The cranberry: red, round, robust, sour      

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Many years ago (make that many, many years ago), when my husband and I were first married, the bogs of Massachusetts must have been awash with cranberries for they were piled high in the grocery-store produce department and remarkably low priced. Those were the days I was spending just $10 a week for groceries. Of course, there were only two of us then.

But I know a bargain when I see one. Cranberries are full of vitamin C — often taken aboard ship in the old days so sailors wouldn’t get scurvy. And I like cranberries.

I bought them by the bushel (well, I exaggerate slightly) and stored them in my refrigerator freezer. They don’t take up much room and freeze well in the little bags in which they are packaged.

I started out making traditional cranberry sauce, then branched out to a couple of congealed salads. Next, I tackled cranberry bread and cranberry pie. Before I married, I had my mom teach me how to make good pie crust — hers was the best.

Then I couldn’t resist a cranberry sauce to enhance ham slices, warm cranberry muffins, easy cranberry relish, candied cranberries that keep for three months, cranberry sherbert to “yum” over — and more. But the day came when Hubby told me that putting cranberries on his bowl of Wheaties was going too far. Actually, I never put cranberries on his Wheaties, but only because I hadn’t thought of it. But I got the message. He’d been “cranberried” enough.

By then, my supply of cranberries had dwindled so it wasn’t difficult to cut back on my creative cranberry culinary creations.

If you’re a cranberry person, you know the simplest thing to do with cranberries is make cranberry sauce — but even that has its pitfalls. Any fresh cranberries I’ve ever bought come in a package with a sauce recipe on it. And, in my opinion, those recipes have never included enough sugar. Those little buggers are really sour.

I double the amount of sugar called for — but don’t take my word that that’s what you should do. Try the original amount, then check to see if you want to add more sugar. Just be sure the sauce is at least warm so the sugar dissolves.

Maybe you’d like to try a couple cranberry recipes. The following is my mom’s favorite congealed (in Connecticut we say jellied) salad.

Edith’s Cranberry Salad

  • 1 4 oz. pkg. lemon Jell-O
  • 1 C. hot water
  • 1/2 C. pineapple juice
  • 1 C. whole cranberry sauce (homemade, of course)
  • 2 tbsp. each chopped celery, apple and pineapple

Dissolve Jell-O in the hot water; add pineapple juice and cranberry sauce, then add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Place in a mold and refrigerate, stirring occasionally so the solid ingredients don’t settle to the bottom.
And these are my:

Cranberry Muffins

  • 1 3/4 C. regular flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 C. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 C. butter/margarine, melted
  • 1 C. raw cranberries, chopped

Combine the dry ingredients; lightly stir in milk, eggs and butter — do not overbeat. Gently stir in cranberries. Pour batter into greased muffin tins; fill 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

As I write this, I eagerly await the arrival of fresh cranberries in the market place. I shall buy a bushel of them (I exaggerate slightly) and put them in my freezer so I can have fresh-frozen cranberries well into the new year. Oh, you can buy canned, jellied and whole cranberry sauce all year round — but I don’t advise it.

And I assure you, no matter what he claims, I never, never, never put cranberries on Hubby’s bowl of Wheaties. But I might have toasted a slice of my cranberry bread for him.