It is commonly held that there are only three fruits native to North America—blueberries, cranberries and Concord grapes. While I am not certain of the accuracy of this statement, cranberries are indeed native to America. Native American Indians used the berry as both a food source and a wound medicine, as well as a dye. Its name is said to come from a variation of “craneberry,” so called because the early settlers from Europe thought the flower resembled the head of a crane. Also referred to in various parts of the world as mossberry, fenwort or fenberry, marshwort, bearberry, bounceberry (a common method of testing for quality was to bounce them) and Sassamanash.
The rich red color of the berries lends itself well to festive occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Indeed, many of us associate the fruit solely with Thanksgiving and have not enjoyed the many dishes that can be created from this versatile berry. If your experience with cranberries has been limited to cranberry relish, it’s time to open the door to a world of culinary possibilities. Cranberries—used to flavor meats for centuries—make a good addition to breads and desserts as well as salads and cereals. Because of their tart flavor they are best consumed in a sugared dish or paired with another fruit such as the apple.
Cranberries are one of the Super Fruits. This nutrient rich berry carries its own natural anti-biotic and has been linked—in the form of juice—with urinary tract infections relief in women. Cranberry juice consumption can aid in the prevention of tooth decay as it helps prevent the build-up of plaque. Studies indicate that extracts may have anti-aging effects. Cranberries are high in vitamins C and K as well as fiber. Vitamin K promotes cardiovascular health. It, along with phosphorous in cranberries assists in bone and tooth health.
An Indian legend describes how the cranberry came to be: Long ago, the Yakwawi’àk, or Mastodons, walked the Earth, placed here by the creator to be useful to man. The monstrous beast was fierce, powerful and invincible and a great help to the Lenape’wàk . But the powerful creatures turned on them and waged war on all of the animals—a great battle was fought. Many lives were lost and the ground ran red with the blood spilled. Yet the Yakwawi’àk were nearly impossible to kill! Slowly, the battlefield turned into a great quagmire and many of the hugh creatures drown. The Creator, angry with the monstrous beasts, threw lightning bolts, killing all but one bull. Badly wounded, the beast fled to the far north, where it is said, its evil spirit remains. Evidence of the great battle can be seen today. You can find the bones of the Yakwawi’àk as well as other animals in the marshes. The Lenape’wàk were saddened by the lives lost and the loss of potential food and furs. In remembrance and compassion, the Creator caused the cranberry to grow in the marshland so that it might be used as food for mankind. The deep red color of the berry was to remind us of the blood that was spilled on that terrible day.
Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce
3 T. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed and halved
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in milk. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in cranberries.
Pour into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350º for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Butter Cream Sauce
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a saucepan, combine melted butter, sugar and cream; bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Serve warm over Cranberry Cake.
Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue. For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.