Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. It seems so meaningful to give thanks to mother-nature’s gifts of the harvest, to those who grow our food and to those who prepare meals. You really can’t think about Thanksgiving without thinking about cranberries. I’m a huge fan of using cranberries not only at Thanksgiving but all year round.
Cranberries (genus vaccinium) is native to North America particularly the East coast. They grow in bogs and swamps relying on bees for pollination since their pollen grains are too heavy for the wind to carry. According to Acadian History, First Nations people were observed eating cranberry sauce with meats in the mid fifteen hundreds. It is likely cranberry sauce was being consumed for hundreds if not thousands of years before that. Cranberries are high in Vit C and are powerful antioxidants. Most available cranberries are commercially grown using extensive pesticides to control pests and quality. Not only is this bad for human health, but it is lethal for the pollinator bees! Efforts are being made to improve capacity for growing cranberries without pesticides which is a huge step in the right direction. If you can, buy organic cranberries. If they aren’t available, prepare a solution of 2 tsp baking soda to 1 litre of water and give the berries a quick dip. The alkaline solution will remove many of the pesticide residues (works for many other fruits and vegetables too).
Cranberry sauce, with or without orange or rum; cranberry mostarda a condiment combining cranberries and mustard which is excellent with ham, pork or cheese; cranberry juice; cranberry relishes, chutneys, conserves; cranberry and orange loaf, and the list of cranberry recipes goes on and on. One of my favorite recipes combines cranberries with pears and several spices for a lovely deep red and very flavourful jam. This jam appears in many preserving cookbooks going by different names like, Holiday Jam or Christmas Jam. I think of it as “Harvest Moon” jam.
For further information:
Harvest Moon Jam
Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the harvest, celebrate the growers and cooks, and be thankful for nature’s generous gifts.
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 pound ripe peeled pears shredded (1.5 cup)
- 1 cup water
- 2 TBSP grated orange zest plus ½ cup of orange juice
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, ground cloves and ground ginger
In a pot, combine cranberries, pears, water, zest and juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes until cranberries pop. Stir in sugar and spices. Bring back to a boil stirring until sugar dissolves. Off heat crush fruit with a masher. Return to the boil and cook about 10 minutes until the jam reaches a gel stage (217 – 219 degrees).
Put into hot jars and process in a water-bath or atmospheric steam canner for 15 minutes adjusting for altitude. Let rest five minutes before removing the jars.