History & Culture / Home & Family

Cranberry Sauce 101 & Bonus Cranberry Recipe

Does the name Marcus L. Urann ring a bell? If it doesn’t, it will now, as this cranberry grower and Elizabeth Lee created canned cranberry sauce in 1912. Per Farmers’ Almanac, this jiggly log of deliciousness is enjoyed by Americans who consume over 5 million gallons of jellied cranberry sauce every holiday season. The duo concocted the sauce by boiling the bruised berries from the bog. Cranberries contain high pectin content, which turns the fruit into a gel. Since cranberries are only available for a short window in the fall, the Almanac explains that canning them makes them available year-round. Only about 15 percent of the crop is marketed as fresh berries. Today, approximately 20 percent of all cranberries get consumed around Thanksgiving weekend.

Did you know that cranberries are native to North America? This homegrown fruit was first used by Native Americans, who used it as a food, fabric dye, and healing agent. Today, cranberries are only grown in five U.S. states. Per Statista.com, Wisconsin was the top cranberry producer in the U.S. in 2020, with 4.64 million barrels, followed by Massachusetts with 2.06 million barrels of cranberries that very same year. The remaining products are grown in New Jersey, Washington, and Oregon. It may surprise you to learn that cranberries are considered a perennial crop and grow on low shrubs and vines. But they grow in a unique environment. Not only do the shrubs and vines require layers of gravel, but they also need acidic peat soil and sand. Per Westfield Insurance, a whopping 90 percent of the entire cranberry crop is harvested via the wet method vs. the dry. Using the wet method, the bog gets flooded with between 18 to 24-inches of water for 12 hours before the harvest begins. Farmers walk through the bog with large rods to gently poke the vines to loosen cranberries. Then, the cranberries float to the top, get collected, and are ultimately loaded onto trucks.

Cranberries are an extremely healthy fruit, chock full of nutrients and antioxidant content. Per Healthline, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, a class of compounds found in plants that helps to prevent UTIs. They also boast manganese, copper, vitamins C, E, and K1. Thus, they are considered a superfood. However, cranberries contain both insoluble and soluble fiber. Some people have a problem with the latter, as it may cause digestive symptoms. But, lucky for them, cranberry juice has almost no fiber. Interestingly, cranberries.org boasts that there are only 4 g of sugar in every cup of cranberries out of all fruits. By comparison, raspberries have 5, and blackberries and strawberries have 7 grams of sugar per cup. Cranberries can taste bitter when eaten raw; thus, most people like to cook and sweeten them. While canned cranberry sauce can be good, many folks prefer homemade.

Here’s how to make it:

Grandma’s homemade orange-cinnamon cranberry sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 12oz. bag of fresh cranberries (or frozen)
  • ¼ c. water
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • ¼ c. orange juice (fresh squeezed best)
  • ½ t. orange zest
  • 3 cinnamon sticks or ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • A dash of ground cloves

Directions:

Rinse the cranberries and discard any that are damaged. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, and water is boiling. Add cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Bring to a simmer and cook, occasionally stirring, until the berries begin to crack open and the cranberry sauce thickens (about 10 mins.). Remove from heat and remove cinnamon sticks (if used). Let cool and serve at room temperature. The sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Best if eaten within a few days.

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