Move Over Pie Cherries-There's a New Kid on the Block!

I'm talking about cranberries. No one knows for sure how they became associated with holiday feasts, but historians guess that it had something to do with the Native Americans, who used cranberries not only for food and medicine but also to make dyes for clothing and blankets.

It's wonderful that they were discovered and introduced to our modern diet, because as far as healthy foods go, cranberries are at the top of the list due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. They're cram-packed with vitamins C and E, and loaded with fiber. And half a cup of cranberries contains only 25 calories.

Nutritionists and scientists call this little berry a "super food." Take a look at why cranberries have earned this reputation (as reported in Medical News Today):

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): The cranberry is best known for its role in preventing UTIs, especially for those with recurrent infections. Their high level of proanthocyanidins (PACs) helps reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to the urinary tract walls; cranberries are powerful when it comes to fighting off infections.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Research shows that the polyphenols in cranberries reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
  • Cancer: Research has shown that cranberries are remarkable in slowing tumor progression and have shown positive effects against prostate, liver, breast, ovarian, and colon cancers.
  • Dental: The same proanthocyanidins in cranberries that help prevent UTIs also benefit oral health. Extensive research coming from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that cranberries prevent bacteria from binding to teeth and also are extremely effective in preventing gum disease.

You'll notice this is their season-they show up in our grocery stores now and are usually on sale in time for holiday baking and cooking. And bake and cook with them we can, because they're such a versatile fruit. There's so much you can do with them beyond the proverbial cranberry sauce. And being low on the glycemic scale, we can use them with abandon.

I like to chop ¼ cup of cranberries and add them to my daily bowl of oatmeal (along with some raw honey to sweeten them). And they add a beautiful flavor to my green smoothies. I pair them with lots of tangerines in this drink. Oranges and cranberries were meant for each other.

Then there's the divine quick bread recipe that's found on the back of the Ocean Spray Cranberries bag-probably my favorite quick bread. I've even used that recipe to make muffins rather than a loaf of bread, and the results have been superb.

My Aunt Annie sure loved to bake with them. She was famous for her kitchen experiments and one year she excitedly showed up to Christmas dinner greeting us with "Move over, pie cherries. There's a new kid on the block!" Then she triumphantly handed us a cranberry pie. Who would've thought this sour berry would make such a divine pie! We like it even better than sour pie cherries and has become a family favorite ever since. Here's her recipe:


1 (9-inch) pie crust

1 ¼ cups fresh cranberries

½ cup fresh tangerines, diced

1 cup sugar, divided

1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 egg white

2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll our piecrust and arrange in a 9-inch pie pan. Lightly fold cranberries and diced tangerines together. Pour fruit into crust.

In a medium bowl, sift together 2/3 cup sugar and flour. In a separate bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form, then fold into flour mixture. Slowly stir in 1 cup whipping cream until combined. Set aside.

Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup sugar over cranberries, then pour cream mixture over all. Bake pie for approximately 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 350°F and bake for approximately 40 minutes more. Allow pie to cool before serving.

To serve, sweeten and whip remaining 1 cup of whipping cream and top each pie piece with a generous dollop. And by the way: it's delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream, too!

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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