Thursday, November 1, 2007

Spotlight On Produce: Cranberries

Halloween is over, officially kicking off the holiday season. You know what comes next...family dinners! Thanksgiving! Christmas! Feasts!

It's the best time of year to buy fresh cranberries, just in time to turn them into breads and sauces for the holidays.

Cranberries are a cousin of the blueberry. Bright red with a tart flavor, cranberries grow wild on shrubs, and on vines when cultivated. American cranberries are larger than the European variety.

A nutritional powerhouse, the cranberry has long been valued to treat and prevent urinary tract infections. More recent research indicates that cranberries are an invaluable asset in promoting gastrointestinal health, have positive effects on cholesterol, prevent formation of kidney stones and may prevent cancer. They are also high in Vitamin C and dietary fiber.

The peak growing season for cranberries is October through December. Dried or frozen berries are available through out the year. When buying fresh cranberries, look for firm fruit with a bright, uniform color. The best berries will have the brightest hue. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for several months, and once frozen, will keep for several years. Once thawed, the berries will be soft and should be used immediately.

Use cranberries in fruit salads. Balance the tartness of the berries by combining with sweet fruits. Replace the vinegar in salad dressings with a handful of cranberries. Replace raisins in breads and muffins with dried cranberries, and be sure to enjoy that Thanksgiving staple, cranberry sauce!

What are some of your favorite ways to cook with cranberries?

3 comments:

Jen38 said...

My two favorite cranberry recipes are my Mom's recipe for a jell-o cranberry salad that we use as cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving time, and Cranberry Orange Nut Bread! Yum, Yum, Yum, I love cranberries!

If you want the recipe for the cranberry salad, let me know! It if very easy and uses a lot of fresh fruit.

Jen38 said...

Sorry this took so long for me to get to you! Just got home from voting and picking up kids.

Mom's Cranberry Salad:

1 lb. fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
2-3 oranges or tangerines
2 apples
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1 cup crushed drained pineapple
2 small boxes Orange, Lime, Raspberry Jell-O
1 1/2 hot cups water for each box

Clean and chop all fruit into small chunks, no need to peel the apple. Dissolve Jell-O with hot water and combine extra sugar.

In a blender:

Pour 1/4 of jell-o, fruit, and nuts and lightly puree. I recommend doing this is four parts because otherwise it can be extremely messy. Pour blended mixture into a serving dish. Continue until all is combined and then place in fridge to set up.

This is a very fresh and delicious homemade cranberry sauce!

Jen38 said...

I meant to say you can choose between orange, lime, or raspberry jell-o's, a combination, or even the new cranberry jell-o would work well.