Among berries, the cranberry is an anomaly. It's not a tender, sweet, and juicy product of sun-warmed summer fields. It's not picked and popped into the mouth. In fact, it's never savored fresh. No, the cranberry is firm and tart, not ripening to red until cold fall days start to set in. The berry reveals its ruby color at the last possible moment, and clings to the bush as if anticipating the harsh winter to come. Its tartness jolts and warms the senses, enlivens other fruits, and makes this native-born American berry perfectly suited for bracing cold-weather dishes.
Fresh cranberries traditionally appear shortly before Thanksgiving, and you can't miss the heaped up poly bags of merry berries crowding the produce section of markets this time of year. But they'll be gone all too soon, so stock up. Cranberries last up to 2 months in the fridge. They also freeze well (for as long as a year) and maintain their firmness afterward. Just rinse them with water, and use as if they were fresh.
Fresh or frozen, cranberries are a true health food, despite being almost 90 percent water. The berries and the tangy juice they produce are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants, plus they boast cancer-taming potential and antibacterial properties.
Did You Know?
Cranberries will bounce when they are ripe. In fact, they are sometimes called bounceberries.