Cranberries are in season. You’ll find bags and bags of uniform sized cranberries in grocery stores or local farmer’s markets. But I’m talking about the wild ones - the ones that black bears also like. It’s thrilling to pick these especially you feel watched by Mr Bear. After all it’s one of their favorite food. Luckily there are many wild cranberries in Nova Scotia. So a good hike through the colorful autumn leaves plus picking a bag of your own is an outing we look forward to each year.
You can make your own dried cranberries at home. Simply boil a pot of water, add some sugar, honey or maple syrup depending on how sweet you want them (for unsweetened cranberries you add nothing) and dip the washed cranberries quickly in the boiling water until they pop (remove from stove but leaving them in hot water for several minutes if you’d like them sweeter). Drain them. Then dry them in the oven at about 200°F or below for more than 5 hours turning them every now and then. They can easily stick to your baking sheet if you don’t turn them often enough, especially if you are drying them, as we do, in the oven of an old-fashioned wood stove with uneven heat. Or you could use wax paper over your baking sheet but sometimes they stick to that as well. You can enjoy your own picked and home-dried cranberries as a snack or throw them in salads, cereal or tea. You will be amazed at how much better they are than store bought dried cranberries which are mostly greatly over-sweetened. If you do not want the hassle of drying them, there are many uses apart from the traditional thanksgiving sauce. We love to make no-knead cranberry walnut bread with orange zest.
You can also freeze cranberries (dip them in boiling water quickly and drain them before freezing) and use them later as ice cubes in your tea or sparkling water. Cranberries are loaded with healthy antioxidants and bring out the green tea's own antioxidants. The hint of sweetness in the cranberries comes after the initial burst of sourness, and lingers pleasantly on the palate. I guess that’s why bears like them :)
Though I tried very hard to catch a photo of Mr Bear in our favorite wild cranberry bogs, so far he has escaped my photos. It's a good thing they are shy and afraid of humans as I am repeatedly told by the local folk. I like to believe that. Sometimes though, I admit I am really scared, especially when the wind brings a particular stink in the air from the woods!
With fruit and tea people like to know if there are health benefits to consuming them. So, as with tea, cranberries are rich in antioxidants. They are rich in anthocyanins while tea has catechins. Both are flavonoids which are polyphenols. They are also rich in vitamins, high in fibre and full of minerals. They are also believed to help prevent urinary tract infection. Here is a link to cranberry nutrient contents from the USDA:
Cranberry Walnut Bread
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