Cranberries have a storied New England history: Native Americans are said to have combined dried cranberries, meat, and fat to make pemmican, a practically nonperishable (and not so tasty) wintertime staple. Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall began cultivating cranberries in the Cape Cod town of Dennis in 1816.
Today, Massachusetts is known as the premier destination for those as hungry for gorgeous views as they are for this classic New England ingredient (you can find a list of bog tours through the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association at cranberries.org).
“There is not a camera in the world that can capture how beautiful it is here during peak season,” says Peter Beaton, a third-generation cranberry grower whose family bog is based in Wareham, Massachusetts.
Bring the beauty of cranberry season home by making these tempting recipes, using the versatile fruit in dishes both sweet and savory.
Cooking with cranberries is a challenging yet nutritious proposition. Tart, sweet, spongy, and slightly odd in its raw form, the cranberry’s rosy exterior belies the pucker-inducing pulp that resides inside. This tender, hearty fruit needs just a little love to bring out its best qualities — it’s all about the preparation.
Owing to their low sugar content and tannins in their skin, cranberries aren’t typically served raw. Traditionally, you’ll find them sweetened with sugar in recipes meant as classics for the Thanksgiving table, or dried and used in trail mix, salads, and desserts. But, given a little thought and the right recipe partners, cranberries can also lend a complex edge to savory dishes, making fine company with meats, tomato-based sauces — even aged cheeses.
Named for the similarity a Pilgrim farmer saw between the fruit’s small pink blossom and the head and bill of a sandhill crane, cranberries are incredibly hardy, lasting one to two months in the refrigerator and a year when given the deep freeze (no need to defrost before using in recipes).
In recent years, researchers have discovered a multitude of health benefits, too. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, bacteria-blocking compounds in cranberries are widely believed to help prevent a variety of ailments, including urinary tract infections, ulcers, and gum disease — an added incentive to try these great recipes at the height of cranberry season.