Cranberries are bitter-tasting, beautifully hued berries that are full of powerful phytochemicals that can help protect your body from illness. These berries are traditionally sweetened and cooked, or dried, to reduce some of their tartness. You can eat cranberries in their raw state, but the pungent flavor may not be pleasing to your palate. In the right recipes, however, cranberries are a fabulous treat unlike any other found in the United States.
The cranberry is one of only three commercially cultivated native North American fruits (the others are Concord grapes and blueberries). Native Americans used cranberries in cooking, as we do, but they also used the little berries as medicines, food preservatives, and dyes. They passed on their knowledge about cranberries to colonial settlers in the early 1600s, and later, during the early years of the United States, sailors used cranberries to prevent scurvy on long ocean voyages.
Benefits of Cranberries
The disease-fighting cranberry is highly ranked in terms of antioxidant content per serving, according to the Cranberry Marketing Committee. Antioxidants protect our body’s cells from the damage that physical stress and free radicals can have on them. That damage can lead to serious conditions like cancer and heart disease. Some of the antioxidants found in cranberries include anthocyanins, quercetin, resveratrol, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E. One cup of cranberries contains 24 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 7 percent of the recommended daily values of vitamins K and E, according to Self-Nutrition Data. It’s also a good source of the mineral manganese, containing 20 percent of the recommended daily value.
Keep in mind that these benefits are for fresh cranberries, not dried cranberries. While dried cranberries retain many of these benefits, most commercially dried cranberries contain added sugar to make them more palatable. One-quarter cup of dried cranberries contains 130 calories and 29 grams of sugar (about the equivalent of 7 teaspoons of table sugar).
High in Fiber
One cup of cranberries contains 4.6 grams of dietary fiber. The Mayo Clinic says fiber maintains the health of your gut, lowers cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar. Foods high in fiber can also help control weight because they make you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Urinary Tract Health
Phytochemicals in raw cranberries keep the bacteria E. coli from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract. As many as 90 percent of urinary tract infections are caused by this strain of bacteria, and adding fresh cranberries to your diet can help reduce your risk of suffering from a painful urinary tract or bladder infection. For this reason alone, putting cranberries on your menu makes great nutritional sense.
How Do Cranberries Grow
Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S., grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as in many Canadian provinces. British Columbia’s Fraser River Valley region, for instance, produces 17 million kilogram of cranberries a year (more than 18,000 tons), which is about 95% of the total Canadian production. In the United States, Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, with over half of U.S. production, and Massachusetts is the second largest U.S. producer.
Cranberries grow and survive during a growing season that extends from April to November – under a very special combination of conditions, including acid peat soil, and adequate fresh water supply. Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel, and clay. These beds are commonly known as bogs or marshes; commercial bogs use a system of wetlands, uplands, ditches, flumes, ponds, and other bodies of water that provide a natural habitat for a variety of plant and animal life. The North American cranberry is the fruit recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the standard for fresh cranberries. A similar fruit grown in Europe is commonly known as the English mossberry.
Ocean Spray Cranberry Products
For many people, the Ocean Spray company is synonymous with cranberries. The company is an agricultural cooperative of growers of cranberries and grapefruits headquartered in Middleborough, Massachusetts. It has over 700 member growers, employs about 2,000 people, and has sales of about $2.2 billion annually. The cooperative has made a number of innovations, including the first juice boxes and the original sweetened dried cranberries (Craisins).
Every autumn (usually from mid-September until around mid-November in North America), cranberries reach their peak of color and flavor and are ready for harvesting. However, only 3 percent of the fruit is sold as fresh in the fall; the rest is dried or turned into something else, like juice or sauce. However, if there’s one fruit suited for stockpiling, it’s cranberries; they’re practically made for freezing. In the fridge, cranberries will stay fresh for a month. In the freezer, they’ll last for a year.
Add Cranberries to Your Diet
Cranberries can add vibrant color, refreshing taste, and health-promoting nutrients to many foods and beverages. Available in many convenient forms—from fresh and dried, to juices and sauces — cranberries are an ingredient you can use throughout the day, and throughout the year. Add fresh cranberries to breakfast breads, toss dried cranberries into your salad, mix up a refreshing beverage with one of the many forms of cranberry juice, or create a festive dessert with fresh or dried cranberries.
Canned cranberry sauce has its advantages – and we’re going to offer a recipe for brisket that puts it to good use – but there is nothing like freshly prepared cranberry relish for a unique and bracingly tart side dish. In our recipe, there is no need for a food processor or an orange zester. The results will surprise you.
- 1 bag fresh cranberries (12 oz.)
- 2 oranges, skin on, diced
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1-2 cups sugar
- Bring cranberries, oranges, and water to boil; simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add sugar. Start with one cup and add more, according to taste.
- Boil for 15 minutes. Serve chilled.
This easy, make-ahead dish is great for company, especially if a big crowd is on the way.
- 1 12-ounce bottle of beer
- 1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 4- to 5-pound flat-cut brisket
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine beer, cranberry sauce, ketchup, and water in a bowl and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a heavy, large Dutch oven over high heat.
- Season brisket with salt and pepper. Add brisket to Dutch over and sear until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer brisket to plate.
- Add sliced onions to same pot and sauté until soft and brown, stirring and scraping bottom of pot frequently, about 8 minutes.
- Place brisket on onions. Pour beer mixture over brisket and bring liquids to boil.
- Cover pot tightly. Transfer to oven and bake until brisket is tender, about three hours.
- Let brisket cool to room temperature before slicing. Thinly slice across the grain.
- Can be prepared two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.
Cranberries All Year ‘Round
Tart and unassuming, cranberries are always the stars of Thanksgiving tables across the country. However, due to the freezable nature of this special fruit, it’s easy to enjoy cranberries all year ‘round. Enjoy them in cooked dishes and baked goods, or dried in salads and pilafs. In any shape or form, cranberries are an American treat the whole world can embrace.