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Add A Rosy Glow With Cranberries

 

Cranberries get no respect. The cranberry is presented once a year, generally as part of a gloppy, sugar-saturated canned creation known as "sauce." But these vitamin-rich, flavor filled berries have a lot of character and deserve to have their color, tartness, texture and very berry flavor become part of a lot more than an annual turkey garnish.

 

The cranberry is native to peat bogs in the northeastern United States, and like wild blueberries, owe their acidic tartness to their environment. Also like blueberries, cranberries are a source of antioxidants and are extremely high in vitamins A and C. Unlike blueberries, cranberries have a short harvest window. Fresh cranberries are available in the fall in one pound cellophane bags; luckily, they retain their firmness and flavor when they are frozen in their packaging, so it is worth using the freezer space to buy and freeze several bags of fresh cranberries while they are available. 

 

Dried cranberries are available all year. Known as "craisins," dried cranberries are a good substitute for other dried fruit in recipes calling for raisins, apricots or currants.  Dried cranberries are an integral part of the following recipe.

 

Cranberry Crunch

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup sliced toasted almonds

2 cups popped popcorn

1 pound white chocolate candy coating

 

Mix cranberries, almonds and popcorn together in a large mixing bowl. Spread evenly on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Microwave candy coating according to package directions until melted, stirring out any lumps.  Pour melted coating over cranberry-nut mixture, coating all evenly. When cool, break into pieces and store in a cool, dry place.

 

Fresh cranberries add splashes of color and tartness to an otherwise bland quick bread.  This bread is moist, freezes well, and can be eaten warm from the oven, cold, or reheated in the microwave.

 

Pumpkin - Cranberry Bread

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 c butter, melted

1/3 c. sour cream

1 c. canned pumpkin or squash puree

1 c. fresh cranberries

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 inch square baking pan.

 

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

 

Using a hand mixer, combine sugars, butter, sour cream, vanilla and eggs. Alternately add dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well between additions.  Beat on medium speed for two minutes.

 

Fold in cranberries and nuts.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on rack for fifteen minutes before removing from pan.  Makes 12 servings.

 

Finally, here's a berry twist to an old favorite:

 

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

Filling:

1 c. fresh cranberries

1/4 c. white sugar

1/4 c. water

1 can prepared apple pie filling, or

6 cups peeled, diced apples

1/4 c. lemon juice

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

2 tbsp. corn starch

 

Topping:

3/4 c. rolled oats

3/4 c. white flour

3/4 c. butter, chilled and cut into 1 tbsp. pieces

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9 inch casserole dish with nonstick spray or oil. Set aside.

Prepare filling first. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together cranberries, sugar and 1/4 c. water. Heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and berries form a gel. Pour mixture into prepared casserole.

If using prepared apple pie filling, pour filling into the same saucepan and heat until starch in the mixture creates a clear gel. Pour into casserole, and mix together with the cranberries.

If using fresh apples, heat apple pieces in saucepan with lemon juice and salt until apples are soft. Add spices, sugar, and corn starch dissolved in liquid, and heat until sugar is dissolved and corn starch forms a clear gel. Pour fruit mixture into casserole, and blend with cranberries.

Prepare the topping:  Mix together oats, flour and brown sugar. Cut butter into dry ingredients with two knives or a pastry cutter until small beads form, taking care not to overwork the mixture. Spread crumbs over the fruit mixture in the casserole.

 

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve warm with whipped cream.


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