Monday, November 22, 2010

Tart, little red berries

I love cranberries. I adore them. If you give me a bag of raw cranberries, I'll eat the whole thing raw (this is going on right now, in fact). Their color is splendid, deep, autumnal reds, crimsons, maroons. A tart but not-very-bitter interior. A few small seeds to settle under your tongue. A tangy aftertaste with just enough sweetness to keep you from puckering. They're great.

Last November, I made a trip to the always wonderful Saint Paul Farmers Market and there was a truck from Tomah, Wisconsin, selling cranberries. Five pounds for twelve dollars. Or, ooh, ten pounds for twenty dollars. Even better, fifteen pounds for twenty-five dollars. Or, twenty-five pounds for thirty. Last week at the market. Last chance to get my hands on more cranberries than even I could eat. I wandered amongst the other late-season stalls—an earlier freeze had diminished inventories of fresh produce even though it was sunny and 60. Nothing was too my liking. Back to the cranberries. "You know what, the hell with it. I'll take 25 pounds."

And that was the beginning of this blog.

I made it home, somehow, although I didn't bike uphill with the berries (the bus helped). I ate berries for a week by the handful, and the bag full, and still hadn't made a dent. The rest of the berries—5 gallons worth!—went in the freezer for the winter. I had a lot of cranberries to eat. So I started putting them in everything.

I started with bread—I didn't make cranberry sauce that Thanksgiving—but soon branched out. Chocolate chip cookies? Chocolate chip and cranberry cookies. Brownies? Brownies with cranberries? Curry, corn bread and macaroni and cheese? Cranberries in them all. And, no, this blog will not be umpteen holiday-themed desserts. Cranberries are too good to be relegated in to a niche. The versatile, healthy fruit is a centerpiece of my diet. As well it should be. I even picked some wild mountain cranberries (shh—I probably wasn't supposed to) working in the mountains this past summer, but I promptly ate them all. And after a year of cranberries, I'll do my best to share.

To start: Recipe #1: eat 'em raw. That's right. Straight from the bag. (You might want to wash them.) "But, oh, they're too tart?" you may say. Wrong. They are the right tartness. They are good. You're not sucking on a lemon.

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