November is the time I usually start seeing an abundance of fresh cranberries showing up in the fresh fruit and veggie section of my local supermarket. This is a wonderful thing because fresh cranberries are hard to come by and their in-season time frame is rather short. While many folks associate cranberries with cranberry juice (yes, I enjoy it too!) or the gelatinous cranberry sauce that comes in a can (this I’m not a fan of), there are so many delicious things you can do with the fresh variety.
First, let’s start with how to select the perfect fresh cranberry. The berries should be firm, not shriveled with no signs of decay, but the best and funnest way is the “bounce test!” Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, has a simple way to find out whether or not a cranberry is fresh or not–just “bounce” it. Cranberries that bounce 6 inches or more are the ones you keep.
I know that the first recipe that comes to mind when thinking of cranberries is cranberry sauce, but when dealing with fresh cranberries you can do some other really interesting things. Adding them to baked goods is really simple. Basically any bread or muffin recipe you can adapt to adding fresh cranberries. They go particularly well with spice flavors like pumpkin or apple. Try a different twist to your bread stuffing recipes by adding some fresh cranberries. Since they aren’t too sweet they aren’t overpowering and will give your stuffing a sweet and tart flavor. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a great dessert idea that incorporates two fall flavors with Pear and Cranberry Crisp. This would be a hit right out of the oven with some low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt.
Since fresh cranberries are only available for a short time, I also enjoy them in their dried form. Using them this way I love to enjoy them in salads–usually spinach with some toasted walnuts, red onion and gorgonzola cheese. Dried cranberries are also great to throw into a trail mix with raisins and nuts like almonds and peanuts for a quick snack. One recipe I found on Pinterest that is ideal for the fall season is a wild rice salad that includes dried cranberries. It’s really simple to make and it’s colorful so it looks great on your table if you’re having a dinner party. This side dish goes really well with a roast chicken or pork. Enjoy!
Wild Rice Cranberry Pecan Salad
1 cup brown wild rice mix
2 1/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Use the amount of water for the rice according to the instructions on the rice package. Bring rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, butter and water to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 50 minutes. Remove from stove and let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Uncover, fluff up with a fork and let cool to almost room temperature. In a medium serving bowl, mix the rice, cranberries, pecans and green onions together. In a seperate jar, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, orange peel, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, mix dressing in with the rice mixture. Serve warm, chilled or room temperature.