For centuries before contact, the Wampanoag people of Cape Cod and the nearby islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket made bountiful use of the lowly cranberry. It remains an ingredient in medicines, dyes, beverages and foods. The Wampanoag call the berry sassamanesh, and the Delaware call it pakmintzen. In Wisconsin, it is called atoqua. The word "cranberry" refers to the shape of the cranberry blossom, which resembles a crane's head. Crane berry was corrupted to cranberry.
Most of the world's cranberries are cultivated in bogs covering less than 30,000 acres in just five states - Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Another 4,000 acres are cultivated in British Columbia and other parts of Canada. Many cranberry growers in these regions are part of the Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., farmers' cooperative. Combined, these regions produce more than 400 million pounds of cranberries each year.
Hot Sassamanesh Drink
2 cups cranberry juice
6 cups orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
10 whole cloves
Orange slices and cinnamon sticks
In a large pot, combine cranberry juice, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, taste and add more sugar if needed. Garnish with orange slices. Stir and serve with a cinnamon stick.
The recipe which follows is something to consider as a nice condiment-food gift at the holidays. It is great with a dinner of roasted game or fowl, or pretty stuffed in baked acorn squash halves.
Sassamanesh (Cranberry) Relish
1 apple, cored but unpeeled, quartered
1 orange, seeded, peeled and quartered
2 cups fresh whole cranberries
1/2 cup honey
1/2 chopped walnuts or pecans
Use a food mill or food processor to grind together the apple, orange and cranberries. Add honey and nuts, stir to combine. Serve or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Sassamanesh (Cranberry) Quick Bread
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 5" x 9" loaf pan.
1 orange (grate the rind) - squeeze enough juice to make 3/4 cup of liquid, add the rind
2 tablespoons butter - heat the rind (enough to melt butter), juice and butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts (optional), chopped
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Beat together the egg and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cranberries, nuts, egg and sugar to the orange mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and soda, mix well and add this to the orange mixture in the large bowl and mix well with that. Put into the greased loaf pan and bake for one hour.
For years people would serve cranberry sauce or a cranberry dish of some sort at the holidays, and then forget about them the rest of the year. Growing up, my mother would put the cranberry sauce on the table nearly every night along with the bread and butter. It is a tradition I continue. Either cranberry or applesauce goes with most meals. The exception is pasta with red gravy-sauce. This side dish goes with rice, potatoes, egg noodles, just about everything and is so good for you. It has healing power to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections, to protect cells from cancerous changes and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition to the cranberry sauce, we always have cranberry juice on hand. It's a healthy alternative to soda, but it does contain sugar so we water it down a bit now and then.
Sassamanesh (Cranberry) Fritters
2 cups fresh cranberries, lightly mashed
3 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1-1/4 cups milk
3 cups of oil or shortening for deep frying
Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time to make a stiff batter. Heat the oil or shortening in a heavy saucepan or iron Dutch oven until it reads 375 degrees on a frying thermometer or until it 'spits' when you flick cold water at the oil (be careful). Get some paper towels ready to drain the fritters. Now drop the batter by heaping teaspoons full and brown on all sides. Drain and cool slightly.
Notes & Tips:
* By the way, commercial cranberry juice cocktail drinks are loaded with vitamin C. If you don't want the sugar from the supermarket juices, you can find pure juice and/or cranberry extract at a health food store. From this you can make your own cold or hot drinks.
* Getting chilly where you are? Time to stoke up and clean the ol' woodstove. It might help hold off putting the furnace on and the ones you can cook on save you double in energy.
* Fresh herbs are always the best and most flavorful. Bring in those which are potted and might last awhile on a windowsill. Parsley, thyme, sage, savory and rosemary are good keepers.
* Cover pots of water if you want it to come to a boil faster. If you need to add salt, wait until it is in a full boil.
* From the files:
If the Creator had meant for us to eat peanut butter, he/she would have given us Teflon gums.
- Robt. Orben
You can lead a horse to water, but stop to think how a wet horse smells.
- George Gobel
If a band of motorcyclists all wearing black leather vests and covered with tattoos cuts you off on the highway, just think those obscenities quietly to yourself.
Progress sometimes means we just have a faster way of doing something that wasn't necessary in the first place.