18 Oct 2006

Celebrate with Cranberries

Cranberries are the same family as the blueberry. It is one of the few fruits native to North America. It still grows wild as a shrub in North America, Europe and Asia. When cultivated it grows as a low trailing vine and is planted in sandy bogs where it flourishes.

They were part of the Native Americans diet and were used as a preservative in a venison and fat mixture called pemmican. The pemmican was eaten during harsh winters and other conditions when food was short. The Native Americans also enjoyed eating cranberries sweetened with honey or maple sap. Cranberries were used as a dye and to dress wounds due to them being known to stop bleeding and infection.

Nutritionally they are rich in vitamin C and anti-oxidents, and are a good source of vitamin K, dietary fiber, manganese, potassium and vitamin A. Being acidic and low in carbs they are popular in low carb diets as they help lower the glycemic value of food.

Cranberry juice has been drunk for many years by women as it was thought to be excellent for the urinary system and to prevent bladder infections. Studies in recent years have found this to be true.

Studies over the last fifty years and still continuing have found that flavonoids, polyphenols and other properties in cranberries are excellent for strengthening capillaries, increasing the "good" cholesterol in blood, helping to prevent kidney stones, and found to be excellent for the health of the mouth and teeth. Due to the proanthocyanidins in cranberries , bacteria is prevented from making contact and attaching to the cells in the body so they are now being looked at as an alternative to antbiotics. Research is also looking into the cancer preventing properties of cranberries.

People on warfarin should check with their medical practitioner on whether it s safe to drink cranberry juice due to it's clotting properties.

To enjoy the health giving properties it is suggested that a glass of organic unsweetened, cranberry juice (including the fiber and skin) is drunk daily and it can also been counted as one of your daily 5 fruits.

When purchasing fresh cranberries, check that they are deep red in color and quite firm to the touch. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of months. They can also be frozen as long as three years. They are also enjoyed bottled and dried.

Used both in sweet and savory dishes they are great ingredient to always have around, whether fresh or dried.

For more detailed information on the health properties of cranberries, please visit the Cranberry Institute website.

Recipes of the Day

Cranberry Fiber Smoothie
from the VegWeb

1 peeled, frozen banana
1/2 cup orange juice or one peeled orange
4 pitted dates
2 rounded tablespoon dry soymilk
1/3 cup dry oatmeal
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup cranberries (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup almonds
2 heaping tbsps wheat germ
1 tbsp flax seed
water or omit dry soy and use soy mild (enough to keep blender happy!)

Put all ingredients (maybe half at a time if you don't have a heavy duty blender) and whiz away! Having some of your fruit frozen to begin with gives you a shake more like an ice cream shake. Be creative. Serves: 2 large

Cranberry-Apple Relish
from In A Vegetarian Kitchen

This relish adds vivid color to fall harvest meals, and is a nice change of pace from jellied cranberry sauces for holiday meals.

12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
4 sweet cooking apples (such as Cortland), peeled and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar or Sucanat
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of allspice or nutmeg
1/4 cup golden raisins

Combine all the ingredients except the raisins in a large saucepan. Stir together; bring to a simmer, then simmer gently, covered until the cranberries have burst and the apples are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the raisins and allow to cool, uncovered. Transfer to a serving container and serve at room temperature. 8 or more servings

Sweet-Tart Cranberry Cabbage
from the Vegetarian Times
The Germans have been making sweet-and-sour red cabbage for centuries. This recipe Americanizes this classic dish and punches the flavor up a notch with cranberries and cranberry juice. The deep color is beautiful, making it a great addition to the holiday table.
Tip: To shred cabbage quickly and easily, use a food processor.

1 medium-sized red cabbage, finely shredded
2 tbsps. plus 1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lb. onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup red wine, optional (or substitute cranberry juice)
1 tbsps. whole caraway seeds, optional
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Toss cabbage with 2 tablespoons salt, mix well and let sit 1 hour. Rinse well to remove salt.
Heat 4-quart Dutch oven or cast-iron covered pot over medium heat. Add oil, onions and garlic, and sauté until golden and soft, about 15 minutes. Add cranberries and juice, wine, caraway seeds, cloves, peppers and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil.
Add cabbage, and cover pot. Reduce heat to low, and cook 1 hour. Remove cover, increase heat to medium and cook until about 2 cups liquid remain, cabbage is tender and cranberries have popped. Stir well, and serve.


Marion said...

I can't wait to try the cranberry red cabbage. I was born in Germany; red cabbage is one of my favourite dishes.

But this recipe adds a lot more food value than my old one does!

Chandira said...

I love 'em sprinkled in salads.. They add a little something to the flavour. Fresh or dried. I lvoe the dried ones in place of raisins, and eat a lot of them. GOod to know about the good cholesterol, I was told by my Dr I have low cholesterol! Trust me to do it differently.

Though I need a little sugar of some kind in my cranberry juice.

The Artist said...

Your food is always so wonderful, more recipes here I would love to try. Understand about learning to fly. My own background is also very disciplined and learning to walk a new way has been a gradual and sometimes frightening process, with best wishes, The Artist

Anonymous said...

I love cranberries! I think that cranberry fiber smoothie sounds really great!! I agree though that if I have 100% cranberry juice, I need to sweeten it with something! :P

Homemade cranberry sauce and juice (with orange in it) is really good too. I love cooking them on the stove. The color is so pretty!

Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

Oh, cranberries, what perfect timing! I love this time of year, because fresh cranberries are available in the markets. But I've only had them cooked, I'm anxious to try them raw, like in your smoothie recipe. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I never thoughtto try cranberries in a smoothie. What a great idea.

eastcoastlife said...

Oh, I love cranberries. I'm going to try the recipes.
Best wishes from Singapore.

Mary French said...

The cranberry cabbage sounds great. I think my family would like it,too, so I'll make it for a holiday meal.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed cranberries are in the markets now. I'm crazy for cranberries. All of the recipes you posted sound delicious! I just bought my son a new blender so he can make healthy smoothies. Now I have a recipe to include!

Have you heard about the new studies on tart cherries or its juice? If you have any insight on that, I would love to learn what you know.

Emmy said...

Those look like some great recipes. I love fresh cranberries but can only find them in the fall.