My first memory of being introduced to cranberries was canned cranberry sauce; it was cut into slices and served on a small platter. There was a small amount of joy in observing the perfectly intact, can-shaped jellied sauce, as it was coaxed out of the can in preparation for a holiday meal. Since then, I’ve discovered a wide variety of uses for cranberries.
The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America, the Concord grape and blueberry being the others. According to Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, Native Americans used cranberries as a food staple long before the Pilgrims arrived. They were also used as medicine and as a dye for clothes and blankets.
Selection & Storage
Today, cranberries are available fresh, frozen, and dried and many individuals are finding joy in them. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Americans are consuming nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries per year (20 percent during Thanksgiving week).
Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 weeks. Before using, sort and rinse cranberries in running water. Consider buying fresh cranberries in season and freeze to enjoy through the year. The fresh fruit is available in stores from October through December/early January, usually in 12-ounce bags (equal to about 3 cups).
Cranberry products are usually sweetened, because unlike other fruits, they are naturally low in sugar and high in acidity, making them especially tart. Cranberries contain fiber and high amounts of Vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants and bacteria-blocking compounds, which help prevent urinary tract infections. One cup of fresh berries or 1/2 cup of dried cranberries equals a fruit serving. There are about 25 calories in a 1/2 cup of fresh berries. Always chop the raw berry or cook them until they are tender, before serving cranberries to a child under age 3.
Ways to Enjoy
Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many flavors:
- Add dried cranberries to hot or cold cereal, pancakes, yogurt, and on top of salads.
- Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape.
- Add fresh or dried cranberries to muffins, sweet breads and yeast breads.
- Save money and make your own trail mix using dried cranberries, grains, nuts, and maybe even a little dark chocolate.
- Before baking apples, fill the cored centers with cranberries, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
- Create a cranberry glaze or slow-cook some cranberries with your favorite chicken or pork.
- Toss a handful of fresh or dried cranberries into your favorite apple pie recipe before adding the top crust.
Try the following healthy, cranberry recipes; they are easy to serve anytime of the year.
Apple Cranberry Waldorf Salad
Recipe: University of Kentucky Photo: Alex Bayley
- 1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
- 1 cup chopped Red Delicious apple
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup halved seedless green grapes
- 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
- 1-1/2 cups dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 8 ounces non-fat vanilla yogurt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Combine chopped apples and diced celery and put in a medium-sized bowl. Add grapes, cranberries, and walnuts to the mixture. Stir ingredients together.
- In a separate bowl, add the yogurt, honey, and cinnamon. Stir together and pour over the fruit mixture. Cover and chill before serving.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 210, Fat: 5g, Carbohydrates: 41g, Dietary Fiber: 3g, Protein: 3g, Sodium: 35mg, Cholesterol: 0mg. Makes (8) 1-cup servings.
Recipe: Michigan State University Extension Photo: Rachel Tayse
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 egg, well beaten
- 1-1/2 cups cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
- Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg.
- Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts.
- Spread evenly in prepared loaf pan.
- Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap and store overnight. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 211, Fat: 6g, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 3g, Sodium: 313mg, Cholesterol: 18mg. Makes 16 servings.
For additional information about cranberries, check out University of Missouri Extension’s Can-Do Recipes: Canned Cranberries. Another helpful resource is the Cranberry Institute’s 4 Seasons, 4 Reasons for Cranberries Year-Round handout.
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters. Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Cranberries.
- Michigan State University Extension. Cranberries and Their Many Uses.
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Ways to Use Cranberries.
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lancaster County. Cranberries: A Great American Fruit.
- Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Cranberries: Food $ense Guide.