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Cranberries store well. They stay fresh about 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer.

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Origins and Culture

The cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America's three native fruits that are commercially grown. The cranberry was an important staple long before Europeans arrived. Native Americans, who referred to cranberries as sassamanash, made cakes prepared with lean, dried strips of deer meat pounded into paste and mixed with animal fat, grains and cranberries. Referred to as 'Pemmican,' these cakes kept well and were used during long journeys. Later, European pioneers used cranberries as a dying agent and as a base for poultices, and as a source of vitamin C.

Cranberry growing in Ontario began in the 1940's with George Mollard. After spending many years surveying bogs and harvesting peat, he started Ontario's first commercial cranberry farm in MacTier.

While the Pilgrims of New England may have been the first Europeans to use the berry, it was Dutch and German settlers who gave it its name, calling the tart fruit "crane berries" because of the resemblance of the blooming cranberry flowers to the head and bill of a crane.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Nutritionally, one cup of cranberries provides 14 mg of Vitamin C, 71 mg of Potassium, and only 49 calories. Calories can be kept low by cooking the berries with sweeter fruits and fruit juice concentrates.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Prepare a spiced punch by first cooking the berries into a juice by combining 1 pound of cranberries with 4 cups of water in a stock pot. Cook covered over high heat until cranberries are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool and either strain for a clear liquid or put them into the blender in batches to retain the whole fruit. Blend until pureed. Return to the pot and add 1 stick of cinnamon, 5 allspice berries, 5 or 6 whole cloves and sweetener of your choice. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes and serve hot in punch cups. Incorporate chopped fresh cranberries into a quick bread.

Cranberries can be baked in the oven. Put a 12-oz. package of cranberries into a baking dish. Add 1 cup water and sweetener of your choice. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Chopped fresh cranberries add a refreshing touch to a bowl of salad greens. Add your favorite dressing and enjoy.

Do not wash cranberries until ready for use, as moisture will cause quicker spoilage. When a recipe says "cook until the cranberries pop," don't expect popcorn. This simply means the berry's outer skin will expand until it bursts.

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