Cranberries have grown wild on low vines in the New England area for centuries. Not until recently has it been cultivated as a commercial crop. The Pilgrims called it a “craneberry” because the fruit’s blossom in late spring reminded them of a crane. Soon it was changed to cranberry, as we know it today. The bright, tangy berry adds zing to any recipe, whether it be for sauce, relish, salad, or muffins.
Because of the high vitamin C content of cranberries, captains of early sailing ships supplied their sailors with cranberries to prevent scurvy. The amount of vitamin C in one cup of raw cranberries is about one-fourth of the Recommended Daily Allowance for an adult. Many processed foods made with cranberries, such as juice, have vitamin C added, resulting in a full daily requirement of vitamin C. One cup of cranberries also provides over 5 grams of fiber, or 20% of the daily needs of an adult. Cranberries also contain vitamin A and potassium.
Indigenous people have used cranberry preparations to treat urinary tract infections and other illnesses for centuries. Research has shown that cranberries contain proanthocyanidins which prevent the adhesion of bacteria, including e-coli, to the lining of the urinary tract, which prevents the bacteria from reproducing and causing the infection.
In one study, It was found that an 8-ounce serving of cranberry juice cocktail prevented e-coli from adhering to the bladder cells in six volunteers. The effect can last up to 10 hours after consumption, suggesting that two servings of cranberry juice at appropriate intervals may be more beneficial than one serving each day.
When buying fresh cranberries, look for berries that are full, plump, firm, and dark red or yellowish-red; avoid cranberries that look shriveled or bruised. Fresh berries will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 weeks. Cranberries also freeze well. Put them in a vapor– and moisture-proof bag. They need no processing before freezing. Cranberries can also be canned or dried. When storing cooked cranberries or relish, cover them to prevent them from drying out and absorbing odors from other foods.
Cranberries are a versatile fruit. They can be made into appetizers or beverages, or used in breads, desserts, entrees, and side dishes. The tart flavor may need sweetening to be acceptable to most people. To avoid sugar, try mixing cranberries with fruits that are naturally sweet, like apples, oranges, or apricots. Cooking cranberries in the syrup from the canned fruit such as peaches or pears is another choice. Serve the sauce and berries with fruit. Dried cranberries can be tossed into hot or cold cereal for a zap of flavor. Sprinkle some on your favorite green salad.
Cranberry sauce in easy to make and will be a hit at any time of the year. The standard proportion for sweet cranberry sauce is two cups cranberries to one cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir frequently to dissolve sugar crystals completely. Boil gently for about 10 minutes, or until the skins of the cranberries crack. Remove from the heat and skim off the foam. The sauce may be wither served hot or allowed or allowed to cool before serving.
Cranberries can be the hit of any holiday table. It is so versatile that I am sure you will be able to find a way that you can enjoy cranberries. Have a happy holiday season!
For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269. Information for this article was obtained from the Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Maine, and www.cranberryinstitute.org/health/urinary tract.htm.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
Apple Cranberry Waldorf Salad
1 cup chopped Granny Smith apples
1 cup chopped Red Delicious apples
1 cup diced celery
1 cup halved green seedless grapes
1 cup halved red seedless grapes
1 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
1⁄2 cup chopped walnuts
8 ounces non-fat vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine the chopped apples and diced celery in a medium bowl. Add grapes, cranberries, and walnuts in a large bowl and toss. In a smaller bowl combine the yogurt, honey, and cinnamon. Pour the dressing on the salad and toss gently to mix. Serve chilled.
Yield: 8 (1-cup) servings
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 210 calories; 5 g total fat; 35 mg sodium; 41 g total carbohydrate; 3 g dietary fiber; 34 g sugar; 3 g protein
Cranberry Sweet Potato Bread
Canola oil spray
2 large eggs
3⁄4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes, fresh baked or canned without syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup whole-wheat flour
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice or mace (optional)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped dried unsweetened cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a standard loaf pan with canola spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, oil, sweet potatoes, and extracts until well combined. In a large bowl, sift together flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the wet sweet potato mixture. Mix until just moistened; do not over-mix or beat batter until smooth. Gently stir in cranberries. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Remove bread from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes on rack. Remove from pan and set back on the rack to completely cool. Seal bread tightly in plastic wrap, then foil. Tightly wrapped in both, it can be refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 1 month.
4 large cooking apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until apples are soft and the skin of the cranberries cracks and cranberries “pop.” Mash with a potato masher or puree in a food processor until smooth. Serve either warm or cold.
Yield: 8 (1/2-cup) servings
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 232 calories; 0.3 g total fat; 2.3 mg sodium; 60.5 g total carbohydrate; 4.8 g dietary fiber; 53.2 g sugar; 0.5 g protein; 2% Daily Value of vitamin A; 17% Daily Value of vitamin C; 2% Daily Value of calcium; 2% Daily Value of iron