04 November 2011

Cranberries take the cake!

It turns out that Québec is a big cranberry-producing region.  Before moving here, my previous frame of reference for them was a music group introduced to me by a university classmate and cranberry juice.  Since we've been here, we have discovered cranberry products are probably second only to maple syrup products in diversity and ubiquity.  This harvest season (which lasts most of autumn), we picked up some interesting tidbits, including: 
  • Cranberries are canneberges in French.
  • Their name in English is derived from "craneberry", because European settlers thought the flowers of this plant looked like the head and neck of a crane.
  • The berries start the season white and redden as they ripen.
  • One variety is also known as the "bearberry", like the kinnickinick so familiar to us back in Montana.  Whether or not they are related, I do not know, but the origin of the name is similar - both were observed to be popular foods for bears.

We also discovered that cranberries are really easy to use in the kitchen, in savory meat sauces, muffins, sweet sauces blended with apples and of course, cakes.  This season, we purchased a hefty 20 kilos (~40lbs) from the local farmers market, and are already talking about how to go harvest them ourselves next season.  Meanwhile, we're enjoying how easy it is to process them (just freeze them or can them in heavy syrup) and how long they keep fresh in the refrigerator (at least a month!).  

St. Foy Farmers Market

  • Seasonally available in northern U.S. states (MA, NJ, OR, WA and WI) as well as most Canadian provinces (B.C., New BrunswickOntarioNova ScotiaPrince Edward IslandNewfoundland and Québec).
  • Read somewhere that Canadian producers are increasingly cultivating with low-input or no chemical application methods, as a means of competing with U.S.-based growers.  Don't know about the cranberries we bought, but now we know to ask next season.

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