A fall fruit par excellence and a staple in sweet and savory dishes throughout the holiday season, the cranberry has been delighting eaters with its tongue-teasing tartness for centuries. In the late 17th century, German and Dutch colonists in New England coined the phrase “cranberry,” remarking that the flower, stem, calyx, and petals of the plant resemble the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Let’s learn more about this saucy fruit…
Although I’ve been cooking in restaurants since my teens, I never cooked cranberries until way later in my career. My first job out of culinary school was interning at the LA Times food section. My first assignment was Thanksgiving. I went from never cooking cranberries to making cranberry sauce, cranberry upside-down cake, muffins, smoothies, relish, chutney, dressing and more! I had the ultimate cran-immersion and they have been a regular part of my repertoire ever since.
When I think of fall baking, I think of cranberries! Utilizing fresh cranberries in muffins, coffee cake, and cobbler is a great way for cooks of all skill levels to achieve the sweet-tart balance that makes cranberries so distinct. Try pairing cranberries with apples or citrus to really highlight their flavor. While I bake with cranberries all through the fall, I really go all-out come Thanksgiving. Just last year I made three different cranberry sauces, as well as a cranberry-lime pie. The deep maroon color and bright tart flavor of the cranberry curd definitely makes this pie a standout!
I’ve always loved when the first organic cranberries of the year come in. I have nothing against delicious sweet summer fruit, but there is nothing like the tart, bitter, pop of a fresh cranberry to wake up your taste buds. Cranberries are one of those produce items that have always signified a transition in season, which means the excitement of turkey time is on its way (along with the inevitable adrenaline induced semi sleepless nights)... Stress dreams aside, whoever first decided to plop some cranberry sauce on turkey is a hero in my book!
I spent the first 22 years of my life in Wisconsin, never knowing that it’s the country’s leading producer of cranberries. It’s even the state fruit! A few years ago, one of our company’s agencies sent us several bags of fresh cranberries (Yes, the agency is based in Wisconsin). I’m embarrassed to admit that I really didn’t know what to do with them. Since I love using fresh fruits in breads and muffins, I started searching for recipes using fresh cranberries and found a ton of ideas. I now regularly make fresh cranberry muffins. My favorite recipe requires 1 1/2 cups of fresh cranberries and lots of orange zest. It’s delicious. I’m heading back to Wisconsin this year for Thanksgiving. I think it’s time to see if my mom can give up the jellied cranberry sauce and I’ll make a fresh cranberry relish!
I grew up south of Boston in Rochester, Massachusetts, surrounded by miles of cranberry bogs, filled with fresh berries in the fall. My friends and I would spend our summers chasing turtles and other wildlife or going fishing. In the winter, long after the harvest was done, the bogs would freeze over, and we’d skate on them or play ice hockey—with the farmers’ permission of course!
We always went to the local farmers markets to get fresh berries in the autumn. This was before there was awareness of cranberries’ health benefits, before it became cool to buy a two bags—one to use now and one to freeze for later. My mom just made a really great cranberry loaf. Over the holidays, it was important to my parents to create a family experience around the Christmas tree. We’d use fresh cranberries and popcorn to make garlands to decorate the tree.
Cranberries are a staple ingredient this time of year! The vibrant red hues add the perfect color to dishes on the kitchen table and are a great ingredient for sweet and savory recipes. A fun treat to try this season is a baked pear with cranberries!
4 ripe pears, bosc or d’anjou
1 cup rinsed fresh Naturipe Farms cranberries 1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamon
Prep pears, by slicing in half lengthwise, and scooping out seeds with mellon baller. Place in baking dish.
Combine cranberries and nuts in a food processor and chop until fine.
Add 1 Tablespoon brown sugar and spices to cranberry mixture.
Stuff cranberry mixture into pears, dividing equally.
Pour apple juice over pears.
Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake 350 degrees, 45 minutes, until soft. Spoon extra juice over pears before serving.
Garnish suggestion: orange zest and crème fraiche.