Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry - Yum and Ugh!!

It's cranberry time. Yes, what is Thanksgiving without the cranberry ? A lonely turkey ( whose white meat is usually dry and needs that cranberry desperately). So everything you ever wanted to know about the cranberry and more.
Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines. They are found in acidic( surprised? nope!) bogs throughout the cooler regions of the United States and Canada. The flowers are dark pink . They are pollinated by bees ( so no spraying those honey bees). The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant. It is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. They are edible but have an acidic taste ( hence no surprise about the acidic soil)
About 95% of cranberries are processed into products like juice drinks, sauce and my favorite craisins( dried cranberries).Only 5% are sold fresh to consumers. OK if your cranberry sauce is in the shape of a can - we need to talk. You can make fresh cranberry sauce. Trust me -it is easy. And if you are addicted to the can shape jelly - well with a little more time and effort - you can do that too. Why you would want to - I don't know - because fresh whole cranberry sauce is amazing. ( at the bottom I'll give the recipe)
The name cranberry comes from "craneberry". Apparently our forefathers thought the flowers, petals and stems reminded them of the head of a crane. In the early 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called "bearberries" because bears were often seen feeding on them. Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. They also used cranberries for wound medicine and dye. The Indians called the berries " sassamanah" and introduced the berries to the starving English settlers in Massachusetts. And thus the tradition of cranberries at Thanksgiving was born.
Cranberries are harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive red color. This is in September through November. "So what about that white cranberry juice?" you say. Well , white cranberry juice is made from regular cranberries that have been harvested after the fruits are mature, but before they have turned dark red. So all cranberries are alike.
In 1816, American Revolutionary War veteran, Henry Hall started the first cranberry farm in Cape Cod town of Dennis , Massachusetts. Until 1930 most of the crop was sold fresh to consumers. In 1930 a cooperative of farmers was formed called "Ocean Spray" Today Ocean spray has about 65% of the cranberry market.
So what has this to do with cleaning? Cranberries can be used as a natural dye. So, needless to say, the stain is difficult (not impossible) to remove. Ugh! But that's why I'm here - to remove those tough stains. So if you or your tablecloth get cranberried - leave it alone and bring it in - we'll take care of it. But if you want to use your cranberries for dye - here's how :

Cranberry Dye

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 quart water
! cup salt

You will need :
Large enamel or stainless steel ( no aluminum ) pot
wood or plastic spoon ( remember the wood will turn red)
Large bowl
Natural fiber material ( silk, cotton, linen etc)
gloves - unless you like red hands

The fabric must be submerged in the dye - so the larger the fabric the more dye you will need - be prepared to make a few batches.

1. Put cranberries and water in (non-aluminum pot) and place on stove over medium heat. Simmer 15 minutes.
2. Crush berries with spoon and simmer another 15 minutes.
3. strain mixture through cheesecloth into bowl and discard berries. Allow to cool.
4. Add salt to strained mixture ( because all of you faithful readers know that this will .....set the dye.
5. Store the dye in a non -reactive container or add the material to be dyed ( if its is a large piece of material I recommend a storage tub)
6. Let the material soak in the dye, remove and allow to dry for about 10 minutes. If you want a more intense color - repeat the soaking and drying process until you get the color you want.
7. Now completely dry ( and if you are going to wear it - wash it)

Vicky's Cranberry Sauce (easy)

1 bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
pinch of salt

Put sugar and water in to large sauce pan and stir to combine. Over medium heat get the water and sugar heated ( should be clear). Add cranberries. Cook about 15- 20 minutes . The water will will turn red and thicken like jelly. Cranberries will split and you will hear them pop. If you want whole cranberries - don't stir often. I prefer to stir every 3-4 minutes and keep pushing the cranberries into the water with back of my spoon the rest of the time. So you have the best of both worlds - some whole berries and some of that can -shaped jelly (without the can shape).
But for you can shaped jelly folks - strain the cooled cranberry mixture through cheesecloth and pour into a can. Cool in the refrigerator and wallah can shaped jelly! But for me too much work and the whole berries are sweet and tasty - so just pour your cooled mixture into a bowl or glass jar and refrigerate. It will last about 2 weeks. Any leftovers( surely not) can be made into bread or muffins - Yum!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!