Grim's Grub: This cook has big plans for wild cranberries
A few months ago I wrote my yearly wild food hit list with a plea for guidance on where to find one little red berry - the cranberry.
Lo and behold, the Lady of the Woods herself - Alma Christensen - called and gave me guidance. She told me several areas I might look and said, "Start looking around Labor Day."
A friend and I (since you shouldn't do wild food alone, especially not on a floating bog) slogged way out onto a peat bog in the woods that we determined was public property, and we started looking for cranberries.
We were looking mostly at small, shrub-like plants growing out of the soft peat on woody branches. For a few minutes we were convinced that we had missed them. Ripened and then eaten by birds, we theorized.
We walked farther into the bog and I figured I'd start looking at other plants, just in case we were looking for cranberries on the wrong bushes.
A little, red-speckled berry looked like it was sitting on top of a tuft of peat, so I grabbed it and found it was attached to a thread-like vine crawling across the peat. Eureka! Our first cranberry!
Our first outing resulted in more than a few underripe berries, so we went out two or three days later and found them much redder. That weekend another friend joined me and the ripe berries were so numerous that we had no reason to pick those with even a little visible yellow yet.
I'm happy the season appears to be so long. With wild strawberries, we would have gotten two trips possibly, but I think this will continue for a few weeks at least.
Of course, wild food is nothing if you can't prepare it. If I collect enough cranberries (10 pounds by now), I have many different plans. Cranberry juice, cranberry vinaigrette, craisins, cranberry leather and two types of cranberry sauce (the kind you can spread and the kind that goes "schlorp!" when it comes out of the can).
Yes, folks, I have high hopes for this berry.
Alma Christensen's Old-Fashioned Cranberry Sauce
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest from ½ orange (optional)
- 2 cups cranberries
In saucepan, cook together water, sugar and rind for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and cook until berries cease popping (about 5 minutes). Do not stir. Serve cold.
Schlorp Sauce (Jellied Cranberry Sauce)
- 12 ounces cranberries (they come in 12-ounce bags)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- Zest of ½ orange (optional)
- ½ packet of pectin (optional; most cranberries will gel by themselves)
Bring water to a boil and add cranberries. Boil until the cranberries are soft. Over a bowl, pour cranberries into a Foley Food Mill (or blend them and run them through a strainer) to separate seeds. Return to a pan, bring to a boil and add sugar. Boil 10 minutes, stirring well.
This mixture can be poured into moulds for immediate use or ladled into wide-mouth, half-pint jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Remove bubbles and process in a water bath canner 15 minutes at a full, rolling boil. Remove from heat five minutes before carefully moving to a dish towel to rest overnight undisturbed.
- 12 ounces to 1 pound cranberries
- 1 cup of sugar or equivalent substitute
- ½ cup water
Combine sugar and water. Add berries to a skillet. Add the sugar/water mixture and stir. Heat over medium heat four to five minutes or until all the berries have split open. Allow to cool 10 minutes.
Flatten all berries with a spoon, but do not cut them up. Dehydrate these in a dehydrator 6-8 hours at 150 degrees. Freeze these to store them up to four months.
You may also dehydrate these in a 150-degree oven on top of paper towels.