November 20, 2011

Spicy Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 cup  water
  • 4 cups (2 packages) of fresh  cranberries, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar
  •  Add cranberries and cinnamon, return to a boil
  • Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes .  You will hear the berries popping open.
  • Turn off the heat and add the orange juice and nutmeg
  • Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools
  •  Garnish with orange zest and serve
   Yield:  ~3 cups

           Native Americans originally called cranberries “atoca” or “sassamanash” and  enjoyed them cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup.  The Pilgrims learned about this recipe from the Native Americans and it was very likely included in the early New England Thanksgiving feasts and welcomed by starving settlers. By the beginning of the 18th century, the tart red berries were already being exported to England by the colonists. Cranberries were used by Native Americans decoratively as a source of red dye, and medicinally as a poultice for wounds since not only do their astringent tannins contract tissues and help stop bleeding.  We now also know that compounds in cranberries have antibiotic effects, and their high vitamin C content is good for collagen production and skin health.  Additionally, they used them as a preservative to extend dried meat as they contain a natural compound called benzoic acid. 

          In 1840, Massachusets  Revolutionary War Vet, Henry Hall noticed these large berries grew well when sand was swept into his bog by the local winds and tides. The sandy bog provided  the perfect  growing conditions for the cranberries by limiting the growth of shallow-rooted weeds and enhancing that of the deep rooted cranberries.  Further, because cranberries are exposed to so much more sunlight in these growing conditions, it vastly increases their antioxidant capacity, making them one of the most concentrated sources of “polyphenols” around.  You can always tell a fruit has this type of bioactive compound/antioxidant by the intense color (acai berry, blueberry, grape).  Cranberries have high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, and mineral manganese.  Today, cranberries are a major crop in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin as well as many provinces in Canada.

(information adapted from - a very helpful website when learning about the world's healthiest foods!)

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