Cranberries grow wild in natural bogs in New England. However, wild cranberry crops are unpredictable. Some years have good yields and other years have poor yields. Plus, wild cranberries rarely fully ripen on the vine. This has lead to the cultivated cranberry grown in man-made bogs. In New England the commercial cranberry bogs are on Cape Cod.
Wild cranberries tend to have a tart taste compared to the sweeter cultivated cranberries. The wild and cultivated are cooked and used in the same manner.
Cranberries come on the market in mid October go through November lasting into December. Then they are gone. The nice thing about cranberries is they can be frozen by placing the freshly purchased bags in the freezer. They keep successfully up to one year. Use them frozen or thawed. By freezing I have cranberries for cooking year round.
Cranberries are used in cranberry & orange relish (no cooking), whole cranberry sauce, poultry stuffing, muffins, and cakes.
Historically, the earliest published recipe in a cookbook for cranberries showed up in the second edition (1823) of The Cook’s Oracle published in Boston, Massachusetts. The second edition was “From The Last London Edition, Which Is Almost Entirely Re-written, With An Appendix, By The American Publishers …”. The cranberry recipe was in the appendix and therefore came from Boston. According to this cook book cranberries came from Sweden, America, and Russia. The recipe was for a Cranberry Tart. It was made by putting cranberries in the bottom of a baking dish, the juice of a lemon and sugar, covering the top with pastry.
Cranberry Jelly verses Cranberry Sauce
In 1845 a recipe for “Cranberry Jelly” appeared in Every Lady’s Book published in New York. Whole cranberries were cooked with water, mashed, strained and sugar was added, the mixture was then boiled to a jelly. In 1857 a recipe for “Cranberry Sauce” appeared in Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book published in Philadelphia. Whole cranberries were cooked in the water that clung to the berries during washing. The cranberries were cooked until soft, mashed, and then sugar was added.
In each of these recipes the cranberries were cooked in water only. The sugar was added afterwards. In the jelly recipe the mixture was cooked after the sugar was added. In the sauce recipe the mixture was not cooked after the sugar was added.
In Miss Lincoln’s 1884 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, the cranberries, water and sugar were cooked together. “They will jelly when cool.” This apparently caused some confusion as Miss Lincoln called her recipe simply “Cranberries”.
The difference was noted in 1894, in The Little Epicure published in New York. The recipe was called “Cranberry Sauce”. In it the cranberries and water were cooked together, afterwards the sugar was added and then the mixture was pressed through a colander. It “makes a sauce not a jelly”. In this recipe the sauce was not cooked after the sugar was added.
Fruit juice cooked with sugar, with or without fruit in it forms jelly when it is boiled to the jelly stage. So whole cranberries cooked with water and sugar, produces either juice, sauce (thick juice) or jelly depending upon the length of time cooked and the temperature reached. Cranberries cooked without sugar produces a juice, adding sugar produces a sauce. To get jelly, the juice is strained, sugar is added and the mixture is cooked to the jelly stage.
New England Cranberry Sauce
In the Appledore Cook Book (1872) from Boston, Miss Parloa wrote, “Never cook cranberries before putting in the sugar.” Her recipe says not to strain the mixture.
In Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (1857) from Philadelphia she wrote up very specific directions for cooking cranberry sauce. “In stewing any sort of fruit, do not add sugar till fruit is done, and taken from fire. If sweetened at the beginning, much of the strength of the sugar evaporates in cooking; besides rendering the fruit tough and hard, and retarding the progress of the stew.”
Miss Leslie’s method followed the older 1845 New York method. Miss Lincoln’s original Boston Cooking School Cook Book and later, Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book followed the older 1872 Miss Parloa method. Miss Parloa was a well known cook who worked in coastal New Hampshire and Maine. Fannie Farmer went on to distinguish between cranberry sauce in which the cranberries, water and sugar were cooked together and cranberry jelly in which the cranberries and water were cooked together and strained, producing a juice to which sugar was added and the juice/sugar mixture cooked to the jelly stage.
Cranberry Sauce (also called Whole Cranberry Sauce), New England Style
Place in a saucepan