The Cranberry Harvest

With Halloween behind us we all look forward to gearing up for the holidays; signs of Christmas are already being spotted.  November is such a wonderful month.  It seems as the weather gets colder more people migrate towards the kitchen, getting warm and getting ready for the fast approaching holidays.  The hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays begins.  So much to do, and for those that love to cook one of the greatest times of the year.

Particularly for those who live in New England.  We seem to have an abundance of foods to work with that make the holidays so much fun.  One of my favorite ingredients is cranberries.  For so many reasons this little fruit is such a joy to cook with.  Cranberries have been around for so long.  They are one of the oldest New England ingredients to use, and one of the most unique fruits in the world.  Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America.

To begin with, long before the pilgrim’s first landed in Plymouth native Indians were enjoying all the advantages cranberries had to offer.  Folklore has it that cranberries were served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.  The native Indians found many uses for the cranberry.  They used them to make a kind of tea, and the tea was used both as a juice drink, and as a dye for rugs and clothing.  The Indians also recognized the medicinal value of cranberries long before nutritionists and scientists discovered the health benefits of the tiny fruit.  The Pequot Indians of Cape Cod ate the fruit during the harsh winters of New England.

According to Waverly Root the Indians prepared this kind of survival food called pemmican.  Pemmican was a small cake made from crushed cranberries mixed with fat and dried deer meat, and was consumed by young and old alike. Cooking with cranberries is a long New England tradition.   Another favorite of the eastern native Indian was cornmeal and cranberries mixed together.

There is no question that cranberries have had a long history of health benefits.  Early sailors used to consume cranberries to prevent scurvy.  Cranberries are not only high in Vitamin-C, but they are also rich in anti-oxidants.   As we have learned over the years consuming anti-oxidant rich foods cleanse our bodies of free radicals.  Having cranberries in your diet on a regular basis can definitely help improve and maintain good health.

Moreover it is a proven fact that cranberries help prevent urinary tract infection, they also help reduce bacterial adhesion to your teeth, and aid in the reduction of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.  The health benefits of cranberries are just one thing that makes them such an amazing berry.  In the culinary world they have so many applications.  They are used in several varieties of food dishes.

Cranberries are used in drinks, appetizers, condiments, salads, entrees, and desserts.  They are used in several recipes both savory and sweet.   Twenty percent of cranberries consumed in the U.S. are purchased and consumed during the week of Thanksgiving.  So it is no wonder why November is cranberry month.  Cranberries have been a staple in my kitchen for over 30 years. We use cranberries in many ways even making cocktails like cranberry martinis, I have also developed a cranberry tea to make specialty drinks, and in the kitchen we use cranberries in our sorbets, breads, and our desserts.

I have always believed that cranberries go well with meat, and do several dishes blending the two.  Nothing is more Paleo than meat and cranberries.  The two have blended well since cranberries were first discovered.

Next week I will be doing some cooking classes to help take some of the stress out of holiday cooking.  All attendees will find many tips and techniques to make some awesome holiday dishes.  You can email me for more information at brian@cast-ironchef.org if you are interested in learning more.   Here is a long time favorite recipe of mine that I have shared with many friends and family.  I love making this simple recipe, and now I will share the love with you.  Bon Appétit!

Recipe for Cranberry Pot Roast   Courtesy of Brian M. Coffey, CEC AAC

(4-6 servings)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp   Vegetable oil

6 lb      Chuck Roast (tied), seasoned with salt and pepper

2 cups  onions, medium diced

2 cups Beef stock or beef bouillon

2 cups Whole cranberries

½ cup Maple Syrup

½ cup Roux

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: In a cast iron skillet or large sauté pan over high heat add oil and once oil begins to smoke add meat and sear on all sides.  Once meat is seared remove from heat, lower heat to medium-high and add onions.  Cook onions until they start to caramelize, then remove from heat.

In a braising pan place cooked onions, add seared chuck roast, add cranberries and maple syrup, add beef stock or bouillon; cover with lid.  Place in preheated oven at 300oF; cook for 2 ½ hours, or until meat is fork tender.  Remove meat from pan, and place braising pan on stove; bring liquid to slow boil and stir in roux until liquid coats the back of a spoon, nappe.  Strain the liquid (gravy), cut the roast and portion onto plates, top with gravy an serve.

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