When I was a pint-size Texas kid in the Fifties, fresh cranberries were largely unknown in the Lone Star State. Cranberries are grown in places -- New England, for instance -- that have regular rainfall, a high water table, and four distinct seasons that can be relied upon. Conditions that don't exist in Texas.
We didn't find fresh cranberries in the supermarket produce section back then, either. Perishable fruits and vegetables were not so widely distributed then as now. Even so, we always had our cranberry sauce during the holidays, thanks to the Ocean Spray people.
Today I'm definitely thankful for the bags of fresh cranberries sold in the supermarkets throughout November and December. (You can also buy dried cranberries year round!) Some folks stock up with extra bags and freeze them to use later in the year. Very wise!
One of the earliest Thanksgiving dinner tasks assigned to me by my mother was to open a few cans of gellied cranberry sauce, slice it, and put it on the table. I loved the job. I'd put a hole in one end of the can with the can opener and open the other end. The "sauce" would slowly slide out in a crimson column, making that lovely vacuum sound. To this day, I still like canned cranberry sauce, but now that we can all buy cranberries that only days before were floating in a cranberry bog, we can be more creative and enjoy the tangy freshness and texture of fresh cranberries.
You will be able to find a place for any of the cranberry dishes in this article on the holiday table or buffet. They are all delicious, and a few of them are embarrassingly easy. (You might keep this in mind if you're supposed to bring a dish to the family gathering.)
This tasty, tart relish is really colorful. Serve it in your prettiest glass dish.
- 4 cups fresh cranberries, washed and sorted
- 2 large Navel (seedless) oranges
- 2 cup sugar
- Wash the cranberries well, picking through them to discard any soft berries.
- Peel the oranges and section, removing as much of the white membrane as possible.
- Roughly chop the orange peels and pulse a few times in a blender or food processor until pieces are fairly small.
- Add the cranberries, orange sections and sugar to the blender, and pulse a few more times, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- Don't overdo it; this mixture should remain chunky -- not liquified.
The next dish easy and delicious. You may find yourself eating it directly from the refrigerator, if you're lucky enough to have any left over. But you won't.
- 1 16-ounce can whole-berry cranberry sauce
- 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- Combine all ingredients and stir well.
- Pour the mixture into an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan.
- Cover and freeze until firm.
- Cut into slices.
Molded gelatin salads were terribly out of fashion for several decades and may still be, for all I know. But this next recipe is a good one that has been around for years.
- 1 small package cherry Jell-O
- 1 tablespoon plain gelatin
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
- 1 small seedless orange
- 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans>
- Dissolve the Jell-O and gelatin in the boiling water, and stir until blended.
- Add the sugar, lemon juice and pineapple juice, and stir well.
- Chill until partially set.
- Roughly chop the orange, peeled or unpeeled (your preference), and pulse a few times in a blender or food processor.
- Add the cranberries to the blender and pulse several more times, until mixture is broken down, but not pureed. It should be chunky.
- Stir the orange-cranberry mixture and the chopped pecans into the partially set Jell-O mixture, and pour into a ring mold.
- Chill until firm.
The traditional holiday meal demands at least one kind of pie for dessert, at least to me and my family. It's a popular guest or in-law who brings this pie.
- 3 cups fresh cranberries, washed and sorted
- 1 cup raisins (golden raisins make a prettier filling)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Water
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Pastry for double-crust 9-inch pie
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients except for vanilla and butter, and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to low-to-medium and, stirring frequently, gently boil the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes, until it thickens.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour filling into an unbaked, pastry-lined 9-inch pie shell, and dot with butter.
- Make a lattice top with the remaining pastry dough, and crimp edges.
- Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 35 minutes more or until golden brown.
So, if you have been searching for ideas for this year's holiday meal, perhaps some of the recipes presented here will send you packing to the produce section. There you will find all the fresh cranberries you need, all neatly done up in plastic bags. Just remember, though, that it wasn't always that way, at least not in Texas.