2 cup of cranberries contains only 25 calories. That’s a lot of nutritional bang for the buck.
Did you know that fresh cranberries have an air pocket that allows them to float and to bounce if dropped? Given that, many farmers flood their bogs at harvest time to assist with the harvesting process.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Fresh cranberry season is short with harvest starting in early September and continuing into late October. The Primetime for finding fresh cranberries at farmers and retail markets is between October and December, just in time for the holiday season. Too late for fresh cranberry season? Look for them in frozen, dried, canned, or juice form.
When choosing fresh cranberries, look for those that are firm to the touch and are bright or deep in color with shiny, smooth skin. Avoid any fresh berries that are shriveled or have brown spots.
1 – 12oz bag of fresh cranberries will yield approximately
- 3 cups whole berries
- 2 ½ cups chopped berries
To store fresh cranberries, wash, sort, air dry, and place in a tightly sealed bag or container in the refrigerator. Remove any berries that become soft or show signs of decay.
SHELF LIFE FOR CRANBERRIES
|FRESH||up to 2 months in the refrigerator|
|COOKED||up to 2 – 3 weeks in the refrigerator, covered tightly|
|FROZEN BERRIES||up to 1 year in the freezer in a tightly sealed bag or container|
|FROZEN SAUCE||up to 3 months in the freezer in a tightly sealed container|
|DRIED||6 – 12 months in the pantry; 1 – 2 years in the refrigerator|
|JUICE||6 – 9 months in refrigerator (after opening)|
HOW TO USE
Alone, cranberries are tart, acidic, and not always pleasant tasting. But when combined with other foods, they bring brightness, color, depth of flavor, and texture to a dish. They also are high in natural pectin so are often used for their thickening qualities.
There are many ways to use fresh, frozen, dried, or juiced cranberries. Ideas include –
Fresh or Frozen:
- drizzle with olive oil, toss with thyme and a light sprinkling of sugar; then, roast to caramelize
- add to a roasting pan alongside chicken or pork
- use as a component in fruit salsas
- add a few to fruit crisps, pies, or cobblers to change up the flavors
- float in a punch or sparkling beverages
- mix with other fruit and add to cooked cereals near the end of cooking time
- make a fruit compote, sauce, chutney
- sprinkle in salads or grain dishes
- add to cookies, bars, cakes, quick bread
- mix with nuts, seeds, and other dried fruit for snack mixes
- add to cooked fruit sauces, compotes, or chutneys
- add to jams or fruit spreads
- add a splash of cranberry juice to sparkling water, yogurt shakes, or a cocktail
- use as part of a marinade for meats
- make jelly, such as cranberry-jalapeno, cranberry-apple or cranberry-pepper
- use in dressings or vinaigrette
For a flavorful twist on traditional cranberry sauce, try this recipe for Apple-Cranberry Chutney posted on the Love + Craft Kitchen website.
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