Cranberries are good for much more than just sauce

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cooler weather brings on cravings for hearty, delicious meals featuring the flavors of the fall harvest. One of these traditional autumn flavors is so versatile that it is used in breakfast, entree, dessert and snack recipes: cranberries. This season, take the time to explore the many different ways cranberries can go beyond your traditional cranberry sauce to add zing to your plate and natural beauty to your table.

Cranberries are packed with antioxidants to protect against heart disease and cancer, making the delicious fruit a healthy addition to so many favorite recipes. And what’s great is that the vast majority of cranberries are home grown in the United States. In fact, Wisconsin alone produces more cranberries than all other states combined, supplying almost 60 percent of the nation’s crop. This year, Wisconsin cranberry growers expect to harvest 450 million pounds of berries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sweetened dried cranberries are available year-round, but cranberries fresh from the harvest are only available in stores this time of year, so now is the time to buy. Fresh cranberries add a healthy zest to sweet breads and muffins and help make great sauces for pork or poultry. You can also freeze fresh cranberries for use in summer salads and drinks.

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Fall and winter are great times to take advantage of the beautiful red color and decorative uses of fresh cranberries. Put a handful of raw berries in glass containers to bring a dash of color to the table at each place setting or as a centerpiece. Cranberries can also be strung along a wire to hang along doorways or drape over larger plants and trees inside your home.

Looking for new ideas on bringing cranberries to the table this fall and winter season? Try the following recipes from the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, or visit its recipe page for more delicious ideas.

Cranberry Pecan Cream Cheese Bars


1 cup butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups quick oats

1 cup chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries

1 package cream cheese, softened

1 can sweetened, condensed milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 9 x 13 pan. Beat butter and sugar. Gradually beat in flour and oats. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Reserve 2 cups of mixture. Press remaining mix into pan and bake for 15 minutes. In a small bowl beat cream cheese and milk until smooth. Pour over hot crust and sprinkle remaining mixture over top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on metal rack and then cut into bars. (If you wish, drizzle melted chocolate or sprinkle powdered sugar to decorate.)

Spiced Cranberry Wine Sauce


2 cups zinfandel or other fruity dry red wine

3/4 cup sugar

5 (2-inch) orange rind strips

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

6 whole cloves

4 slices peeled fresh ginger

2 cinnamon sticks

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries


Combine all ingredients except cranberries in a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 15 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, and discard the solids. Return mixture to pan. Add cranberries and cook over high heat 10 minutes or until berries pop. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes or until mixture is slightly thick.

Pour into a bowl and let cool.