Keith Weller/USDA
A coastal Washington cranberry bog.

Native Cooking: Mixing Up Something New With Cranberries

Dale Carson

Of course there is nothing new under the sun, but a new combination of the old can be incredible. Few of us can resist mixing things up a bit to make them our own, or at the very least different from what has come before. As we do this, new combinations of old standards are expanded or renewed.

One of these things is a fruit, cranberries. If you think they are just a condiment used once a year, they are so much more. There are drinks, breads, fritters, scones, jelly, muffins, desserts, sauces and my favorite, chutney.

This small, perky, tart red berry has a rich history, especially on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard where the Wampanoag Nation has nurtured them for eons. Now, they are a major industry, along with two other Native fruits grown commercially in North America. I should really say four Native fruits as I am including avocado as a fruit, the other two are blueberries and strawberries.

I know I have written about cranberries before at length, yet they are so versatile that they deserve some more attention. Try some right out of the bag into corn breads, apple pie or cake batters—or try one of these recipes.

Cranberry “Sassamanesh” Chutney

3               cups cranberries

12            apples, firm, cored

2               sweet onions, sliced

1               cup golden raisins

2               tablespoons ground ginger

¾               cup mint leaves, finely chopped

2               ounces chili peppers

4               cups apple cider vinegar

2               tablespoons salt

1               pound dark brown sugar

2               tablespoons flour dissolved in ¼ cup water

Combine all ingredients except the cranberries and flour mixture into a heavy stainless steel pot. Cook apples, onions, raisins, ginger, mint, chili pepper, vinegar, salt and brown sugar over very low heat for about half and hour. Now, add the cranberries and flour/water mixture and simmer 5 to 10 minutes to allow berries to pop and chutney to thicken. This will yield about 4 pints. Flavors will need at least overnight to blend and thicken further.

*If you pack this into sterilized jelly jars, they make a great gift, too.

Sassamanesh Scones

1               cup flour

½               cup quick cooking rolled oats

3               tablespoons sugar (brown preferred) or equivalent substitute

2               teaspoons baking powder

½               teaspoon salt

4               tablespoons chilled sweet butter, cut in pieces

½               dried cranberries (or more)

1               egg

¼               cup milk, more if needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a food processor, mix the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse to blend. Put the butter on top and pulse again a few times. Add cranberries and pulse once to mix them in.

Beat the egg with the milk in a small glass bowl and pour into the processor’s feeding tube until dough sticks together, add more milk if dough is too dry.

Put dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten down to a large circle. Cut into 12 pieces, leaving about an inch between them. Sprinkle with a little more sugar if desired. Bake about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Cranberry Heaven

2               cups fresh whole cranberries

1               cup cranberry juice cocktail

4               eggs

1               cup sugar (or substitute)

¼               cup flour

1               cup milk

½               cup heavy cream

½               teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch pie pan. Cook the cranberries in a large non-reactive saucepan for 5 minutes over medium heat. Remove cranberries and set them aside. Boil down liquid leaving ¼ cup remaining.

Use a blender or food processor to combine the eggs, sugar, flour, milk, cream and vanilla. Add the cranberry liquid to form a custard. Spread the slightly cooled cranberries on the bottom of the greased pie pan. Pour custard mixture over the berries and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in the center of oven until golden and puffed, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool, serve warm or at room temperature.


Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.

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