What’s Cookin’: Fresh Cranberry Sauce


I often take advantage of shortcuts when cooking during the holidays.  I think a pumpkin pie made with canned pumpkin puree, is just as good if not better than starting with a whole fresh pumpkin.  Cranberry sauce, on the other hand, is worth the extra effort to start with fresh cranberries.  Cranberry sauce is simple to make, you can adjust the amount of sugar to your tartness to your family’s liking, and the flavor and texture far exceeds that of any canned sauce.  With just a few ingredients and 15 minutes, it is guaranteed to be a hit on your holiday table!

Before I share the recipe, here’s the agriculture story behind the ingredients.

cranberreis2CranberriesCranberries are one of only a few fruits in the grocery store that are native to North America. Native Americans used wild cranberries long before Europeans arrived and the first thanksgiving was celebrated. They ate them fresh, dried the fruit for longer storage, and made tea out of cranberry leaves. The also used the versatile fruit to cure meats, dye fabric, and treat wounds.

You probably think of water when you picture where cranberries grow. Cranberries naturally grow in bogs and wetlands, water-soaked areas that create a transition from dry land to open water.  But cranberries do not grow directly in water. Wild cranberries naturally grow right at the edge of the water, taking advantage of the rich and acidic soil there.

Cranberries grown for juice, dried fruit, and other processed foods are wet harvested. This technique takes advantage of the fruit’s natural ability to float.  Farmers flood the bogs with water and use machines to shake the berries loose form the plants.  The floating berries are then corralled together and loaded into trucks.  Fresh cranberries, like the ones used in this recipe, are dry harvested using a mechanical picker.

sugarSugar:  Sugar you buy for baking and other sweet treats can come from two agricultural crops,  sugar cane and sugar beets. Sugar beets are a root crop grown in the upper Midwest.  Sugar cane is a tall perennial grass grown in more tropical environments like Florida, Latin America, and South America.  Although the plants are very different, the process of turning juice from sugar beets and sugar cane into granulated sugar is very similar.  After the juice is extracted, it is purified, and the crystals form as the water is removed through several stages of evaporation.

lemonsLemon Juice:  Lemons are the fruit of a small evergreen tree, native to Asia. In the United States, California is the land of lemons, producing 92% of U.S. lemons!  Even though we think of lemon as summer fruit, winter and early spring is when lemons and other citrus fruits are harvested.

The juice of the lemon is about 5% to 6% citric acid, with a pH of around 2.2, giving this fruit its distinctive sour taste. Lemons are a great source of calcium, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, minerals and antioxidants.

butterButter: Fresh whole milk from dairy farms is collected and brought to the creamery. The cream is separated from the milk and rapidly heated to a high temperature. Pasteurization removes any disease-causing bacteria and helps the butter stay fresh longer.  The cream is then churned by shaking or beating it vigorously until it thickens. The remaining liquid, appropriately called buttermilk, is removed. The clumps of butter are then washed and formed into sticks or blocks. Check out this video to see exactly how butter is made.

Fresh Cranberry Sauceingredients

12 ounces fresh cranberries

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 cup water

1 T butter

1 T lemon juice


20171122_100619Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan.  Add cranberries and return to boil.  Reduce heat and bil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and butter.  Pour into a bowl, cover, and cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate until serving.



Lemons and Oranges and Mangos, Oh My!

Day 6 of our South African adventure started with an irrigated citrus and mango farm along the Olifant River. They manage 100 hectares and harvest up to 60 tons of fruit per hectare. It was interesting to study the planting. The rows are planted north to south to maximize the sun rays but at the same time prevent sunburn on the fruit. The trees are spaced 2m apart in the row and the rows are 7m apart. The trees mature in three years but don’t recoup costs until after thirteen years.

To maximize productivity, farmers are trying to increase the population density and they are planting trees closer together. New tree spacing can be as little as 1m apart with rows only 5m apart. The farm sells whole fruit for export, cut and packaged fruit for the European market, green fruit for the Asian market, and overripe fruit to the juice market. Fruit is picked at peak ripeness and within 8 hrs put into the cold chain. If the cold chain is maintained, the fruit has a shelf life of up to 6 weeks. To check if your own mangoes are ripe, drop them in water. If they sink they are high in sugar and should be tasty. If they float, they are still high in starch and will probably not be as good.

Along the drive throughout the day we say plenty of orange and lemon orchards. Parts of the area experience heavy hail storms and so farmers have taken to covering acres and acres with mesh to protect the trees. Citrus is quickly increasing in production in South Africa and is becoming a major export crop.

We ended the day at Kapama Safari Lodge and a game drive. We saw elephants, lions, cahway birds, water monitor lizard, yellowbilled hornbills, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, wildebeest, greater kudu, nyala, and common duiker. The African wildlife is truly incredible.