Bouncing berries

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 20, 2000

Among the familiar produce at your grocery store the holiday jewels known as cranberries have arrived. Unfortunately too many people equate cranberries with canned cranberry sauce and have no idea of the potential in the fresh ones.

The largest crops of cranberries are grown in the northeast and Canada. The berries grow on vines in boggy areas. Many fresh whole berries are picked by hand but this does raise the cost. If picked by machine the berries usually suffer some damage so they are usually used for juices, sauces and dried berries.

The berries were once known as bounceberries, because they literally bounce if dropped when fresh. Even today the berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to cull out the old berries from the fresh ones.

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The word cranberry came from people calling them crane berries. Cranes often make their home in the boggy areas and love the berries as much as we do.

When you buy fresh bags of berries keep in mind that they freeze well, so you might want to pick up a few extras. You don’t have to thaw them to use in a recipe.

This first recipe makes a great breakfast bread or little treat with an afternoon cup of coffee. I have also given it as gifts during the holidays.

Cranberry Orange Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

Grease one large (9 by 5-inch) pan or two small (7 by 3-inch) pans and line with buttered wax paper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour and dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cute in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. In a small bowl combine the orange juice, grated rind and the beaten egg. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix just enough to dampen. Don’t beat. Carefully fold in the nuts and cranberries. The mixture will be stiff and must be pushed into the corners of the pan with a spoon or spatula. Form it slightly higher on the sides to compensate for the rising crown.

Bake in the oven until the loaves are a deep golden brown and when you stick a toothpick in the middle it comes out clean. It usually takes about an hour. Remove the bread from the oven. Carefully turn from the pan and peel the wax paper away and cool on a metal rack. Let the bread cool before slicing.

These cookies are delicious and quick to put together. The corn flakes make them quite crispy so do not let them over brown or they will be to crispy.

Toasted Almond and Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

8 ounces white chocolate chips or coarsely chopped

2 cups corn flakes cereal

1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

6 ounces dried cranberries

3/4 teaspoons almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add sugars and beat well. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Beat only until mixed. Stir in chocolate, cereal, almonds, cranberries and extract. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls two inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

I originally received this next recipe from a friend of mine and it contained brandy. I have tinkered with it a bit and have served it over pound cake as a holiday dessert.

Spirited Cranberries

2 bags fresh cranberries

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

3 tablespoons orange zest

1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan with vegetable spray. Pour cranberries and sugar into the pan and stir well. Cover tightly with foil and set the pan on a cookie sheet. Bake for one hour, remove and add the Grand Marnier. Stir well and let cool. Stir in zest and nuts. Store covered in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to one month.

I know many people frown upon gelatin salads and consider them to be pass\u00E9. However, in the South gelatin salads are standard fare and this one is one of the best you will ever treat your family too. This recipe has been on my mother-in-law’s holiday table as long as I have known her and I guarantee it will become a tradition for you as well.

Cranberry Salad

2 boxes raspberry Jello

2 cups very hot water

2 packages of Knox unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

2 cans whole cranberry sauce

2 cups crushed pineapple, well drained

1 cup chopped pecans

Stir the unflavored gelatin into the 1/2 cup of cold water, stir and let dissolve.

Dissolve the raspberry Jello in the hot water, then combine with the other gelatin. In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients and add the dissolved gelatins. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch dish. Store in the refrigerator. Make a day ahead.

Joyce Hall