For those who are new here, I'm really into food history. I wind up doing quite a few posts about food, and since I'm stalled on blog topics, I thought I'd cover some Thanksgiving foods. I've already done Brussels sprouts, corn, and the spice rack.
I almost didn't do this, because I thought "oh, cranberries are pretty boring". But then I remembered that not everyone has spent the last couple decades reading food books and taking classes, so... I hope you find it interesting.
There are four different species of cranberry, including Vaccinium oxycoccus, the Northern Cranberry from Eurasia, and V. macrocarpon, the cranberry everyone eats. It's native to the New England area of North America and grows up into eastern Canada and down as far south as the Carolinas, in high-altitude areas that are kind of chilly.
There are two ways to harvest cranberries. The Bog/Wet Pick method is the one we're familiar with, if you're one who pays attention to such things. (Cranberries grow in dry, chilly areas; they don't actually grow in water. The water is part of the harvest method.)
Dry Pick is just about what it sounds like; people pick the damn things by hand, which would have to suck because they grow low to the ground. These berries keep much better, and account for the less than 5% of the worldwide cranberry harvest that's actually sold fresh. I imagine it's sold mostly in New England, because no one else would know what to do with them.
Cranberries contain goodies that aid circulation; it thins the blood a tad, and sort of de-grease your digestive tract. It's got tannins that fight tooth decay. And, its most well-known property, it does fight or inhibit urinary tract infections.
There's just one drawback. (Isn't there always?) Raw cranberry is so sour and bitter, it'll turn your head inside out. So lots of sugar needs to be added, or the juice needs to be blended with other, sweeter things.
The fiber in cranberries is the soluble type, and one of them is pectin. Pectin is the thing that makes fruits turn into jelly. The cranberry jelly at Thanksgiving? It does that all by itself.
Historically, there's not much. Native Americans put it in their pemmican, for flavor and nutrients, I imagine. Plus the pectin/goo factor. First recipe for cranberry sauce, 1663, from the pilgrims.
I'll do what I can to find some more interesting Thanksgiving foods for the next week.
Oh, and found while poking around for cranberry information: Traditional Dyes of the Scottish Highlands. Enjoy.