For the past twenty years or so, Jerri and I have been buying ten pounds of fresh cranberries each fall at marshes near Stone Lake. Wisconsin. Cranberries freeze well, so we measure three cups into quart freezer bags and in half an hour have a year’s supply of the luscious fruit. Before that we used to buy cranberries at the supermarket for our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but this way we save some money, see some beautiful country and enjoy visiting with the people who sort, clean and sell the berries.
If you live in western or northern Wisconsin you might want to set aside a weekend next fall to attend one of the cranberry festivals celebrating the official state fruit and most important fruit crop in Wisconsin. The two nearest festivals that we have been to are at Stone Lake and Warrens. Both feature a weekend of activities which include tours of local marshes where you can buy fresh berries.
In the mid 1990’s, Wisconsin became the largest cranberry producer in the United States. Last year, Wisconsin cranberry growers sold 483 million pounds of the tart fruit, 60 percent of the total crop in the United States. Massachusetts, which once led the nation in cranberry production, was the second largest producer with 212.3 million pounds.
People like cranberries. Over 94 percent of Thanksgiving dinners include cranberry sauce, most in the form of jellied cranberry sauce sold in cans. Only five percent of cranberries are sold as fresh fruit, but once you taste your own cranberry sauce, my guess is that you will be making it again.
Canned cranberry sauce is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which is cheaper than sugar because of farm subsidies. However, we think that sugar gives a better flavor, and I hope that you use it to make your own cranberry sauce this year.
Making cranberry sauce is easy. It takes less than fifteen minutes plus of course the time for the sauce to cool. Here is Jerri’s recipe.
3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Bring the sugar and water to a boil for about five minutes in a two quart saucepan. Add the berries and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the sauce until most of the cranberries have burst, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir the sauce for a half minute or so and allow the sauce to cool. Transfer it to a serving dish or storage container and refrigerate before serving.
NOTES: Buying cranberries in bulk and freezing them in three cup packages makes it easy to enjoy cranberries in all seasons. Here are four good recipes.
First, here is one for an uncooked cranberry orange relish that Jerri makes at least a couple of times a year. It’s great with roast pork, lamb, turkey or chicken. Like her cranberry sauce recipe, this one also has just three ingredients.
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
Grind or chop the cranberries fairly fine. If we had a food processor, we would use that. Jerri chops the berries in smaller batches in the blender and chops the few by hand that keep bouncing around in the blender jar.
Wash and dry the orange and remove the zest with a zester or the smallest holes on a kitchen grater. Peel the orange, chop the sections into small pieces and discard any seeds with the rind. Stir the berries, zest, chopped orange and sugar together in a bowl. Put the relish in a storage container, cover and refrigerate for at least a day.
Here are three more recipes that are well worth your while.