The holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without serving something cranberry related. Native to North America, cranberries were used by Native Americans for centuries to heal bladder infections, scurvy, stomach ailments, and even as a remedy for blood poisoning. Today, cranberries are grown mostly in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Washington, and Oregon and harvested from the bogs in September through October.
The bioactive compounds in cranberries are similar to blueberries, and their health benefits have been studied extensively. Cranberries help treat bacterial infections by creating an acidic environment to prevent bacteria from binding in the urinary tract as well as in the stomach and oral cavities. This promotes stomach health, prevents UTIs, and reduces incidence of periodontal disease and plaque accumulation in the mouth. The plant compounds in cranberries can help optimize blood pressure, decrease risk of heart disease, and even prevent certain types of cancer and oxidative stress.
Studies have shown that all forms of cranberries, whether juiced, dried, powdered, or fresh, offer potential benefits. Cranberries are very tart so its juice is often sweetened with sugar. Opting for 100% cranberry juice (not from concentrate) or diluting regular cranberry juice with water will reduce the sugar content.
Cranberry sauces and chutneys make a popular pairing with poultry, meats, and stuffing around the holidays, but there are many other ways to enjoy this nutritious berry. Make a “gourmet” turkey sandwich by toasting a hoagie roll and adding cranberry sauce, cream cheese, sliced turkey, and romaine lettuce, or spread cranberry sauce on crackers and sprinkle with goat cheese for a crowd pleasing appetizer. Try adding dried cranberries to cooked quinoa with sliced apples, feta, and roasted pumpkin seeds for a savory side dish, or tossing in your morning oatmeal with walnuts, honey, and cinnamon. Fresh cranberries can be stored for 2-3 weeks in the fridge, or in a freezer for up to 12 months. Curious what to do with fresh cranberries? The World’s Healthiest Foods organization recommends tossing a few into your green salad and drizzling with olive oil – the tartness of the cranberries can take the place of vinegars or lemon juice. Try a tossed arugula salad with cranberries, orange slices, candied pecans, and dress with olive oil.
Recipe from NYT Cooking. Available at https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/380-cranberry-chutney
Serve with turkey or red meat, or spread in a wrap or sandwich. This would even be great with baked brie!
YIELD 8-10 servings TIME 25 minutes
- 1 cup orange juice
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1 juice orange, pitted and finely chopped (skin and all)
- 1 tart apple, cored and chopped
- 12 dried apricots, chopped
- 1 ¼ cups honey, approximately
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Place orange juice, cranberries and chopped orange in a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until berries begin to pop.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook about 10 minutes, until thick. Adjust sweetness if desired.
Nantucket Cranberry Tart
This classic holiday dessert recipe is from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen. Available at https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/nantucket-cranberry-tart/
- 1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- In a small bowl, combine the cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar and almonds. Transfer to a greased 11-in. fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Place on a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs, butter, extract and remaining sugar. Beat in flour just until moistened (batter will be thick). Spread evenly over berries.
- Bake at 325° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Refrigerate leftovers.
Test Kitchen Tips: The tart may ooze from your tart pan a little bit as it bakes. If you’d like, try baking yours on a 15” x 10” x 1” baking sheet.
Nutrition Facts (per 1 piece): 255 calories, 14g fat (8g saturated fat), 65mg cholesterol, 93mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (19g sugars, 2g fiber), 3g protein
Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a dietitian specializing in diabetes education and care. She maintains a food and health blog at www.plantasticeating.com.