The Merry Berry
The Cranberry has Super Properties, a Tart Taste and a Secret Quality that Brings Magic to Cooking
Consider the cranberry.
This super-fruit is one of only three berries (with blueberries and Concord grapes) that is native to North America. It continues to be grown almost exclusively in the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest and in Wisconsin where the soil is sandy and water is readily available. These berries grow on bushy vines and when it is time to harvest the berries in September, the growth areas, called bogs, are flooded. The berries float on top of the water and are easily harvested, keeping their shape and integrity.
Now comes the super part — these little orbs are chock full of anti-oxidants and are rich in vitamin C and fiber. They fight bacteria naturally, reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease and may even inhibit the growth of some cancer cells. Plus they’re delicious in a sweet-tart way.
It’s this flavor that makes us love cranberries. The intense tartness provides an extreme punch whether being used for a side-dish, sauce or dessert.
Cranberries provide the perfect balance to things that are unctuous and rich. There’s a reason why you serve them with turkey and gravy — the acid cuts through the fattiness of those foods. It’s almost like a palate cleanser with a really great freshness and acidity to it.
We love a cranberry relish with ground nuts, cranberries and citrus. And we love making Indian-style chutneys with cranberries, combining herbs, onion, ginger, garlic and Madras curry. These are delicious and great condiments to make and have in your bag of tricks for holiday and beyond.
What makes cooking with cranberries magical is the pectin content of the berry. They immediately gel when they burst. Experiencing this chemical reaction is a fun surprise for people making cranberry sauce from scratch for the first time.
Desserts are where this versatile berry shines — literally. The pectin gives a glossy sheen to whatever you’re making.
We make a cranberry caramel nut tart that showcases the flavor and texture of cranberries. The juxtaposition of the very tart and sour cranberry with the intensely sweet caramel is such a good marriage. When you're making this tart, the berries burst and gel. It makes a beautiful and an incredibly easy-to-make tart that makes any occasion merry.
Cranberry Caramel Walnut Tart
· Pate Sucre Dough
· 1 cup sugar
· 1 cup heavy whipping cream
· ½ cup unsalted butter
· 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
· 2 T orange zest on Microplane
· 2 cups chopped walnuts
· 2 cups frozen cranberries
· ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. Press Pate Sucre Dough into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan. Prick bottom and sides of Pecan Dough with a fork. Top with a piece of parchment paper or foil, letting ends extend over edges of pan. Add pie weights or dried beans.
3. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove paper and weights. Bake until lightly browned, about 5 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
4. In a 10-inch skillet, sprinkle sugar in an even layer. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until sugar is dissolved and turns amber colored, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; carefully whisk in cream and butter until combined, add vanilla bean paste. Stir in walnus, cranberries, orange zest and salt. (Mixture will bubble up.) Spoon mixture into prepared crust.
5. Bake until bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing.