Cranberries are on store shelves now, so the holidays can’t be far behind. Both will disappear with the new year. In the case of cranberries, it is rather a shame because these deep-red berries have much more to offer than just sauce for festive dinners.
Cranberries are a superfood. They are not only a good source of vitamin C, but are also rich in a group of phytochemicals known as PACs, short for proanthocyanidins. These are the compounds that give the berries that rich red color; studies suggest they may reduce inflammation, as well as improve oxidative stress and insulin sensitivity. Cranberries are said to prevent urinary tract infections.
Although more research is needed on the role of cranberries in maintaining health, the PACs found in them have been linked to good health outcomes, making cranberries a wise addition to a healthy diet.
When purchasing cranberries, select firm red berries. Avoid any that are soft or discolored.
Cranberries in a sealed plastic bag should store in the refrigerator up to two months and in your freezer for a year. Rinse them before using.
Let’s talk about sauce.
You don’t have to rely on canned sauce for your holiday meals. Making fresh cranberry sauce is easy. The basic recipe, which you will find on the package of berries, is to cook them with water and sugar on the stovetop until the berries burst, becoming a jamlike sauce. It takes about 15 minutes.
I prefer to use orange juice instead of water. It makes a lighter, fresher-tasting sauce that my family loves.
If you have any sauce leftover from dinner, remember that it makes a great spread. Turkey sandwiches, pumpkin bread and breakfast scones all seem to shine with a little cranberry added.
Besides making a wonderful sauce, fresh cranberries are a great addition to your morning smoothie. Fresh or frozen berries are very tart, so I mix them with sweeter fruit.
Ever try Spicy Cranberry Salsa? I serve it with blue corn chips and it’s wonderful!
Dried cranberries are sweeter than fresh berries and are lovely in everything from baked goods to salads. Try them with roasted vegetables. I especially like them sprinkled atop roasted butternut squash.
Fresh, frozen or dried, you will find reasons to put these little red superfoods to use throughout the year.
Elizabeth Dutson is a Clark County WSU Extension Master Food Preserver. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=8163. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline at 564-397-5366.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Source: Chef Scotty. Yield: 8 servings
1 pound cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup date paste
2 blood oranges
2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Zest and juice the oranges. Combine cranberries, orange juice, date paste in a medium pot and cook over medium high heat until cranberries release their juice and the date paste is dissolved, about 15 minutes. Whisk in chia seeds and cook until the juice thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in orange zest and spices. Chill in refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.