Celebrating Cranberries

I love cranberries. From the first moment they appear on market shelves I start buying them. I almost always have a few bags in my refrigerator throughout the season, hopefully remembering to get extra bags to freeze before they disappear at the end of December.

We all know how cranberries star as sauces, relishes and salsas. They show up in baked goods: scones, and tea cakes, paired with apples and pears in pies, and can be turned into glistening jewels as ‘sugar plums.’

We associate cranberries with things that are sweet, but they also make a bright addition to savory dishes. I throw a handful of them into the pan when I roast sweet potatoes or other root vegetables. I add them to poaching liquids for pears and apples. I scatter them in the pan juices of roasted or sautéed meats and fish. They can add a special tang and texture to salsas or other raw mixtures that balance sweet and sour. If you can get them, organic cranberries are probably better for you.  

I offer a few of my favorite cranberry recipes, with thanks to both Ocean Spray for ‘Cranberry Pie’ and to Helen Witty’s Fancy Pantry, one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. (It is out of print but easily found through secondhand book sellers.)

Two of the recipes bake the berries. That technique can be used for baking preserves or fruit butters using apples, plums or other fruits that you ordinarily cook on top of the stove.  

And, as I always say, surf the internet for new ways to use this versatile ingredient.

Baked Cranberry Preserves with Orange & Cardamom – from Helen Witty’s Fancy Pantry


  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 1 medium seedless orange
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
  • ¼ cup water


  1. Spread cranberries in 8-inch square glass baking dish or other non-aluminum pan of same size
  2. Remove skin from orange in strips (free of pith) – chop peel and orange pulp in processor until fine.
  3. Stir chopped orange, sugar and cardamom into cranberries, mixing thoroughly. Sprinkle water over the mixture and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake in center of 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then lower oven to 325, uncover the dish and stir the fruit in the syrup that has formed
  5. Continue baking preserves uncovered until berries are translucent and the syrup has thickened about 45 minutes, stirring gently every 15 minutes or so. (Use pancake spatula to turn berries)
  6. Spoon hot preserves into hot clean half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Seal according to manufacturers’ directions.
  7. Alternatively, refrigerate the preserves without processing or sealing the jars

Cranberry Pie-Cake


  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • ½ cup butter – melted
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and butter pie pan.
  2. Sprinkle 3 T sugar over butter in pan
  3. Mix flour, sugar, and salt.
  4. Pour cranberries into pan
  5. Mix beaten eggs, melted butter, and almond extract
  6. Mix wet and dry ingredients and stir until smooth
  7. Pour batter over cranberries into pan
  8. Bake for 40-55 minutes until browned and knife comes out clean

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Brandied Cranberries – A family recipe my sister gives to all her medical providers. Seems like a good strategy!


  • 4 cups fresh cranberries (3 C. per bag.)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup brandy


  1. Combine ingredients in 9 x 13 baking pan
  2. Cover with foil. Bake at 300 degrees for one hour
  3. Refrigerate until cold
  4. Put in jars

You can use flavored brandies to add at the end of the baking. I would probably add chopped candied ginger to the mix, but I often add chopped candied ginger to things!