Cranberries for the Holidays!
Well, Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and what haven’t I talked about yet that most people want to have for the end of the year? Cranberry related items!
This is a relatively easy topic, as when I was growing up, I had a wonderful pond for ice skating directly behind the house, which was also a host to wild cranberries. My mother would make cranberry relish and a form of cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s feasts. It was a wonderful bounty!
How to Grow Cranberries
Cranberries can’t be grown in the garden due to their finicky nature—a proper pH of 4.5, wet conditions under 25 degrees F, acid water, and good drainage. The cranberry capitals of the world are the state of Wisconsin and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
If you have these ideal conditions, plant your cuttings in the spring. Soil should be a three to four inch layer of sand atop peat. Or you can plant in April with cuttings eight inches apart. When they root, the cuttings will send out runners, just like strawberries. If they’re not protected, these young plants will be killed by frost, so their natural protection is flooding. Cranberries will do fine under water, even in winter, but if the water turns to thick ice and is frozen for too long, it can smother them. It is best to break up the ice periodically and drain off some of the water. We used to trench the pond and allow it to simply flow off elsewhere. It takes about three years for the plants to fruit. To me, it is worth it, for you just can’t beat that wonderful, fresh and tart taste.
Sweet Dried Cranberry AKA “Craisins"
Saute the cranberries in brown sugar and butter until skins “break.” Add a bit of honey, then stir. The broken skin allows the sweet additions to permeate the fruit. Then dehydrate in the sun, a dehydrator, or an oven on low. Be prepared to use a number of cranberries for this project, as they are tiny dehydrated.
Cook a pound of cranberries in a quart of water until soft. Crush and drain through cheesecloth for the clear juice.
Wash and pick over about 2 ½ pounds cranberries. Cover with vinegar and cook until they burst, then force them through a sieve. Add 2 2/3 cups sugar, a tablespoon cinnamon, and one tsp. ground cloves. Return to heat and simmer until thick. Pour in hot sterilized jars and seal. Give this a try with your roast turkey!
Combine 12 ounces of cranberries, 3/4 cup orange juice, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup white sugar, and as an optional ingredient 2 ounces of gold rum in a saucepan. Cook on medium-high for 15-20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has reduced, while stirring occasionally. Don't worry, you'll hear the cranberries popping. Remove from heat and serve. You can make this a day or two in advance, if you wish. This takes 17 minutes and yields two cups.
Combine a cup of sugar with a cup of water and bring to a boil. Add 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries and a tsp.of orange zest. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cool, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Between prep work and cook time, it takes 20 minutes, and serves eight.