Right in the heart of cranberry land, we experience what the health-laden fruit means to Uncle Sam’s nation and the necessity for its dissemination to all parts of the world. ‘Tis not just the season but the age of the versatile cranberry

If you do not finish your peas, you will not get your pudding. Upon a recent trip to Wisconsin – the largest cranberry producing state in America – to gain exposure and understand the trade of the cranberry fruit worldwide, we are inclined to rather say, if you do not taste a cranberry fresh from the bogs, you shall stay away from that cranberry tart. Knee-deep in freezing lake water at the Cutler’s Cranberry Farm, equipped with adequate wading gear, we rush in and scoop up a handful of red berries only to toss them into the air albeit saving two or three to bite into and relish. For it is a taste like no other, truly, of the astringent berry in all its healthy goodness, whether it be to lower the risk of UTIs, fight against certain types of cancer, lower blood pressure and prevent against stomach ailments and diabetes, as well boost immunity and reduce gum ailments. And lots more.

A visit to the Cranberry Discovery Centre in Warrens then takes us through the history of the fruit, its processing methods, family legacies and interestingly reminds us that it was an integral part at the table of the very first American thanksgiving. What is that turkey today without cranberry sauce, right! While we get a taste of the same at a dinner at Piggy’s, a beautiful, cosy restaurant in La Crosse, Director of the Cranberry Marketing Commission Michelle Hogan tells us how 66% of the cranberry production in the US comes from Wisconsin, recorded at $2.3 billion in 2016 and how integral cranberry farming is to the 700 family-owned cooperative here, since 1930 – with 100% profit returned to the farmers. The freezing temperatures in the marshlands (bogs) provide the adrenaline they work on year after year during harvest season (September-November), and we sit and wonder as we make mental notes… all that power and favour that a little red berry can command.

First-hand knowledge and information upon a tour of the production methods at the high-tech Ocean Spray processing plant in Tomah and a session by Dr Amy Howell – cranberry expert and research scientist at Rutger’s University – revealed to us that the red fruit is by itself very tart with 4% sugar, so people consume it in various forms such as juices – with India being the highest consumer – SDC- sweetened dried cranberries or ‘craisins’ – with China loving it most – powdered fruit (pills) and sauces. In cocktails and wine (we all know the pomp surrounding a Cosmopolitan) for alcohol helps absorb the compounds well. And of course, in bakery, breakfast and salads, too. Ever tried a freshly baked cranberry loaf, heaven! Or perhaps a Frog Bog, those delightful sweet treats.

The cranberry, versatile, most certainly.

Try this cranberry recipe curated by Chef Vicky Ratnani in association with the Cranberry Marketing Committee.

Spiced Cottage Cheese, Cranberry Beetroot Chutney

Spiced Cottage Cheese with Cranberry Beetroot Chutney

250 g cottage cheese (cut into
squares or any desired shape)
1 tbsp olive oil
For the spice marinade
1 tsp fennel powder
1 tsp cumin powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp lemon juice

For the chutney
1/2 cup grated and cooked beetroot
1/3 cup fresh, frozen U.S Cranberries
1 tsp oil
a pinch of hing
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ginger-garlic, red chilli paste
10 curry leaves
1 fresh green chilli or jalapeno, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade.
Marinate the cottage cheese for 30 to 45 minutes. Pan-sear in olive oil until golden brown and rich in colour.

For the chutney
Heat oil, add mustard seeds, hing, chilli and cumin seeds along with the curry leaves and ginger-garlic, red chilli paste. Fry for 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk. Stir. Add the beetroot and fresh, frozen cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice.
Serve with the cottage cheese.
Garnish with mint, coriander and thinly sliced onions.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2018 issue of UpperCrust and reprinted with the permission of the publisher. 

Photos courtesy UpperCrust