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Cranberries Are A Likely Treat at Early New England Thanksgiving Feasts

Choose fresh cranberries that are full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red; avoid cranberries that look shriveled or bruised.


Many historians say that Native Americans enjoyed cranberries cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup, a cranberry sauce recipe that was likely a treat at early New England Thanksgiving feasts. By the beginning of the 18th century, the tart red berries were already being exported to England by the colonists. Cranberries were being used by Indians decoratively, as a source of red dye, and medicinally, as a poultice for wounds.

Around this time of year we start thinking about the cranberries that will accompany our turkey and other foods. Chances are you have tasted cranberries such as cranberry sauce, canned or homemade or were lucky enough to have it in a muffin, or other quick bread.

Fresh cranberries are available from October thru December in the produce aisle. Cranberries are available as, canned cranberry sauce, cranberry juice, or dried sweetened cranberries.

Choose fresh cranberries that are full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red; avoid cranberries that look shriveled or bruised.

Shortly before use, rinse fresh or frozen cranberries and throw out any that are shriveled or bruised. Do not rinse before freezing. There is no need to clean dried cranberries.

When storing for later use, cranberries freeze well. Place in an air-tight freezer bag, and they will last almost a year. When ready to use, do not thaw. Follow recipe directions using frozen berries. Fresh cranberries should be stored in the refrigerator, in a tightly sealed bag, preferably in a crisper for about 3 to 4 weeks. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft and decaying, the others will quickly soften and decay also. Be sure to sort out soft ones if you plan to store them for more than a few days.

Cranberries are high in fiber, have just 25 calories per one half cup, and provide over 10% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C. Fresh and dried cranberries contain the most antioxidants, while bottled cranberry drinks and cranberry cocktails with added sugars contain the least. Fresh cranberries contain no cholesterol, virtually no fat and very little sodium.

Here are some quick cranberry tips for your Thanksgiving meal. Chop cranberries in a food processor for quick results. If a recipe calls for 3 cups, purchase a 12 oz. bag. Refrigerate leftover cranberry sauce or cranberry orange relish for several days or freeze in an airtight container up to a full year. To balance their tartness, combine fresh cranberries with other fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapple or pears. If desired, add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped fresh cranberries. Sprinkle a handful of dried cranberries over a bowl of hot oatmeal, or any cold cereal.

For more information contact the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office in Room 215 of the Miller County courthouse. E-mail me at or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, and  twitter at @MillerCountyFCS or visiting our website at

If you are looking for a Cranberry Sauce recipe to serve with your meal, this recipe is the one you want. It is very easy, and may become a family favorite. If you want, you can even add a little orange zest to the mixture. This is not going to be as jelled as what you will purchase from a can, but is so much better.

Mom’s Cranberry Sauce

1 cup white sugar

1 cup orange juice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries


In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice. Stir in the cranberries, cinnamon and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. 

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609

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