Heather Rockwood is a food science junior and the Mustang Daily food columnist.
This Thanksgiving your loved ones will be grateful for the tantalizing flavor that dances on the tips of their tongues as they savor the North American native cranberry atop their turkey.
Better yet, it can be the surprise cranberry recipe you offer to prepare in light of all your new food knowledge. Mom will surely be impressed, but can you imagine the excitement from Grandma and Uncle Bob when they see that in just a few short weeks in college, their favorite relative has come home a top chef?
I know this seems far-fetched, but it can happen to you. As you try out this new recipe you will learn this little berry does much of the work itself, and yet is still willing to give you all the credit for preparing one delicious turkey topping.
You won’t be alone either — you and your family will join hundreds of thousands of American families on this Thanksgiving Day in a joint effort to consume approximately 80 million pounds of cranberries — but you will have the secret of fresh berries, and you can leave the boring canned variety a thing of the past.
These berries are often too tart to eat by themselves, and this is why so many people have fallen in love with cooked cranberry sauce, which softens the flavor and still maintains a festive zing. Cranberries are also often found accompanied by sweeter fruits such as apple, grape or raspberry in order to give your taste buds a round trip of flavor. These combinations are famous for juices found on supermarket shelves, but be sure you are drinking 100 percent juice drinks and not fruit cocktails. These drinks are packed with extra sugars that prevent the true flavor of the fruit from shining.
Cranberries — like most small children — were given a nickname in their early years which can serve as a helpful reminder when you are looking to purchase the best berry. A delicious cranberry that is ready for its cooking debut will bounce when perfectly ripe — in other words, a “bounceberry.” Another indicator of ripeness is a deep rich red color — in the spirit of the holiday season, just about as red as Rudolph’s nose.
We all know from experience that cranberries provide a scrumptious accompaniment to holiday foods, but it is often easy to overlook the health benefits the berry also has to offer. The most famous health benefit the cranberry has to offer is its ability to protect your urinary tract. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries have the ability to inhibit bacteria from attaching to the wall of the urinary tract, and thus combat urinary tract infections.
In addition, a less common health risk cranberries are known to help prevent is heart disease. The flavonoids found in cranberries have the ability to reduce the bad cholesterol known to clog and harden arteries. These same flavonoids are also known to increase the amount of good cholesterol found in your body.
As one of the few fruits native to North America, this berry was consistently used by American Indians long before pilgrims and Thanksgiving arrived. American Indians were known to create pemmican, a mixture of meat and cranberries that preserved for long periods of time. They also found cranberries useful for medicinal purposes including drawing poison from arrow wounds.
When the pilgrims arrived and the first celebration of Thanksgiving took place, cranberries were surely on the menu and were greatly appreciated for both the flavor and functionality it consistently provided. As the years progress, cranberries have become the forgotten food of holiday meals, but this year there is hope for change.
When that tingle on the tip of your tongue brings excitement back to your palette this week, remember to thank that little silent warrior. Sit back and enjoy one more piece of pie with the comfort that the cranberry, in all its tangy might, is off battling to keep your good cholesterol up and bad cholesterol down — then go take a walk to the market in hopes of figuring out the next in-season food to be featured!
Alice’s Cranberry Sauce
(Courtesy of http://savorysweetlife.com)
12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
3/4 cup orange juice
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
Optional: 2 oz gold rum
Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook on medium-high for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced – stirring occasionally. You’ll hear the cranberries popping – don’t worry, that’s what you want them to do. Remove from heat and serve. Cranberry sauce can be made days ahead and brought to room temperature or slightly heated before serving.
Gingered Cranberry-Raspberry Relish
(Taken from www.kitchendaily.com)
12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup crystallized ginger minced, (choose soft nuggets over disks, if possible)
3 cups raspberries (2 pints), fresh or frozen (not thawed)
Pulse cranberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in sugar and crystallized ginger. Gently stir in raspberries — it’s fine to crush some of them. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours to let the flavors combine.