Back in October, while in Massachusetts for business, I toured a cranberry farm. This outing was one that had long been on my list of adventures since I was a girl growing up in New England. The bonus was that I was able to see an in-progress bog harvest. I also think that I was luck due to the patience and knowledgeable guide who was also the assistant operations manger. Unfortunately, his name is not in my notes.
A.D. Makepeace, the “Cranberry King”, has been in the business of growing cranberries in southeastern Massachusetts since the 1800s. In 1930 the family joined two other cranberry companies in creating what would become Ocean Spray Cranberries, an ag cooperative that has become synonymous with the fruit.
A few highlights I did salvage from my scribblings:
- The name for the fruit, comes from the Pilgrims” lexicon”crane berry,” as the vine blossoms resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane.
- Massachusetts was the first site of the first documented cranberry cultivation in 1816.
- Costs $25-30 to grow a barrel of cranberries. Makepeace, delivered 370,000 barrels in 2011.
- Massachusetts is second to Wisconsin in production.
- Cranberries float due to an air sac within the berry.
- Along with Concord grapes and blueberries, cranberries are are one of only three native fruits grown commercially in North America.
- Thanksgiving trivia bonus: 440 cranberries in one pound; 4,400 cranberries per gallon of juice; 440,000 cranberries in a 100-pound barrel
A common misperception is that the cranberries grow in water. They are grown in sandy bogs or marshes. If the fruit is to be processed for juice or other use the bog is flooded and corralled (as shown above). What I didn’t know was that these bogs are more than watery fields. They are classified as state wetlands requiring environmental controls and allows for protected designation for the grower. And the other challenges are long, springs in Massachusetts have become increasingly warmer meaning it is getting tougher to grow cranberries due to higher incidences of pests and fungus. Come autumn, which have been warmer the berries need a few consecutive evenings of cooler temperatures to turn from white to red. All of these factors add to cost and yield. Makepeace takes this sustainability responsibility seriously. It is also extended beyond the bogs to the community.
1 12-oz. package fresh (about 3 cups), picked over and rinsed
3/4 cup real, pure maple syrup, Grade B (if possible)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium orange, finely grated to yield 1 tsp. zest, squeezed to yield 1/3 cup juice
Combine the cranberries, maple syrup, and orange juice in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium low to a simmer while stirring every now and then. After five minutes in the cranberries will begin to burst. Let this happen for about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the zest, and cinnamon. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least an hour, as this will allow the sauce to thicken up.
Leftover sauce? Serve over a chicken breast poached in lemon water or by mixing with butter and spread over sourdough toast.