Seasonal Fare with Flair: Cranberries

The ever-popular Victoria Hicks brings us fabulous cranberry recipes for the holidays.

The cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown. Its name is derived from the Pilgrim name—“craneberry”—so called because the plant’s small, pink blossoms resemble the head and bill of a Sandhill crane.

Native Americans discovered the wild berry’s versatility as a food, fabric dye, and healing agent, while American whalers and mariners carried cranberries onboard ship to prevent scurvy.


The cranberry industry comprises approximately 47,000 acres, of which 14,000 are in Massachusetts. Other major growing areas are New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec. Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers.

Fresh cranberries are available in stores mid-September through December and may be stored in the refrigerator for up to four weeks. Before using, sort and rinse cranberries in running water. You can also freeze them to enjoy all year long. To freeze fresh cranberries, double wrap them in plastic without washing. When using frozen cranberries in your recipes, no thawing is necessary. In fact, best results are obtained without thawing.

Naturally fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-sodium, and a good source of dietary fiber, cranberries contain flavonoids and polyphenolics, natural compounds that promote health.

When entertaining, try cranberry juice with a splash of sparkling water and a lime wedge for a pretty and refreshing alternative beverage.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

2 cups cranberries, chopped or whole
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cups sugar; divided
2 eggs
3/4 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease a pie dish or cake pan.  Mix cranberries, nuts and half a cup of sugar.  Spread onto pie or cake dish.  Mix the rest of the sugar with two eggs, melted butter and flour.  Pour batter over the cranberries and walnuts.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove the cake from oven and serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Makes one 9-10″ pie or 9″ square cake.

—Adapted from Nantucket Magazine, September 2015

Cranberry-Strawberry Compote


This recipe is a delightful change from the usual cranberry sauce.

2 pounds cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 pint strawberry preserves

Cover cranberries with water in a 2-quart saucepan and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes after they come to a boil. Add the sugar and the strawberry preserves, and cook for another 5 minutes. Chill.

Cranberry-Orange Compote

2 pounds cranberries
1 orange, peeled and cut into eighths
1 organic orange with skin, cut into eighths
3 Tbs. Cognac or Grand Marnier (optional)

In a blender or food processor, grind the cranberries with the oranges. Add sugar to taste and either the Cognac or Grand Marnier, if desired. Blend thoroughly. Correct the flavoring, if needed, and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Baked Cranberries

2 pounds cranberries
¼ to ½ cup water
2 cups sugar

Wash cranberries well and place in a heavy 2-quart saucepan with the water. Cover and steam over medium heat till cranberries pop. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with sugar, and bake at 300°F until cranberries are thick and clear, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Sautéed Brie with Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4-6

1 small wheel of Brie or Camembert
1 egg, beaten
Cooking oil
Cranberry Sauce
Sour dough bread, thinly sliced and toasted

Cut Brie into wedges. Dip wedges into the beaten egg and then into breadcrumbs. Repeat this process. Place in refrigerator for about half an hour. Sauté wedges in hot oil for about 1 minute. Serve immediately with hot toast and cranberry sauce.

—Adapted from Carrigbyrne Farmhouse Cheese, Ireland

Wild Rice, Chestnut, and Cranberry Dressing
Makes 8 cups

Delicious with roasted duckling or chicken. May be prepared the day before.

1½ pounds fresh whole or jarred chestnuts
½ cup (1 stick) butter
3 duck or chicken livers
6 shallots, finely minced
4 celery stalks, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups wild rice
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup fresh cranberries
½ cup chopped Italian parsley

Using a bottle opener, pierce the top and bottom of each fresh chestnut. Put the chestnuts in a pot. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes Allow to cool slightly, then peel away the outer shells and skins while still warm. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet and sauté the duck or chicken livers and set aside. Melt the remaining butter and sauté the shallots, celery, and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wild rice and stock to the skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until rice is tender but not soft, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Add more stock if necessary.

Finely mince the sautéed livers and add to the rice along with the fresh cranberries, parsley, and peeled chestnuts. Toss and place on a serving platter.

—Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Christmas

Cranberry Angel Pie
Serves 8

4 egg whites
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup sieved cranberry sauce or jelly
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

For the shell, use a 9-inch pie pan or plate. Heat slightly in a 350° oven, then grease very lightly with vegetable oil, using a piece of paper towel to spread the oil and blot the excess.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks in the small bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle in the cream of tartar, and beat until uniform bubbles begin to form. Gradually add the 1 cup sugar, and continue beating until the sugar is dissolved and mixture stands in stiff peaks. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Set in a 300°F oven and bake about 1 hour. Do not open the oven for the first 30 minutes, or the shell will not be puffy. When the shell is a delicate yellow, turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar until cool. The shell will have sunk slightly in the center, but this is normal. Chill.

For the filling, beat the yolks slightly in the top of a double boiler. Add the sugar, salt, and sieved cranberry sauce or jelly. Place over slowly boiling water and cook and stir until thick. Remove from the heat and chill.

Whip the cream until stiff. Spread half of it on the shell, leaving a margin of about an inch. Spread the filling on the cream, and top with the remaining cream. You can also fold the cream into the filling. In either case, return the pie to the refrigerator, and chill 24 hours or overnight.

—James Beard’s American Cooking

Cream of Butternut Squash and Cranberry Soup
About 12 cups, 8 to 12 servings

For the cranberry purée:
12-ounce bag of cranberries (about 3 cups), picked over
1 cup Ruby Port
½ cup sugar

For the soup:
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced thin
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter
¾ tsp. ground mace
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. white pepper plus additional to taste
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 sweet potatoes (about 1¼ pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth

Make the cranberry purée:
In a heavy saucepan combine the cranberries, the port, and the sugar, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cranberries burst and the mixture starts to thicken. In a food processor, purée the mixture and force the purée through a fine sieve into a bowl, discarding the solids. The purée keeps, covered and chilled, for 3 days.

Make the soup:
In a large heavy saucepan cook the onion and the carrots in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add mace, ginger, ½ teaspoon of white pepper, squash, sweet potatoes, and 4 cups of the broth. Simmer the mixture, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft. In a blender or food processor purée the soup in batches, transferring it as it is puréed to a saucepan, and stir in the remaining 2 cups broth, the additional white pepper, and salt to taste. The soup keeps, covered and chilled, for 1 day.

To serve the soup:
Reheat the cranberry purée and spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. (Alternatively, spoon the purée into a small resealable plastic bag and cut off the tip of one corner.) Reheat the soup, divide it among soup bowls, and pipe about 1 tablespoon of the cranberry purée decoratively onto each serving.

—Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton

Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Cranberries and Red Swiss Chard
Makes 4 servings

For Swiss chard
1/3 cup minced shallots (2 medium)
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 lb. red Swiss chard, stems and center ribs cut out and chopped together, leaves coarsely chopped separately

For pork chops
4 (1¼-inch-thick) rib pork chops
1½ Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

For sauce
1/3 cup minced shallots (2 medium)
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (4½ oz)
¾ cup chicken stock or broth
3 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
1½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried, crumbled
2 Tbs. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare Swiss chard:
Cook shallots and garlic in butter in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add chard stems and center ribs and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add leaves and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer chard to a heavy saucepan and wipe out skillet.

Cook pork chops:
Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chops, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into meat registers 155°F, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer chops with tongs to a platter, leaving fat in skillet, and cover chops loosely with foil to keep warm.

Make sauce:
Sauté shallots in fat remaining in skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add wine and deglaze by boiling over high heat, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Add cranberries and stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to burst, about 2 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and thyme, and simmer, stirring, until berries are collapsed, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter until incorporated, then season with salt and pepper.

Assemble dish:
While sauce is cooking, reheat chard over moderate heat, stirring. Divide among 4 plates and top with chops, then spoon sauce over.

— from Gourmet, November 2001

Baked Wine-glazed Apples Stuffed with Marzipan, Cranberries and Raisins
8 servings

8 large baking/cooking apples, cored
juice of 1 large lemon
1 7-oz. package marzipan, room temperature
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or unthawed frozen cranberries
½ cup coarsely chopped raisins
2 Tbs. minced toasted blanched almonds
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbs. unsalted butter

Peel top third of each apple and brush lightly with lemon juice. Mix remaining lemon juice with marzipan, cranberries, raisins, almonds, lemon peel, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Press mixture evenly into hollows of apples. Arrange in shallow baking dish. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine wine, sugar, honey, and butter in heavy small saucepan over high heat and boil until syrupy, about 10 minutes. Spoon over apples. Bake until tender and glazed, basting frequently, 50-60 minutes.

— from Bon Appetit, December 1983

Cranberry Loaf
Makes 2 loaves for a total of 12 to 16 portions

This is a moist loaf loaded with nuts and whole cranberries and the combination is gorgeous—crunchy and cranberry-sour. The loaf is brushed with a generous amount of orange glaze that soaks into the cake. It should be made at least a day ahead, and it freezes wonderfully and may be made way ahead. The loaf is made with either fresh cranberries or with frozen whole cranberries. Serve this as a dessert or as a tea or coffee cake.

2 cups whole cranberries
2½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
7 ounces (2 cups) walnut halves or large pieces
2 eggs (large or extra-large)
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup tasteless salad oil
finely grated rind of 1 or 2 deep-colored oranges (juice will be used for the glaze)

Adjust a rack to the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. You will need two loaf pans measuring 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inches or slightly smaller. Butter the pans, dust them with fine, dry bread crumbs, and tap out excess crumbs. Set aside. If you are using fresh cranberries, pick over them, rinse, drain, and spread out on a towel to dry. If you are using frozen berries, they should wait in the freezer until you are ready for them, then rise and drain quickly and use them frozen.

Sift together, in a large bowl, the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Stir in the nuts and the cranberries. In a bowl beat the eggs to mix; beat in the buttermilk and salad oil, and then stir in the orange rind. Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients and stir to mix. Spoon half of the mixture into each of the prepared pans and smooth the tops; the pans should be half or three-quarters filled. Bake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry.

About 15 minutes before the baking time is finished, if the tops look too pale, raise the racks to a higher position. A crack will form down the length of each loaf while it is baking; this is okay. The loaves will not reach the tops of the pans, they will be only about 2 inches high. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.

Orange Glaze
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup orange juice

Stir the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Cover each loaf with a rack, turn over the pan and the rack, remove the pan, cover with another rack and turn over again, leaving the loaf right side up. With your hands, gently transfer each loaf to a rimmed platter or tray. Pierce the tops gently in many places with a cake tester.

With a pastry brush, brush the hot glaze generously over the tops and sides of the loaves. When much of the glaze has run down off the loaves, use a wide metal spatula and gently raise one end of the loaf, at the same time tilting the plate, to let the glaze run under the bottom of the loaf. Continue to brush on the glaze from the plate until the loaves no longer soak it up.

Refrigerate the loaves uncovered. The remaining syrup will become thicker and syrupy as it chills; spread it over the loaves with a spoon or spatula.
Refrigerate the loaves, uncovered, for several hours or overnight before serving.

If you are going to freeze them, first place each loaf on wax paper or foil on a tray and freeze uncovered. Then transfer to a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap airtight. The outside of the loaves will be sticky but when you unwrap then only a very little will cling to the wrapping, and loaves will look shiny and gorgeous.

To serve after freezing, the loaves should be unwrapped while they are frozen, transferred to a plate, and refrigerated uncovered for a few hours or left at room temperature to thaw.

Cut with a very sharp knife. Serve two slices (about ½-inch thick) to a portion.

(Note: You might like to try this with vanilla ice cream—the combination of the sour berries with the sweet ice cream is wonderful.)

—Adapted from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts

Gift-Giving Out of the Box

If you want to make loved ones feel really cared for, nothing’s better than a homemade treat, carefully prepared and packaged in pretty wrapping!  Prepare homemade cranberry sauce.  Spoon into a small glass jar and tie a decorative ribbon around the lid.  Print out the recipe for “Sautéed Brie with Cranberry Sauce” on a pretty card. Place your homemade cranberry sauce and recipe card in a gift basket or gift bag, along with a small wheel of Brie or Camembert and a loaf of your favorite sourdough bread.

—Victoria Hicks


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Ken Davis

Ken Davis is the Co-op's senior copywriter. Email him at