These rich and buttery
Cranberry Pistachio Shortbreads are dressed for the holidays with their
chunks of green pistachio nuts and dried red cranberries.
The tartness of the
cranberry make it one of the few berries never to be eaten raw. Sugar
is needed to temper its tangy flavor. Cranberries are used in both sweet
and savory dishes. more
The sweet tart flavor of
candied cranberries makes them ideal to use as a filling for cakes or as
an alternative to fresh or dried fruit in your baking.
Fresh cranberries are small,
round, shiny, crimson colored berries that are harvested in the Fall. They
last berry of the season and what makes them different from other berries is that
they do not easily spoil. Cranberries have this hard outer shell that keeps
them fresh for up to two months when refrigerated and they can be frozen for
up to one year.
The tartness of the
cranberry make it one of the few berries never to be eaten raw. Sugar, and
lots of it, is needed
to tame its sour flavor. The most famous way to use cranberries is in a
sauce which we like to serve with our Thanksgiving turkey. Cranberry
sauce takes fresh or frozen cranberries and cooks them slowly with water and sugar until
they soften and start to pop. Since cranberries are high in pectin,
which is a natural jelling agent, no thickening
agent (like cornstarch (corn flour)) is needed. Cranberries are also
wonderful when added to sweets like cookies, pies, quick
breads, muffins, cakes, cobblers, and puddings. You will find their tart
flavor is enhanced by spices like ground cinnamon,
cloves, vanilla, and/or ginger. Cranberries also pair well with nuts and
other fruits like apples, pears, lemons, and oranges.
Fresh cranberries can also
be dried and in recent years dried cranberries have become very popular.
Dried cranberries are cranberries that have most of their moisture
removed (up to 80%) through drying, either by machine or by the sun. The
advantage of drying any fruit is to prolong its storage but it has the added
benefit of concentrating the fruit's sweetness and flavor.
cranberries are soft and chewy with a sweet tart flavor which makes them ideal for both eating
out-of-hand and in baking. They can be found in most grocery
stores as well as health food stores. Dried cranberries can be used in most
recipes that call for fresh cranberries and can also be used in place of
raisins, currants, dried cherries, and other dried fruits. If you need to re-hydrate dried
cranberries, cover them with a hot liquid (water, liqueur, etc.), cover and
let stand for 20-30 minutes, then drain.
There are a few things to
keep in mind when buying dried fruits. First, try to buy in bulk from a
grocery store or natural food store that has a high turnover. Not only will
the fruit be fresher, but you can see, smell, feel, and often taste the
fruit to make sure it is fresh and of high quality. Pre-packaged fruit can
also be excellent but it is harder to tell the quality of the fruit through
the plastic bag. Make sure to check the expiration date on the bag. Always
look for dried fruit that is plump, moist, and has good color. Never buy
fruit that is dried out or moldy. There is a debate about whether to buy 'sulphured' or 'unsulphured' dried fruits. Some like to buy 'sulphured'
which means that it has been treated with a sulphur dioxide solution. This
preserves the fruit's bright color and makes the fruit very soft and moist. The downside is
that some people can taste the preservative while others are allergic. Of
course, 'unsulphured' means it has not been treated before it is dried and
some say the flavor of untreated dried fruits is far superior. The downside is
that the fruit's color may be slightly faded looking, especially
dried fruits (like apples, pears, and bananas) that oxidize
Daley, Regan. 'In the Sweet
Kitchen." Random House Canada: 2000.
Ferrary, Jeannette & Fiszer,
Louise. Sweet Onions & Sour Cherries. Simon & Schuster. New York:
Hibler, Janie. The Berry
Bible. William Morrow. New York: 2000.
Scofield Wilson, David & Kress
Gillespie, Angus. Rooted in America. The University of Tennessee
Press. Knoxville: 1999.
Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford
Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press. New
Waters, Alice. Chez Panisse
Fruit. Harper Collins Publishers. New York: 2002
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