Thanksgiving 2020 will look much different for many of us, but some things will still hold true, especially the food we eat. We may not be hosting friends and family, but we will probably still be feasting on turkey, stuffing, pies, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and cranberries. I was never a big fan of cranberries back in the “open a can and pour out the log” days, but I’ve grown to love them. What exactly are those little red berries though and why do we generally only eat them once a year?
The small, red, and tart fruit is actually very healthy and we can thank Native Americans for the tradition, as they mixed cranberries with deer meat waaaay back in the day. They may have even shared some with the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day.
History also notes that sailors used cranberries as a source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy and more recent studies suggest cranberries promote gastrointestinal and oral health, raise the good HDL cholesterol, and may even help prevent cancer.
The very first official harvesting of cranberries was by Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall, who planted the first commercial beds in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816. Many of today’s cranberry bogs are in fact more than 100 years old!
Cranberries grow on low-running vines in sandy marshes and are one of only three commercially grown fruits native to North America. The other two being blueberries and Concord grapes. During harvesting, the berry marshes are flooded, special equipment is used to knock the berries off the vines, and then they float to the surface. Most of the world’s cranberries are grown on some 50,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada and are harvested in September and October. Perfect timing for fresh cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving!
Each year, Americans eat about 400 million pounds of cranberries, 20 percent of which will be consumed over Thanksgiving. The fruit can be eaten both fresh and dried, and is popular in muffins, trail mixes, cereals, salads, and of course juices.
So what do you prefer? Fresh or canned? Whole berry canned or jellied? I prefer the whole berry but if you like that blob of gelled stuff, here’s a fun way to make it festive using cookie cutters:
And just in case you don’t have enough food planned (LOL!), here are some yummy recipes that use cranberries. Use them this week or all year long!
Cranberry Brie Cups (Great for Thanksgiving morning!)
1 8 oz. tube crescent rolls dough
1 8 oz. wheel of brie (can substitute cream cheese)
½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce
Optional: chopped pecans on top
Preheat oven to 375 and grease mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out crescent dough and pinch together seams.
Cut into 24 squares and place into muffin tin slots.
Cut cheese into small pieces and place inside crescent dough.
Top with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.
Bake until crescent pastry is golden, about 15 minutes.
Festive Pineapple Cranberry Salad (My favorite!)
1 can mandarin oranges
2 pkg. raspberry flavored gelatin
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 apple, chopped
Optional: chopped pecans
Drain oranges and pour juice into sauce pan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add dry gelatin and stir 2 minutes. Stir in cranberry sauce. Pour into large bowl and add oranges and apple. Refrigerate 1 ½ hours or until slightly thickened.
Three Ingredient Cranberry Relish
(Anthony Bourdain calls this, “Delicious and truly one of the easiest recipes in the world.”)
Wash 1 large orange under warm water. Dry and coarsely chop skin, flesh, and pith. Remove seeds. Combine orange and 12 oz. fresh cranberries in food processor. Pulse until mixture appears grainy. Transfer to bowl and fold in 1 cup sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Tangy Cranberry Meatballs (great use for any leftover cranberry sauce!)
Leftover cranberry sauce
¼ rice vinegar
2 T ketchup
2 T soy sauce
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t brown sugar
¼ cup water
2 lb. pkg. precooked cocktail-size meatballs
In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except meatballs, cook on medium low, and stir until smooth.
Add meatballs and cook until heated, about 10-15 minutes.
Cranberry Nut Bread (my mom’s)
2 cups fresh, whole cranberries
2 T butter
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup and 2 T sugar
1 ¾ t baking powder
1 t salt
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup orange juice
1 t grated orange rind
¼ cup water
Cut cranberries in half. Melt and set aside butter. Sift together dry ingredients. Combine egg, orange juice, and water. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquids. Stir in butter. Add orange rind and cranberries. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Cranberry Salsa Dip
1 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
½ cup sugar
Green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 lime, juiced
Pinch of salt
2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened
Put all ingredients except cream cheese in food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped coarsely. Put in airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. After, spread softened cream cheese on serving plate and spread salsa over cream cheese. Serve at room temperature with crackers.
Cranberry Hot Tea
1 48 oz. can cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup lemonade
1 cup pineapple juice
Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Serve warm with cinnamon stick garnish.
2 bottles cranberry juice
1 ½ bottles water (using juice bottle to measure)
2 cans frozen orange juice, thawed
Juice of 3 lemons or 9 T lemon juice
1 pkg. red hot candies
Whole cloves and sugar to taste
Put all ingredients in pot and heat on low until red hots melt. Transfer to crock pot to serve and keep warm.
Mix 1 part vodka with cranberry juice to taste in highball glass and fill with ice. Garnish with lime wedge.
Sea Breeze: add grapefruit juice
Bay Breeze: add pineapple juice
Cosmopolitan: add triple sec and serve in martini glass
Cranberry Kiss Cocktail
1.5 oz. cranberry vodka
2 oz. cranberry juice
1.5 oz. simple sugar
Lime wedges and mint leaves
Muddle 3 lime wedges and 8 mint leaves in a shaker. Add other ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with floating mint leaves.