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Herbs > > Cranberry

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The North American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, in the Ericaceae family, has family members of 1350 species ranging from rhododendrons to blueberries. Cranberries are low-growing, vining, woody perennials pollinated by domestic honey bees. The wild American cranberry is a trailing evergreen vine found as far north as Newfoundland, west to Minnesota and south to North Carolina.

Cranberries don’t grow on trees, bushes or under water. Short vertical branches 2-8 inches tall, called uprights, grow from buds on underground runners and produce both vegetative and fruit buds. Each fruit bud may contain as many as seven flowers.

Water can be used during harvest to float the fruit for easier collection, and during the winter months, to protect the plants from freezing and desiccation. The rest of the year the fruit is grown on dry beds.

Most cranberries are harvested between September and October. In the 19th century, handpicking was the most common method of harvesting. Families and neighbors would pack up their pails and go cranberrying. By 1890 the work became mechanized and regimented. The cranberry scoop was developed to increase production. By mid-20th century, dry-harvesting machines were employed. Dry harvesting is still the method used for berries that need to be sold as fresh fruit. Fruit is "combed" from vines using a mechanized picking machine, no water is involved, and then loaded into bins and shipped. It is cleaned and packaged as fresh fruit at receiving stations.

For a wet or water harvest, cranberry beds are flooded and the fruit is "beaten" off the vine using a specialized harvester. The floating fruit is then corralled and loaded onto trucks for delivery to a receiving station. Wet harvested fruit is used for processed cranberry products like juice and sauce, which accounts for 90% of the cranberries sold.

Cranberries freeze well either whole or sliced. Sealed in an airtight container, frozen cranberries will keep for nearly a year.

Squash Cake with Cranberries
2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 lg. eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 cups grated butternut or winter squash
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
Additional powdered sugar

Grease bundt pan or tube pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar to coat inside of greased pan. In bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. In large bowl, with electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slowly beat flour mixture into butter mixture until batter is smooth. Fold squash and cranberries into batter, spoon batter in prepared pan. Bake cake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool cake. Sprinkle on additional powdered sugar.

Cranberry Chutney
16 ounces cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup orange juice
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium apple, chopped
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tsp. ground ginger
Heat cranberries, sugar and water to boiling, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

Herbs > > Cranberry