Cranberry

Cranberry

 If you tried cranberries once, it is very unlikely that you forget the distinct tart-sweet taste of this voluptuously red berry. If you never tried cranberries, you have surely heard a lot about cranberry juice or cranberry sauce. Thanksgiving and Christmas are particularly good times for enjoying cranberries for those who like them and good times to try them if you haven’t done this so far. Whichever group you are in, one thing you have to remember is that cranberry is a small berry with enormous benefit.

1) Background
The cranberry is one of few kinds of fruits native to North America. According to some documents, cranberries were widely found in Massachusetts. Recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s. Native Americans used cranberries to make a survival cake known as pemmican. They also used the fruit to produce dyes. At the time cranberries were already used for medicinal purposes. Native Americans brewed cranberry mixtures to draw poison from arrow wounds.

2) Cultivation
Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Quebec as well as the number of the American states. Historically, cranberry beds were constructed in wetlands. Nowadays cranberry beds are constructed in upland areas that have a shallow water table instead. It is widely believed that the beds remain flooded throughout the year, which us not the case. During the growing season cranberry beds are not flooded, but they are irrigated regularly to keep the soil moist. Beds are flooded in the fall to facilitate harvest. They are also flooded in winter to reduce the damage which can be caused by cold. Cranberries are harvested in autumn (late September to mid-October). That is the time when the berries obtain their famous red colour. About 95% of harvested cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining 5% is sold fresh to consumers.

3) Choosing
When choosing the cranberries to buy, choose the ones that are shiny and plump. Good, ripe cranberries will bounce (that’s the reason they are nicknamed "bounceberries"). They should in colour from bright light red to dark red. Shrivelled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. You should also remember that cranberries do not ripe after the harvest and if someone is trying to sell you “fresh” cranberries in February, for instance, you should think twice.

4) Storage
One of the great things about cranberries is that they are relatively easy to store. First, sort out the soft ones from the rest. After that you can put them in a tightly-sealed plastic bag and froze them. Fresh cranberries can be stored this way for up to a year. Fresh cranberries may last up to 2 months in the refrigerator. To keep cranberries at their best, do not wash them until just before using them.

5) Cooking
As it was already mentioned, cranberry is a small berry with enormous benefit. Unluckily, fresh berries are too tart to eat them as they are. However, there is whole world of the ways you can use cranberries in cooking. Cranberries may be baked with a sweetener to make a topping or sauce, or they can added to baked goods, such as muffins. They are also good chopped with oranges to make a relish. Cranberry sauce is always a hit that goes brilliantly with Christmas Turkey. To make approximately 2 1/4 cups you will need 1 cup (200 g) of sugar, 1 cup (250 mL) of water and 4 cups (1 12-oz package) of fresh or frozen cranberries. Wash the berries. In a saucepan bring to a boil water and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Remove from heat. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

6) Nutrition and health
It is definitely undeniable that those small berries are full of benefit. Cranberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, flavonoids, phenols and other substances that help protect against health problems like urinary tract infections, and chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. They are rich in phytochemicals which are believed to be deterrents against the disorders of cardiovascular and immune system. Cranberry juice also contains a chemical that blocks pathogens that cause tooth decay. However, you have to keep in mind that this is only true for unsweetened cranberry juice.

You can clearly see that cranberries are special berries indeed. Moreover, the place that is filled with a tempting aroma of a roast turkey served with sweet and flavourful cranberry sauce is a place you can call home, especially on a Christmas Eve.

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