It used to be a seasonal thing, being crazy for cranberries. Not any more. But there is no Thanksgiving holiday table without cranberry sauce. And I am not alone considering how many cooks love to make a batch of their own cranberry sauce for the holiday table. The array of flavors is close to infinite considering cranberries meld with so many other flavors from curry to ginger.
Cranberries are harvested during a short season from September after Labor Day through December, with the bulk of the jewel-like crop marketed in November. Due to overwhelming consumer demand, crops generally consist of several varieties planted to stagger the harvest and prolong the season.
Fresh cranberries are available in the produce section of most supermarkets from late October right into January, often sold in their familiar 12-ounce plastic bags, which yield about 3 cups whole berries. Exceptionally high in vitamin C, the raw fruit also contains benzoic acid, a natural preservative, so they hold up to prolonged refrigeration, staying fresh for about 8 weeks after harvest. One should look for plump, shiny, and firm berries, not mushy, shriveled, or green, under-ripe ones. Fortunately we find most bags of cranberries in perfect shape, since the sorting and packing process is so efficient.
Many supermarkets now toss all their end-of-season bags of cranberries directly into the freezer, making them readily available to savvy consumers throughout the coming months. Cranberries can be frozen in bags up to a year and used unthawed in recipes calling for fresh, any time of year. Don’t wash the berries until you are ready to use them. Unthawed frozen cranberries are easily chopped in a food processor, just like the fresh. In recipes, just use the frozen (unthawed) whole cranberries directly from their cello bag. Pick over the berries to cull out any stems or soft ones. Since frozen cranberries tend to lose a bit of their crisp texture, they are better suited to dishes that are cooked or baked, rather than served raw.
Canned cranberry sauce, either jellied or whole berry, is available all year round. Beyond serving alone as a condiment, it makes an excellent addition to countless sweet and savory recipes, even baking. I use canned cranberry sauces in many recipes with fabulous success.
These recipes are made in the bread machine on the Jam Cycle. But I have included stovetop instructions as well for convenience.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2014
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.