It’s almost Thanksgiving, and for most Americans, the beginning of a brief window of time in which they will eat cranberries. Cranberries in sauce for the big dinner, maybe some cranberries in desserts, but then, when the holiday is over, bye-bye cranberries.
It’s too bad, since they are an authentically American and seasonal berry, and could be enjoyed all year long, in their frozen and dried forms. Fruits native to America are an exclusive group, including only the cranberry, the blueberry, and the Concord grape. Native Americans used the cranberry for dyes as well as food, and often dried the berries to add to their stored food.
I’d say that the dried cranberry, or “craisin” as it’s often called, has made some inroads into our baked good and salad cultures. Once we started sweetening the little berries before drying them, they became much more appealing. Now you can find a cranberry scone or muffin at the local coffee shop, even in the summertime. They are also a go-to salad topper, because their tangy-sweet-chewiness works so well with crisp greens and nuts. The bright red color also provides a complement to all that green, so it’s a prettier salad.
That red color is provided by anthocyanins, some potent antioxidants that help protect you. The berries are also high in fiber and Vitamin C.
The one drawback in consuming cranberries is that they are so tart. Pretty much any recipe that uses cranberries also uses a hefty dose of sugar to make them palatable. I like to use fruit juice, like the apple cider in the recipe below, and a little natural sweetener, rather than pile on the white sugar. When buying cranberry juice or dried cranberries, I look for the ones that use juice, too, not high-fructose corn syrup.
The tartness makes them a great base for chutneys and salsas, and other dishes in which you balance sweet and sour. Fusiony-Asian restaurants have taken to adding them to Thai style curries and other dishes around the holidays, to play the role that lemongrass or lime leaf would have in the original recipe.
Here in Minnesota, we can even have local cranberries, since Wisconsin is one of the top producers of cranberries. That makes it even sillier that we relegate the crimson berry to once or twice a year status. So, I decided to take a little detour from my usual juicing routine and make a really simple cranberry drink. Really simple.
This will be my breakfast pick-me-up, my afternoon snack, and after-dinner treat for the rest of the season, in between green smoothies and kale juices. I love those, but in service to the idea of eating in season, the cranberry whirl is a no-brainer.
Simple Cranberry Whirl
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup raw cranberries
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
Put all ingredients in blender, blend to desired consistency. Drink.