Monday, November 17, 2014

Got Cranberries? Get Organic!

A couple of years ago, Ginger Rapport, market manager of the Beaverton Farmers Market, decided it would be fun to demonstrats how customers could make a whole holiday meal from products sold by the market's vendors. To go alongside the sweet potatoes, vegetable sides and turkey, she featured a cranberry jelly made from the whole, fresh organic berries grown by Scott Ridle and his family at Eagle Organic Cranberries in Bandon.

That sauce was so popular that Erin, Scott's niece and the one who runs the farmers market portion of the business, has handed out the recipe to eager customers ever since. Some have admitted to her that they will make the sauce, then pour it into cans ahead of the arrival of their relatives who might otherwise look askance at anything that doesn't have the rings from the can imprinted on it.

The Ridles (pron. RYE-duhl) have owned the property since the 1930s, when Scott's great-grandfather, a doctor, was given the land by a grateful patient as payment for his services. And there it sat for sixty years, passing down through the Ridle family until Scott, who'd been considering becoming a doctor, thought better of that plan and decided to move out to the property. Clearing land and building a barn and a house from lumber he milled from the trees on the site gave him time to consider what to do with it.

With cranberries a big agricultural crop in the area and with access to fresh water for irrigating bogs from a natural spring on the property, Scott decided to try his hand at growing cranberries. Since there were very few local organic cranberries available in the 90s, he decided to go for organic certification, a process that was made easier by the fact that the land had never been farmed before and the soil hadn't been compromised by chemical inputs.

That organic certification, of course, meant he couldn't use the sprays commonly applied in conventional operations to kill weeds and pests, so the family weeds the five acres of bogs by hand and uses water from the spring to occasionally flood the bogs for irrigation and pest control. They dry-harvest their berries, which Erin said gives the berries a firmer body, rather than flooding the bogs and skimming the berries as they float to the surface. They also never package their cranberries in plastic, preferring instead to sell them in paper bags that wick moisture away from the berries, helping to maintain their signature firm texture.

Because the farm is so small and organic is in such high demand, there is almost never a remainder crop left after the holidays. So if you want some of the Ridle's cranberries, your best bet is to get them in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Erin said that in a typical year, all of the berries are sold then, with rarely enough to go through Christmas. And here's that jelly recipe, whether you plan to put it in cans and fool your guests—or not.

Details: Eagle Organic Cranberries available at the Beaverton Farmers Market, the Hillsdale Farmers' Market and the Portland Farmers Market at PSU and at these stores.

Spiced Cranberry Jelly
Courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Combine in large saucepan:

4 c. or 1 lb. cranberries
2 c. boiling water
2 oranges, zested
¾ t. cinnamon
¼ t. clove
¼ t. salt

Bring to a boil, cover with lid. Boil 3 or 4 minutes or until skins burst. Put them through a food mill.

Stir into puree:

2 c. sugar

Return pan to heat. Boil about 5 minutes, until thick, skim, pour into bowl or a mold sprayed with pan spray.


Salvage Sister & Mister said...

Sounds wonderful. Does the farm give tours by chance? Ive always wanted to go to a cranberry bog. That pie looks tasty too. Is there a recipe for that?

Kathleen Bauer said...

Harvest is pretty much done for the year in Southern Oregon, Deborah, so you may have to wait till next year.

I don't know if Eagle gives tours, but feel free to contact them at the number on their website. If they don't, there are several other cranberry farmers in the area, so I'd google "cranberry farmers oregon" for starters. Good luck!

Kathleen Bauer said...

As for a recipe, I asked Erin and she said she doesn't have a recipe. She recommends looking up a recipe for a Nantucket cranberry pie. I may experiment with making one, since I'm also intrigued (and I love tart pies). I'll keep you posted!