Food Column: The Merry Cranberry

Food Column: The Merry Cranberry

mag_dec2016_coverThis column first appeared in the December 2016 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering Quebec and is published 4 times per year.

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The following is the debut column by Annik De Celles, Québec City author, blogger and dedicated foodie. Bon appétit! 

The Merry Cranberry 

By Annik De Celles

Say goodbye to wobbly, can-shaped cranberry jelly! The fresh, tangy scarlet fruit is now all the rage. From energy to cocktails, the cranberry is a fancy, healthy and power-packed fruity delight. But what has made this little red wonder so popular?

Cranberry History

The cranberry is a wild plant native to the bog regions of North America. First Nations people used it as dye and medicine. The small, stubby shrub that blooms into pink, cup-shaped flowers is found in sandy wetlands all over the northern regions of Canada. The name cranberry is actually derived from the word craneberry; the first European settlers named it after the shape of its flower and stem, which resemble the neck of a crane. A common and informal name for cranberries in Québec French is atoka or ataka, which is derived from popotwa, the Abenaki name for the berries.

Lakes of Cranberries

Cranberries are not picked, but floated! Cranberry clusters grow on small, stubby shrubs. To harvest the fruits, the fields are flooded, then the plants are mechanically beaten. The cranberries, which are hollow, float to the surface. They are then pumped out of the fields, cleaned and packaged, ready to be eaten or processed – 95 per cent of harvested cranberries are processed into jellies, sauces, juices and other related products. Canada is the second largest producer of cranberries in the world, and Québec accounts for nearly half of that production, making it Canada’s leading cranberry-producing province. Québec City is home to a few flourishing cranberry processing companies.

Juicy Cranberry

Cranberry juice has long been a staple in many homes. Its unique, tangy taste makes you pucker up! Although cranberry juice is considered a healthy option among juices, choosing the right juice can make all the difference. Look for 100 per cent pure cranberry juice and read the ingredient list carefully. Beware of fructose, added sugar or other added juices. When choosing dried cranberries, go for the naturally sweetened kind; although higher in sugar than their natural counterparts, they will be easier to use in baking and will keep for much longer in your pantry. As for fresh cranberries, they can be frozen for up to nine months.

Healthy Cranberry

Packed with polyphenol  the cranberry has been proven to have anti-inflammatory benefits, to reduce muscle and joint pain and to boost the immune system. The cranberry’s high level of antioxidants makes it the focus of many scientific studies, particularly at the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Food at Université Laval in Québec City.

Tasty Cranberry

It seems the uses of this lovely fruit are virtually endless! Its sweet, tart taste and gorgeous red colour make it a staple of the holidays. From sprucing up your holiday decor by adding a few shiny red berries to your table centrepiece, to serving the ever-popular Cosmopolitan cocktail, made with vodka and cranberry juice, the cranberry is a must at Christmastime. Cranberries also make a nutritious addition to your sweet creations. Their tanginess combines wonderfully with chocolate, orange and spices, giving your dessert a punchy, tart twist.

Here is a simple and healthy recipe, great to offer as a hostess gift in a lovely tin box or to keep in the freezer to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Cranberry White Chocolate Sweet Potato Cookies

cranberry_cookieMakes 16 cookies.

1 cup shredded raw sweet potato
¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients to form a sticky dough.
Place spoonfuls of dough about an inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment (cookies will not spread while baking).

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes.

Can be kept 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

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About Author

Annik De Celles

Teacher by day, cookbook author and foodie by night, Annik is a mom of 3 who believes life can be sweet and healthy!

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