Better from the bog: Growers share recipes that use the jeweled cranberry

Whole Cranberry Sauce
Whole Cranberry Sauce
The harvest team at Decas Cranberry Products hard at work during a wet harvest, courtesy image

CAPE COD TIMES – With a severe drought affecting many parts of Eastern Massachusetts, officials say this year’s cranberry crop is estimated to be about 10 percent less than last year.

But Brian Wick, executive director of the  Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, which represents growers throughout  Massachusetts, says it’s a good-looking crop.

“Given the severe drought that impacted most of our farmers, some significantly, it could have been much worse,” Wick emailed. “Quality was good overall, though, with color being quite good.”

Massachusetts crop yields won’t be released until January but Wick estimated a slight rise in consumer prices this year — based not only on local production but on a tight crop nationally for the second year in a row.

Asked about impacts of the pandemic, Wick noted that social distancing was observed, especially during harvest. 

“From a marketplace perspective, the industry has seen an increase in domestic sales since the pandemic started,” he wrote, noting that experts believe people may be buying cranberries for their health benefits.

And, local growers say, because they taste good.

Here are some recipes from growers. More can be found at

“I know it’s only sauce. But I am always surprised at how many people have never cooked it before. Home cooks should feel free to fiddle around with this flexible recipe.  I sometimes add the halved lemons that I have previously squeezed and frozen. After boiling, I remove the rinds before serving, but the infused flavor is worth the addition.”

 Mary McCaffery, Spring Rain Farm of East Taunton

This basic cranberry sauce recipe gets a citrusy lift.
Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, image by McGrathPR

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

6 cups cranberries

1 cup white sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1½ cups apple cider or juice (cranberry, orange, etc.)

3 small oranges or clementines, peeled, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Combine cranberries, sugars and juice in a heavy, large stock pot and simmer over medium-low heat until the cranberry skins begin to burst. Stir in clementines or oranges and lemon juice, continue to simmer for 10 minutes more.  Remove from heat, and stir in maple syrup, cool to room temperature.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.  Stir in nuts if desired and refrigerate in a tightly sealed container until ready to serve, up to 5 days.

These sweet treats make great gifts.
Cranberry Congo Bars, image by McGrath PR

Cranberry Congo Bars 

2¾ cups flour

2½  teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

⅔ cup butter or margarine, softened

2¼ cups light brown sugar

3 eggs

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped fresh or sweetened dried cranberries

½ cup nuts of choice, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a bowl with a hand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by flour mixture, until thoroughly combined.  Stir in chocolate chips, cranberries or sweetened dried cranberries and nuts, if desired.  Spread into a greased 9×13″ baking pan, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when pressed into the center of the bars.  Cool to room temperature and cut into bars or squares.  Store up to 3 days in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.

Pumpkin Cranberry Risotto takes a little while, but is worth it as a tasty, colorful holiday treat.
Cranberry Pumpkin Risotto, image by McGrath PR

Cranberry Pumpkin Risotto

By Abigail Addison (daughter of Susan Gilmore)

5-7 cups chicken stock, divided

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ⅔ cup)

½ cup dry white wine

2 cups Arborio rice

1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup canned pumpkin

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees  In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium-low heat and sauté onions until translucent.  In a separate pot, heat chicken stock to a boil, turn off heat. 

Add the rice to the onion mixture and continue to cook until slightly toasted and lightly browned. Add white wine and simmer until absorbed.  Add 5 cups of chicken stock, stirring until combined, cover and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and stir in pumpkin puree, spices, salt and pepper, incorporating additional reserved chicken stock to loosen if needed.  Cover and cook for 10 more minutes, until al dente doneness, slightly soft with a slight bite. Taste to adjust seasoning. Stir in Parmesan and sweetened dried cranberries, and additional reserved chicken stock to thin if needed. Serve hot.

“I’m sharing my mother Nina (Natalie) Atwood’s recipes.  They originated initially from my grandmother, preserving them for our multi-generation grower family. My mother and I both have often typed our favorite recipes on old-school typewriters, a treasured method of documenting these holiday season star dishes.”

Susan Gilmore, Gilmore Cranberry Co., Carver

Wassail evokes an old tradition that has waxed and waned in popularity over the decades. Cranberries add a new twist.
Cranberry Wassail, image by McGrath PR

Cranberry Wassail 

½ gallon cranberry juice

5-6 cups apple cider or juice

¼-⅔ cup sugar

4 cinnamon sticks

20 whole cloves

1-2 medium oranges, sliced, for garnish

whole fresh cranberries, optional, for garnish

In a large stock pot, combine cranberry juice, apple juice or cider, sugar and cinnamon sticks.  Place remaining spices in cheesecloth or a spice ball and submerge in the juice mixture.  Heat to boiling over medium heat, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Transfer carefully to a heat proof bowl, pitcher or punch bowl, garnish with floating sliced oranges and whole cranberries. Scoop into mugs or glasses to serve.

By Gwen Friss

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