Celebrating Cranberries 2 Ways

Cranberries are one of those foods so associated with a particular meal that you seldom (probably never) consider making them except for that particular meal. And I know you know to which meal I allude. Because it is right around the corner.

I have decided to start my week of Thanksgiving recipes with cranberries, because they are essential to the Holiday table. And as promised I am bringing you 2 recipes. One traditional and one a little less expected.

Like I said cranberries tend to find their way to our table during the holidays. They are rightfully a special occasion food because they dress up a plate up like no other dish I can think of. They always look spectacular; they always hold their gorgeous crimson color no matter how tortured they are. Be they overcooked, drained from a can, or just plain neglected, they reward you with a deep ruby red no other food can match.

And it’s not just any red. It is, without a doubt, the most gorgeous shade of red existing in this over-produced Technicolor dream that is modern society.

It’s not just that it’s a pretty color either. It is a versatile color. It helps create a color palette on the plate that just looks so well planned. This particular shade of red looks great with all the other traditional colors of Thanksgiving. Be it the elegant ivory tones of mashed potatoes, the earthy tans and browns of turkey, gravy and stuffing, or the deeply sophisticated greens of our favorite holiday veggies. Cranberries even look terrific with the rich warm tones of orange colored yams, squash and sweet potatoes.

There is another reason we reserve cranberries for this time of year too. That’s because cranberries are a â€œonce-a-year” food by nature’s design. It’s hard to believe but the scientists, farmers and business folk of modern agro-industry have not been able to figure out how to manipulate the growing habits of the cranberry. It still comes ripe for only a couple of months each autumn. 

Cranberries are grown almost exclusively in their native North America. But an even more interesting fact than that also helps contribute to cranberries to “once-a-year” status. Cranberries are cultivated on about 48,000 North American acres on the entire planet (excepting about 1000 acres in Chile)! They just can’t make them work anyplace else.

Cranberries are very finicky about the environment. Every acre of cranberry cultivation requires 3–4 additional acres of surrounding pristine wetlands. That means in order to farm 48,000 acres of cranberries, there must be as much as 192,000 acres of wetlands maintained in their natural condition. That’s 192,000 acres of natural habitat to support indigenous plants, insects, birds, fish and other wildlife. That’s 192,000 acres doing its job in ground water filtration and recharge…just as nature intended.

And my favorite part is they can’t figure out any other way to produce cranberries. So that means the scientists, farmers and business folk of the modern agro-industry FIGHT to keep those 192,000 acres pristine. If that is not reason alone to eat, support and celebrate the cranberry then stop reading this blog. Go someplace else. 

But for me, the very best reason to honor the cranberry, is and always will be, it’s association with my favorite Holiday, (like I even have to tell you) Thanksgiving.

It’s true, over the years; I have glorified Thanksgiving all out of proportion. I am sure the Thanksgivings of my youth were hectic, slightly compromised meals that were really just a prelude to football. But in my mind, I still associate it with one of the few times we kids sat in the sacred dining room! This room held special powers in my childhood brain. We would always be happy, well-fed, and well-dressed. Now I am not saying food was ever withheld from the young Sup!, or we were in any way mistreated during our daily family meals. But we could be together when we ate at the “big table” in a way we never could when dinner competed with the Brady Bunch, homework, and kick-the-can.
Now I am sure I am not alone in making these attachments. As Americans we have very strict guidelines about the Thanksgiving meal. These guidelines developed in childhood, so they are rock solid! You can try to be nouveau about the whole thing and serve sushi or some other of your other favorite foods. But deep inside you… somewhere, you know it’s just wrong.

cranberries baked in cognacI’ll allow that there is some wiggle room regarding the menu. But you know, it really must include turkey…and turkey requires cranberries. The meal itself is usually quite rich by most people’s day-to-day eating habits. So you really must have that sweet-tart, bright note of acidity to punctuate all that rich unctuousness.

So the first of my recipes is a fairly traditional rendition of baked cranberries. Baked berries of all kinds really benefit from a nice shot of booze! So go ahead and experiement with different liquors: Cranberries and Port, Cranberries with Cabernet, orange zest, and star anise, or an elegant Cranberries and Cognac as I have in the attached video. Click  here or on the screen grab above to watch video.

Cranberries and Cognac serves 10 Click here for a printable recipe

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1⁄3 c cognac

1. Rinse and drain the cranberries, discarding any bruised ones. Mix all the ingredients together very well in a bowl.
2. Pour the mixture into a baking dish
3. Bake uncovered for 1 hour 20 mins, stirring often to assure that all the sugar has dissolved.
4. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
5. Refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days

cranberries with dried fruitFor my second recipe I want to take all that you expect from a nice Holiday cranberry sauce and tweak it just a little. However, I am going to start out slow in this week of Thanksgiving double-takes. I don’t want to frighten anyone too much– just yet! There is plenty of time for that.

So I offer a recipe with a twist on the holiday classic cranberry sauce. I have added dried persimmons and some Chinese 5 powder spice for an faintly Asian infused cranberry sauce. If you cannot find dried persimmons, rest assured any dried fruit will suffice. I think the dried fruit adds a wonderful chewy texture, which seems like an added benefit to the Holiday plate.

So there you have it. One Thanksgiving staple presented two ways. Personally I have not decided yet which version will find a seat at my Holiday table.

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Persimmons serves 10 Click here for a printable recipe
  • 12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 c dried persimmons, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1⁄2 c sugar
  • 1⁄2 c dry red wine
  • 1 t chinese 5 spice powder

cranberries wih dried persimmonsIn a small sauce pan combine all the ingredients.

Cook over medium low heat until most of the cranberries have burst, stirring often (about 20 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a small bowl. Let thenm cool completely. Cover and refrigerate up to 5 days. Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.


Greg Henry