The Merry Cranberry

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During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, cranberries are often found in stuffing, dressing, relishes, and of course, cranberry sauce. So, why isn’t this humble fruit invited more often to our table?

Cranberries are packed full of nutrition. Early sailors used to take cranberries on long journeys to prevent scurvy, because they contain such high amounts of Vitamin C. Cranberries contain potassium to maintain normal blood pressure. Cranberries also contain antioxidants and bacteria-blocking compounds which help prevent urinary tract infections, ulcers, and gum disease. Cranberries are fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free and a good source of fiber.

When selecting fresh cranberries, choose those that are full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red; avoid cranberries that look shriveled or bruised.

Shortly before use, rinse fresh or frozen cranberries and throw out any that are shriveled or bruised. There is no need to clean dried cranberries.

To freeze cranberries, simply place in an airtight freezer bag, and they will last almost a year. Fresh cranberries should be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in a crisper for about 3 to 4 weeks.

When cooking cranberries, there is no need to thaw frozen cranberries before adding to a recipe, just rinse and add. Cook just until the cranberries pop; further cooking will result in a more bitter taste.

Raw cranberries are tart and bland-tasting, but using them fresh or dried adds color and nutrition to many recipes. Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many other flavors. Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape.

Dried cranberries can be used in place of raisins, added to nuts, granola, or oatmeal. Fresh or dried cranberries work well in quick breads such as muffins and sweet breads and yeast breads.

Here are a few interesting facts about cranberries:

  • The cranberry gets its name from the German and Dutch settlers who called them “crane berries” because the vine blossoms resemble the head, neck and bill of a crane.
  • Cranberries are one of the few fruits native to North America.
  • American Indians used cranberries as a food source, to dye fabrics and as medicine.
  • Cranberries are approximately 90% water.
  • Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water, but prefer a habitat of bogs made of layers of sand, peat, gravel and clay. These bogs are often flooded before harvesting.
  • Cranberries have small pockets where air seeps into them that allows them to float. This same air pocket also enables cranberries to bounce!
  • One cup of cranberries has about 50 calories.

Enjoy these delicious pancakes for breakfast anytime during the year using cranberry and pecans.

Cranberry Pecan Pancakes

Ingredients

½ cup cranberries, fresh or frozen

½ cup pecans

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup plain yogurt

2 extra large eggs

1/3 cup whole milk

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Place the cranberries, pecans, and sugar in the work bowl or a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat together until very well combined. Fold in the cranberry mixture.

Heat a large griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat and grease it well with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Drop the batter by ¼-cup portions onto the hot griddle and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, until the bottoms are well browned. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to make sure the pancakes don’t burn. Serve immediately.