With all due respect to OceanSpray, nothing beats the taste of cranberries you’ve picked and processed yourself. The Fraser Valley is lucky to have oodles of wild bog cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus). We don’t, but we do have a great substitute in highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule).
A denizen of wetter sites, highbush cranberry is unmistakable, especially now when the translucent red berries are offset by beautifully coloured leaves. The berries are sweetest (for Twinkie-tinged taste buds, this is a relative term) after the first hard frost. Berries unpicked in fall over-winter and provide food for hungry birds and other animals come spring.
Mrs. Dee introduced me to the idea of preparing wild cranberries. She developed her love of cranberries growing up in Manitoba and continued picking them here after buying a cabin in 1971. This is the recipe she uses:
2 quarts of fully ripe highbush cranberries
7 cups sugar
85 ml. Certo (1 pouch)
Crush about 2 quarts of fully ripe fruit then add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer covered for 10 minutes. Place in a jelly bag and squeeze out juice (you’ll need about 5 cups) in a very large, high-sided saucepan. Mix the sugar in until it dissolves. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in Certo and boil hard one minute, again stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Makes enough for eleven 6-ounce glass jars.
I attempted to make a sauce for the first time last year –too bad I didn’t stick to the recipe. Although an apple saucer admirably replaced the jelly bag, that’s where my good luck ended. Second-guessing all the sugar called for, I used only half.
The good news about last year’s effort was that the astringent sweetness of the cranberries shone through. The bad news is that many of my unconverted fellow diners, after unscrewing their faces from the tartness, reverted to the bland canned version.
Better to trust Mrs. Dee’s time-tested cranberry jelly recipe right to the teaspoonful. But please leave some berries on each shrub for the other animals.
October 7 – Monthly Bird Walk with Nancy Ricker. Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 7:00 a.m. Contact Michael Thompson for more information.
October 14 – Cheakamus Lake Nature Walk. Join us at 10:00 a.m. for a beautiful walk to Cheakamus Lake. There will be informal, walk-and-talk presentations from various naturalists including mushroom aficionado Todd Bush. Refreshments to follow at a local watering hole.
Written by: Bob Brett