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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Feature: A Campaign for Cranberries

Campaign for Cranberries — a trio of family recipes

by Meta Newell West

Terms such as “all-American” are often associated with apple desserts, yet the apple tree originated in Central Asia. So, it’s only fitting that the truly all-American fruit claims its fair share of attention during the upcoming holiday season.

According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, the cranberry is one of North American’s three native fruits. They go on to explain, “Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who discovered the wild berry's versatility as a food, fabric dye and healing agent.”

Of course we all know that the Indians taught the Pilgrims to use cranberries, and more than likely they were on the menu for that first Thanksgiving meal. But according to culinary historians, they wouldn’t have been served as sauces or relishes at that first feast. That’s because the Pilgrims had depleted most of their sugar supplies as they crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower.

Ever since that first feast back in 1621, Thanksgiving has been about sharing a meal with family and friends. When I was young we packed up both food and family and drove from Stafford to Coldwater for our annual celebration. The men set up tables and chairs while the women labored in the kitchen, and the older kids helped set the tables, complete with family heirloom china and crystal. There were usually 20 or more at the table and at least that many dishes, including Aunt Olive’s fresh cranberry salad.

Since then, we’ve shared Thanksgiving meals with both friends and family. In particular I remember a family gathering in Texas when my sister Marla’s glass topped dining room table was graced with a perfectly roasted turkey and an incredible tart and tangy cranberry sauce accompaniment. Then there were those unforgettable Cranberry Date Bars that Barry’s cousin Judy made for another Thanksgiving gathering in Kansas City.

Cranberries in one form or another, play a vital role in most Thanksgiving dinners. So, with a rich history that traces back to Native Americans, shouldn’t we begin referring to that tart orb as the all-American fruit?

To start the cranberry campaign, I offer three recipes that I have taken the liberty to rename. These ingredients can be founded at West Country Mart in Abilene, Kansas.
Aunt Olive’s ALL-AMERICAN Cranberry Relish

Marla’s ALL-AMERICAN Cranberry Sauce
Meta Newell West - Cooking Cranberry Sauce Video
Judy’s ALL-AMERICAN Cranberry Date Bars  

Just in case you’re wondering about the other two native fruits—they are blueberries and concord grapes.
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