Monday, December 07, 2009

Cranberries: Not Just for the Holidays

If you think of cranberries and envision hardy New England farmers slogging through crimson bogs, you need to start thinking more locally. Cranberries grew wild on the Clatsop Plain south of the Columbia River and were an important part of the native Quinault and Queet Indians' diets. They were often included in pemmican, the energy bar of the early Americas, sustaining natives and explorers alike when wild game and fruits were scarce.

Charles Dexter McFarlin came to Coos County from Massachusetts and planted the first cranberry bog way back in 1885, and the cranberry has been cultivated on Oregon's southern coast ever since. Clearwater Cranberries, a collaborative of farming families in the area, are following in McFarlin's footsteps and going him one better by becoming Food Alliance certified. That means they've been inspected and approved as growers who use environmentally friendly, socially responsible practices, as well as showing a commitment to educate consumers about the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

Grand Central Baking's cranberry chutney in my great-grandmother's blue footed bowl.

I ran across their cranberries recently and used them in a fresh cranberry chutney that almost upstaged the turkey and gravy as the featured players at Thanksgiving. This piquant number will be making another appearance at Christmas dinner, and may well show up alongside some Indian dishes in the future, as well.

Cranberry Chutney
Adapted from Grand Central Bakery

2 tsp. olive oil
2 medium red onions, diced (to make about 1 2/3 cups)
2 tsp. finely minced garlic
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
2-3 large apples, diced (to make about 5 cups)
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cayenne or red pepper flakes or 2 small red chiles
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. currants

Put the olive oil in a large, non-reactive pan and warm over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat and cook until slightly softer and becoming translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a few more minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes or until the cranberries and apples have cooked down and the sauce has thickened. To store, place cooled chutney in an airtight container and refrigerate for about one week, or you can also can or freeze it.

Makes approx. 2 qts.


Anonymous said...

This is definitely going in my cranberry favs, right up there with the "Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish"

Glassylady in chilly Vville

Kathleen Bauer said...

Let me know what you think!

And how chilly is chilly? It's pretty cold here, too…