Red cranberries are perfect for photographing for a cookbook. They are shown being washed, strained and ready to make cranberry sauce.
Red Cranberries are in season and at their peak every autumn from mid-September until mid-November in North America. This coincides co-incidentally with the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays. Once harvested, a portion of the cranberry harvest is sold “fresh” during the months ending in “er,” that’s October, November and December. Another portion of the cranberry harvest is dried (think “Craisins”) and another portion turned into canned jellied cranberry and other types of sauces. If you have the occasion to come across fresh cranberries buy a couple of packages or more because they freeze really well and after December fresh cranberries become very, very scarce.
When buying fresh cranberries, they will come packaged in a bag. Inspect the bag to make sure that there aren’t any soft cranberries – they should all be relatively hard to the touch. Late season cranberries will be darker than early season cranberries so you’ll probably have a mix in the bag. There is no difference in taste between the dark and lighter red cranberries. However, if you are making cranberry sauce be aware that the lighter colored cranberries have a higher pectin level and will yield more juice during cooking. The higher pectin level also allows the sauce to thicken more easily. So if you are making cranberry sauce then you may want to sort through the cranberries so that you have mostly lighter-colored red berries.
If you are making cranberry sauce one of my favorite recipes is to add orange juice. In a saucepan, combine 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup water. Add cinnamon or nutmeg if desired. Bring to a simmer and add one 12 oz. package of fresh cranberries and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
However, cranberries are not limited to just cranberry sauce. You can simply coat them with sugar and eat them like candy. I call these “frosted cranberries” but they also go by the name of “sugared cranberries,” “candied cranberries,” and “sparkling cranberries.” Make a simple sugar sauce with 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved. You may need to add some additional water but you want the mixture to be very thick. Let the mixture cool and then add one 12 oz. package of fresh cranberries. I like to pour this concoction into a container that I can turn periodically because the cranberries will float to the top. Leave the mixture with cranberries in the refrigerator overnight (or at least four hours). Drain the cranberries and let dry on a wire cooling rack so that air can get to all sides of them. You want to let them dry until the sugar/water coating is tacky to the touch – this can take a while like overnight or 8 hours. When dry and tacky to the touch roll them in sugar to coat them. These are addictive and quite popular around the fall holidays.
© 2017 Barbara Wrigley McDevitt ~ Minneapolis, Minnesota based Freelance Food Photographer