Exciting new ways to incorporate local cranberries into your cuisine

Exciting new ways to incorporate local cranberries into your cuisine
Courtesy: Marla Allen | News Source: ssliving.com

When most people think of cranberries they envision the quintessential New England condiment served at holiday feasts or the refreshing sweet-tart flavor of a classic Cape Codder cocktail. But few people realize just how many ways cranberries can be incorporated into dishes and drinks served throughout the year.

Fruit of the Vine

The history of the cranberry runs deep in the South Shore region. Wild varieties of the fruit were prized for their medicinal properties by both the Native Americans and early European settlers. And it was here in the sandy soil of Plymouth County and Cape Cod that the commercial cranberry industry was born.
One of the country’s oldest farmers’ organizations, The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association (CCGA), was established in 1888 to standardize the measure with which cranberries are sold. Today, the Plymouth-based organization represents approximately 330 growers throughout Massachusetts.

In total, there are close to 14,000 acres of cranberry bogs in the state, which account for approximately 30 percent of all cranberry acreage worldwide. In 2017, Massachusetts growers produced 1.76 million barrels of cranberries (a barrel equals 100 pounds).

The Benefits of Buying Local

Cranberries have long been recognized for their healthful qualities due to their unique flavonoid and phytonutrient content and antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that can help protect the heart, gut and urinary tract. What’s more, buying locally harvested cranberries (instead of fruit that comes from Wisconsin or Canada) directly supports farmers right here in Massachusetts.

Cooking with Cranberries

From savory appetizers to decadent desserts, cranberries can amp up the flavor in all sorts of dishes. And since the fruit is easy to freeze, you can toss a few packages in your freezer and continue to enjoy the local harvest all year long.

If you need a little culinary inspiration, check out these simple recipes, provided by the CCGA. For more recipes and information about cranberries, visit cranberries.org.

Cranberry Rangoons

Yield: 16-20 Rangoons

Ingredients:
¾ cup fresh cranberries
1 fresh jalapeño pepper
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup mayonnaise
10 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 package wonton wrappers
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Remove the seeds from a jalapeño pepper and roughly chop. Combine cranberries, jalapeño, sugar and mayonnaise in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Reserve half of the mixture for a dipping sauce and blend the other half with softened cream cheese, salt and pepper (if desired).
Place four wonton wrappers on a clean cutting board. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each wrapper. Brush two adjacent edges of the wonton with water and fold in half to make a triangle. Press down on the edges to seal and set aside on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Bake rangoons in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes (or in an air fryer for 8 minutes), adjusting from top to bottom rack until evenly brown. Serve warm with reserved dipping sauce.

Cranberry Pecan Goat Cheese Truffles

Yield: 8 2-inch truffles to serve
as small cheese balls, or
24 bite-sized truffles

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Ingredients:
10 ounces goat cheese
6 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries, diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine goat cheese, cream cheese, cinnamon, honey and salt and pepper (if desired) and beat until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans, folding to combine, and set aside.
Toss the remaining chopped pecans, dried cranberries and parsley in a medium bowl. Using a small cookie scoop (for bite-sized truffles) or large scoop (for cheese ball-sized), scoop balls of cheese filling and toss in pecan mixture. Continue until all truffles have been rolled in coating.
Refrigerate cheese balls up to 3 days. To plate, drizzle with honey and serve with crackers, warm crostini or as a bite-size appetizer.

Cranberry Lime Vodka Mojitos

Yield: 4 Cocktails

Ingredients:
3/4 ounces fresh mint (about a handful)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups premium vodka
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
12 ounces soda water
1 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen (for garnish)
1 lime sliced in wedges (for garnish)

Directions:
Add fresh mint (leaves only) and granulated sugar to a large pitcher. Muddle together to breakdown leaves into smaller pieces with a long wooden spoon or muddling tool.
Add vodka and lime juice and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour in cranberries and cranberry juice and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To serve, add ice and soda water and pour into stemmed cocktail glasses. Include a few whole cranberries and a lime wedge as garnish.

Cranberry Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 8 Side Dish Servings

Ingredients:
1 pound Brussels sprouts, (cut in half if large, or left whole if small) stems trimmed
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat Brussels sprouts, cranberries and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper (if desired) and sauté for 10-12 minutes, or until Brussels sprouts are cooked through, but firm. Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to coat and remove from heat. Toss Brussels sprouts, cranberries and pecans in a large serving bowl and top with gorgonzola crumbles.