The Cranberry You Didn't Know
A bracing bit of freshness in cooler months, the cranberry has much to offer beyond a cloying blob on the Thanksgiving table.
This hard, sour fruit cooks well and lends complexity to desserts like crisps, galettes, sorbets, scones and upside-down cake. It also adds zest to meat dishes, especially pork, duck and, of course, turkey when made into relish, chutney, salsa or the traditional cranberry sauce. They can also be used in place of sour cherries, grapes and other berries in recipes, and their unsweetened juice can be substituted for vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice.
Pair these powerhouse berries with a wine that shares their bright acidity, tart red fruit and even a bitter or floral edge: Think Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Beaujolais and red Burgundy. Rosé Champagnes and sparkling reds can also be terrific.
- This year marks the 200th anniversary of the first recorded farmed cranberry crop, in Dennis, Massachusetts. The state is the second-largest producer in the U.S., after Wisconsin.
- Whole, raw berries can be frozen and used interchangeably with fresh ones. If you’re cooking with frozen cranberries, you don’t need to thaw them first.
- Americans consume more than 400 million pounds of cranberries per year (about 90 percent of the crop goes to juices and canned sauces). Approximately 80 million pounds are enjoyed during Thanksgiving week.
- The fruits contain small pockets of air that make them bounce and float.
- Native Americans had several names for cranberries: sassamanash, ibimi and atoqua. They used them for medicine, dye and (when mixed with dried meat) a food called pemmican.
- European settlers named them “craneberries,” for their flowers’ resemblance to the bird.
Click through for two exclusive Wine Enthusiast cranberry recipes—Apple-Cranberry Crisp and Pork Chops with Cranberry Reduction—and expert wine pairings for the season.
As it cooks, the cranberries bleed into the filling, giving a gorgeous color and even better flavor. The assorted apples used here can be a mix of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, which works great if you don’t have a big selection. Others that work well include Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Jonagold, Empire, Orin, Braeburn and Cortland.
- 4 pounds assorted apples
- 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter
- 7 tablespoons flour, divided
- ¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup rolled oats (also called “old-fashioned” oats)
- ¾ cup roughly chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 (12-ounce) bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Peel and core apples, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Set aside. Cut butter into small cubes, and set aside. Preheat oven to 375°F. In food processor, pulse butter, 4 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, salt, oats and nuts until just holding together, but still chunky. Set aside.
In large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, juice and zest with your hands. Transfer to 13” x 9” baking pan (or 3-quart casserole dish). Make sure cranberries don’t all fall to bottom. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over top, covering filling without packing down.
Bake for 1 hour, or until topping turns deep brown and juices bubble. If topping starts to burn, lay aluminum foil loosely over top. Let cool at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired. Serves 8–12.
On the sweeter side of cranberry—dishes such as apple-cranberry crisp—Reggie Narito, master sommelier and wine director for LA’s new 71Above restaurant, turns to Banfi’s Rosa Regale NV Brachetto d’Acqui. “This fizzy red displays bright cherry and cranberry notes with crisp acidity and just a hint of residual sugar.”
This recipe uses an easy “reverse-sear” method developed by Kenji Lopez-Alt, chef, author and managing culinary director of the Serious Eats web site. It guarantees moist and evenly cooked chops.
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 pork rib chops, about 1½-inch thick
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup red wine
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
Sprinkle kosher salt over pork chops, 1 teaspoon per side. Press to adhere. Place on ovenproof rack atop rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 8 hours (and up to 36 hours). Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat oven to 275°F. On overproof rack atop baking sheet, cook pork chops 25 minutes. While cooking, combine vinegar, wine and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, and stir to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, and return to boil. Cook 3 minutes, or until cranberries soften. Using back of spoon, crush some cranberries in pan. Set aside.
In large cast-iron skillet, heat 4 tablespoons oil over high heat. Place chops in a single layer (use 2 pans, if necessary) and cook 2 minutes per side, or until well-browned and internal temperature reaches 140°F. Transfer to rack. Let rest 5–10 minutes before serving.
While pork rests, reduce heat to medium and add shallots to pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until soft and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add cranberry mixture, scraping up browned bits. Cook until liquid reduces to syrup, about 4 minutes. Put thin layer of cranberry reduction on each plate. Top with pork chop. Serve additional sauce on side. Serves 4.
For this savory dish, Reggie Narito of 71Above recommends Felsina’s 2013 Berardenga Chianti Classico ($26, 92 points), “a textbook example of good Chianti—dried cherries and cranberries intermingle with dried red roses and leather—a truly great food wine.”
- 1Apple Cranberry Crisp
- 2Pork Chops with Cranberry Reduction