Put some bounce in your bird: Liven up turkey and other dishes with the help of the versatile, hardy cranberry

For years I've longed to see an American cranberry harvest. By all accounts, it is a spectacular sight. The boggy fields of low, heather-like bushes are artificially flooded, the cranberries knocked off into the water, then drained off in an enormous scarlet wave. Imagine this on a perfect autumn day, with blue skies and gold- and orange-leaved trees.

Cranberries are naturally tough and survive this treatment unblemished. In fact, one sign of a good cranberry is said to be its bounce factor - they are sometimes known as bounceberries. Quality used to be assessed by tipping cranberries down a flight of stairs: those that skipped down to the bottom gained the seal of approval; laggards were discarded.

Once harvested, cranberries will keep for months, under the right conditions. They must have been one of the great blessings for native Indians and early settlers in North America: a source of vitamin C with a fresh flavour that would last right through winter.

The cranberry is a member of the heather family, which includes blueberries, cowberries and bilberries. The European cranberry grows wild on moors throughout northern Europe. Its name was transferred to the larger American cranberry by the first immigrants from Europe, glad to have found something familiar and sustaining.

Domestic cultivation began in the early 19th century, at Cape Cod, still one of the main centres for commercial production. Cranberries are harvested every year - for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now for sending overseas to us. Cranberry sauce, without which any self-respecting American roast turkey would feel naked, has made considerable inroads here. It slots neatly into our already extensive repertoire of sweet-sour fruity accompaniments to hot and cold meats.

Though cranberries are undoubtedly ideal for making quick, chutney-like sauces, it is a shame to limit them to just this use: they will keep for two to three weeks in the fridge, and probably much longer if you regularly pick them over and throw out any bruised fruits. They also freeze easily, with virtually no deterioration; and once Christmas has passed, the supply dries up.

Cranberry & orange sauce

There are endless variations on the theme - some tempered with orange juice or port, with this spice or that. This is one version I like, though I tamper with it practically every time. As the sauce keeps well in the fridge, it's worth making a large quantity.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients: 1lb (450g) cranberries

finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

8oz (225g) castor sugar

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1tsp ground allspice

Preparation: Put all the ingredients into a pan and stir over a medium-low heat until the juices begin to run and the sugar has dissolved. Bring to boil and simmer for 5-8 minutes until the cranberries have popped. Spoon into a bowl, leave to cool and store, covered, in the fridge.

Cranberry & ginger relish

If I have a little more time, then I'll make this whole cranberry relish, baked slowly in the oven. Stored in sterilised jars in a cool dark place, it will keep for a month or more.

Makes about 1 1/2 lb (675g)

Ingredients: 1lb (450g) cranberries

8oz (225g) castor sugar

finely grated zest/juice of 1/2 orange

3 spheres of preserved stem ginger, finely chopped

Preparation: Spread cranberries in a single layer in an oven-proof dish or roasting tin. Sprinkle evenly with remaining ingredients and cover with foil. Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 45 minutes, stirring twice. Spoon into hot sterilised jars (see Annapolis conserve) and seal.

Annapolis conserve

This is a marvellously Christmassy preserve, ideal as a present if you can bear to give it away. I have adapted the recipe slightly (mainly by reducing the sugar) from one I found in a Canadian cookbook, The Cranberry Connection, by Beatrice Ross Buszek.

Makes around 6lb (2.7kg)

Ingredients: 3 oranges, peeled and cut into 1/2 in (1.5cm) chunks

2 lemons

1lb (450g) cranberries

1 pineapple, peeled, eyed and cut into 1/2 in (1.5cm) chunks

8oz (225g) currants

3 1/2 lb (1.6kg) sugar

6oz (170g) blanched, nibbed almonds or chopped walnuts

Preparation: Pare the zest from the oranges and lemons and blanch for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain well. Peel the oranges and cut into 1/2 in chunks. Extract and save as many pips as you can find while you work. Squeeze the juice of the lemons, again saving pips. Tie all the pips together in a square of muslin. Measure the lemon juice and make up to 1/4 pint with water.

Put all the fruit, with the watered lemon juice, zests and pip bag into a large preserving pan. Stir over a medium heat until the juices begin to run fairly copiously. Add the sugar and keep stirring, without letting the mixture boil, until sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil hard for about 30 minutes until very thick. Skim off scum and discard pip bag. Stir in the almonds or walnuts. Ladle into hot sterilised jam jars, seal tightly and leave to cool.

Sterilising: Wash jars in warm soapy water then rinse in hot water. Without touching the insides, place on a wire rack in the oven, set to 110C/225F/Gas Mark 1/2 . Leave for at least half an hour, until the jam is ready to be potted.

Cranberry & walnut stuffing

Cranberries give this stuffing a fruity sourness, which I particularly like, though you may wish to temper it by adding a spoonful of sugar.

Enough for 1 chicken

Ingredients: 1 small onion, chopped

1oz (30g) butter

2oz (55g) fresh white breadcrumbs

4oz (110g) cranberries, roughly chopped

1oz (30g) walnuts, chopped

2tbs chopped parsley

1 egg

salt, pepper, nutmeg

Preparation: Fry the onion gently in the butter until tender and translucent. Mix with all the remaining ingredients, adding just enough egg to bind.

Cranberry butter tart

The butter in the filling gives this tart a rich translucence, balanced by the tartness of the cranberries.

Serves 6-8


Pastry: 8oz (225g) plain flour

pinch salt

4oz (110g) butter

1tbs castor sugar

finely grated zest 1 orange

1 egg

Filling: 8oz (225g) cranberries

8oz (225g) castor sugar

4oz (110g) unsalted butter

2 eggs

1oz (30g) flaked almonds

Preparation: To make the pastry, sift the flour with the salt, then rub in the butter. Stir in sugar and orange zest. Make a well in the centre and break in the egg. Mix, adding just enough cold water to form a dough. Knead briefly to smooth out, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1/2 hour. Line a 10in (25cm) tart tin with the pastry, prick the base with a fork and rest again in the fridge for half an hour. Line with greaseproof paper or foil, weigh down with baking beans and bake blind at 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for 10 minutes. Remove beans and paper and return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out.

Put the cranberries into a pan with a quarter of the sugar and 2tbs of water. Stir over a low heat until juice begins to run and sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until cranberries have all burst. Off the heat, beat in the remaining sugar, then the butter, cut into small pieces. Cool until tepid, then beat in the eggs.

Pour into the pastry case, scatter with almonds and return to the oven for about 30 minutes until just set. Serve warm.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine