For some reason most cooks do not remember the cranberry’s virtues until fall, mainly at Thanksgiving and Christmas. These berries are splendid, vividly coloured small berries just bursting with nutrition. With their brilliant antioxidant power it’s no wonder they are cousin to blueberries. The cranberry is a round, very tart and tangy, bright red fruit can grow wild as a shrub, but is commercially grown on low growing vines in huge sandy bogs. As opposed to the European variety, the American cranberry is most commonly gown in southern Canada and northern United States. We are fortunate that cranberry farms are plentiful in BC’s Fraser Valley.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Harvested between early September and late October.
As a great storage compartment of benzoic acid – a natural preservative, cranberries are able to keep in cold storage until late December. Throughout the rest of the year, rely on cranberry juice as well as dried or frozen cranberries to ensure your family is taking advantage of this fruit’s protective health benefits.
Cranberries should be bright red, plump, hard, and shiny. Reject the shrivelled, soft, spongy, or browned fruits, which may produce an off flavour.
Fresh whole berries have a refrigerated storage capacity of up to two months and frozen for approximately a year.
Then again, dried cranberries may be stored airtight without refrigeration for over a year.
Although packaged cranberries are pre-washed, it’s always wise to wash berries in cold water and drain before using. If you find any stems, discard.
To freeze Remember, cranberries freeze beautifully. Just put the bag in the freezer. When you want to use them, scoop out the quantity you need, rinse them quickly (do not thaw) and use them in your favourite recipe. Most recipes can use either fresh or frozen cranberries.
The cranberry is very hard and a very tart taste, few people eat them in their fresh, raw state. So they are usually cooked and processed before it is eaten or dried (dehydrated) to be eaten as a convenient, healthy snack.
The fresh and dried cranberries, which have high vitamin C content, are used to spruce up a wide variety of baked goods, salads, sauces, snacks, juices, and juice blends. Dried cranberries added as a tasty ingredient for muffins, snack foods, trail mix, cereal, and other baked goods.
They are also a good addition to nut breads, and pair well with wild rice and whole grains. Then again, they combine well with other fall fruits such as apples and pears, and their red colour and lively taste can brighten up roast poultry and otherwise ordinary dishes.
As the fresh cranberries mature, they continues to increase in tartness. With this in mind, recipes that require a milder flavour, less tart are typically made with cranberries that have not matured.
Simmer 3 cups (95g) of whole cranberries, ½ to 1 1/2 cups (480g) of sugar, and 3/4 cup (168.7ml) of water. Mash with potato masher. Add sugar; simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Store in a sealed container and refrigerate. Makes about 2 cups (470ml) of sauce.
To make your own cranberry juice, cover berries with water and simmer for 40 minutes. Purée and sweeten to taste with sugar cane or a natural sweetener like stevia extract.
Not surprisingly, fresh cranberries contain the most nutrients. Unsweetened cranberries are well-known for helping prevent and remedy urinary tract infections. However, there are many more health properties that have been studies in cranberries: gastrointestinal and oral health, reduction of the formation of kidney stones, lowered LDL and increased HDL (good) cholesterol, recovery from a stroke, and cancer prevention. In fact the Cancer Research Society is thrilled with how cranberries intensely powerful ‘proanthocyanidines’ abilities (free radicals scavenging action and anti-enzyme activities).
Research is indicating that unsweetened cranberry juice may be as healthy for the heart as red wine. That is, cranberries may actually boost good cholesterol and protect the heart with unique antioxidants.
Cranberries (whole berries), 1 cup (95g)
Total Fat: 0.19g
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the USDA Recommended Daily Value. Nutritional information and daily nutritional guidelines may vary in different countries. Please consult the appropriate organization in your country for specific nutritional values and the recommended daily guidelines.
- Within the early history of commercial cranberry growing, selecting quality berries occurred by rolling the berries down a a series of steps. Good berries bounced while soft ones remained on the steps. Today’s grading machines work on the same principle.
- No, cranberries are not grown under water. They are grown in sandy, peaty soil on marsh or bog land. Our closest BC fields are located in Fort Langley/Abbotsford and Richmond. It is during the harvest that the cranberry beds are flooded with water. Berries that will be made into juice and sauce are picked by machines that stir up the water, knocking the fruit off the vines. When the berries will be used as fresh berries a gentler process occurs. Regardless, the berries then rise to float on the water’s surface and are gathered with rakes.