Produce Superstars: Cranberries, the New Health Food?

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My recipe for cranberry-apple compote contains nary a grain of refined, white sugar--see full recipe after the jump.

Most of us aren’t drawn to cranberries because we hope they’ll make us healthy–we like their gorgeous red color and tart, refreshing taste. Still and all, they have their nutritional charms. Among them, decent quantities of vitamin C, anti-oxidant properties, and many people believe, anti-bacterial qualities as well (they are often cited as being of benefit for treating or preventing urinary tract infections). Cranberries became part of our Thanksgiving celebrations, reportedly, because Native Americans taught early European settlers how to harvest and preserve the wild berries, which ripen at this time of year. Cultivated berries now account for probably 100 per cent of the berries we eat, with Wisconsin being the biggest producer (see an informative slide show at the Wisconsin grower’s website). There’s no getting around the fact that they’re too tart to eat raw, so they must be balanced with some kind of sweetener. In my recipe, I use the more gentle sweeteners, brown rice syrup and maple syrup to tame the tartness very nicely–the myth that you have to pour on the white sugar, is just that, a myth.  I think my recipe will do very nicely indeed on your holiday table, let me know how you like it (full recipe, after the jump).

Cranberries in partially-flooded bog. Cranberries do not grow in water, but the bogs are flooded to facilitate harvesting of the berries which float to the surface after a harvesting machine drives through the bogs. (USDA photo)

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CRANBERRY-APPLE (OR PEAR) COMPOTE

(4 cups or 5-6 servings)

This naturally-sweetened sauce is better made well ahead of time so it can thoroughly cool and the flavors meld.

3/4 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup (or to taste)

one 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries, washed and picked over

2 apples or pears, cored and diced

pinch sea salt

1 orange, the zest, grated, and 2 tablespoons of the juice

Heat the rice syrup and maple syrup in a thick-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  When it begins to foam, lower heat a bit and the add the apples or pears and simmer 4-5 minutes. Add cranberries and salt and simmer over low heat, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking on the bottom. Cook 10-12 minutes or until most of the cranberries burst and become tender (frozen cranberries will take a few minutes longer). Turn off the heat and stir in the orange juice and zest. Cool to room temperature or chill before serving.

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Simmer cranberries together with rice syrup, maple syrup, apples or pears.

Wisconsin-grown cranberries for sale at Farmer’s Market, St. Paul, MInnesota (Wisconsin grows more than one-half the world’s annual production of cranberries).
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2 responses

  1. Coming from the midwest, my Mother always prepared multiple cranberry recipes for the holidays. I highly recommed Chef Gary’s cranberry sauce prepared with brown rice syrup and maple syrup, which allows some of the tartness of the cranberries to naturally come through. This special recipe is definitely a keeper!

  2. Pingback: Happy Thanksgiving! – A Mindful Heart

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