Taking the Cranberries out of the Can

It feels like Thanksgiving was just yesterday, but here we are getting ready for Christmas! I know that many of us grabbed a can of that jellied cranberry sauce and proceeded to plop it out onto a decorative plate and sliced it up to serve. Did you consider your cranberry duty done for the year. Hardly! Christmas (and the rest of winter really) is an excellent opportunity to play around with cranberries, not the homogenized gel that comes in a can. Cranberries and cranberry juice are commonly used for prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs) according to one of HCLS’s medical databases Medline Plus (as well as all the old wives tales we’ve heard). Bring on that magical little berry!

The cranberry is exceptionally nutritious, and while no recipe may be as quick and easy as shaking a can out, cranberries are worth it. I know so many people who adore the jiggly canned stuff (myself included), but let’s take walk on the wild side and consider some other alternatives. Enter Cranberry Pecan Bread from Gluten-free & Vegan Bread (Jennifer Katzinger, 2012). This recipe is a simple way to integrate cranberries in your holiday spread. And speaking of spreads, if you do enjoy a good cheese, consider combining some cooked cranberries into some soft goat cheese and making a cheese ball! You’ll be amazed at how easy this bread is to bake and how impressed your guests will be. Cranberries and pecans pair well and will satisfy both the simple and sophisticated pallet alike.

Have you thought about the other flavor profiles that the cranberry can compliment? How about a recipe that offers a sweet and savory spin using cranberries? Whereas the bread recipe nods its head to the essence of the cranberry, you will feel the punch that this tart little berry packs in The Cape Cod Cookbook. Give it a try and and I’m sure you’ll find yourself enjoying the complexity of the easier-than-I-imagined recipe for cranberry salsa, which is the titled star recipe in this book.


If you’re looking for more ways to spice up your Christmas cranberries you should definitely check out The Veggie-lover’s Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens. The recipe you’ll want to try is Maple-Sriracha Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberry Wild Rice. The combination of cranberries with the Sriracha brussel sprouts is pretty mind-blowing. Talk about a dish best served with cranberries!

Other fun alternatives to the canned-cranberry-catastrophe? Try some dried cranberries in your salad, make a cranberry pear cobbler, spiced cranberry apple chutney, cranberry pistachio biscotti, white chocolate cranberry cookies, and cranberry oatmeal bars. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is!

In the words of Ina Garten, “Let’s get back to basics!” She happens to have a nice Cranberry Fruit Conserve recipe in her book, Barefoot Contessa Parties! (p. 225), but we’re going to use a sugar substitue and with fewer ingredients, Martha Stewart’s coulis wins. Here’s an easy recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook (p.323).

Cranberry Coulis (makes 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/3 cup sugar *substitute with Splenda / Stevia
Zest of 1 orange

Combine cranberries, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until cranberries have burst, about 12 minutes. Pass through a sieve into a small bowl, and discard solids. Serve chilled.

Looks pretty easy, right? I challenge you to give it a try! No more shall we be slaves to the quivering mass of dark red cylindrical goodness that contains on average 21 grams of sugar per serving size! Oh, and that serving size is a meager quarter of a cup, so keep that in mind as well. Find these recipes and more at your local HCLS branch.

Sarah Cooke is a Teens’ Instructor & Research Specialist at HCLS Savage Branch. When she’s not working with her beloved teen customers on rap-battles and murals, she enjoys time with her rambunctious pre-schooler. He is currently teaching her the joys of finger-painting outside the lines, which could very well be a life lesson for all of us. This piece was co-authored by Jessica Protasio.


1 Comment

  1. I love cranberries, and that weird gel stuff doesn’t count! Dried cranberries are delicious, too. Nice post!