There’s no doubt about it: Jessi Rezin has both a very unusual, and very messy job.
As one of the main cranberry farmers at the Cutler Cranberry Company in Camp Douglass, Wisconsin, Rezin’s days are often long and devoted purely to cranberries. With over 250 cranberry farms statewide, Rezin is not alone: Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries nationwide, with 4 million, 100 lb barrels distributed or exported every year.
But for Rezin, whose farm helps not only harvest cranberries but also produce cranberry juices and related products, farming means more than an occupation. The Cutler Cranberry Company, which opened in 1923, is now a fifth generation company, family owned since when its beginning.
Cranberries: Just for Thanksgiving?
The truth is, personal and private chefs hoping to add fresh produce or color rarely think about cranberries. After all, cranberry consumption in the United States largely peaks–and quickly falls–around the holidays.
It’s not that cranberries are declining in popularity; rather, upwards of 93 percent of the gross sales of cranberries are from processed sources. Translation? Beyond the Thanksgiving table, Americans do savor the domestic fruit, but mostly as juices or gelatin-like products.
But cranberries, with their vibrant color, signature tart taste, and versatility, can and should be used more often. Personal and private chefs can add cranberries to their autumn and winter offerings in new, alluring ways that very well might create new favorites.
Here’s a look at cranberry dishes you can make now through spring–packing a festive touch without the same tired preparation methods.
Stun Clients with These Different (But Festive) Cranberry Dishes
Cranberries are most closely related to blueberries, and are distinguished by their exceptionally tart taste. When sweetened, cranberries bring fresh citrus notes. Like other berries, cranberries are the perfect accompaniment in everything from dessert to savory dishes; unlike some fruit, it’s essential the deep sour notes are balanced by some kind of sweetener, and often, a splash of lemon or lime to bring out the citrus notes.
So steer away from traditional cranberry sauces, relishes, and jello to brighter and fresher ideas.
Breads & Rolls
Cranberries add a pop of color and cut through starchy breads, rolls, and pastries. Cranberries replace the expected raisins in this quick loaf, accompanied by fresh orange zest. Top with a cinnamon crumb for a special addition. Cream cheese makes this loaf a perfect swap for a Danish at a formal brunch. On the more savory side, cranberries add a punch to cornbread, and mingle with hot peppers as filling for crescent rolls (make your rolls from scratch).
Cranberries add a needed pop of color and fresh notes in a hearty winter vegetable roast of carrots, turnips, brussel sprouts, and rosemary. Roasted butternut squash is married with cranberries and pecans for a play on holiday favorites like sweet potato casserole. For something elegant, add cranberries to garlic-spiked broccoli or to balsamic glazed kale. Dried cranberries are excellent on spinach salads.
Poultry and Fish dishes always run the risk of coming off as one note, both in color and flavor; that’s why most chefs add seasonings and marinades to create balance. Glazed Chicken is made with fresh cranberries, honey, vinegar and ginger for a twist on sweet and sour chicken, while garlic rosemary chicken bakes with whole cranberries. Formal occasions call for a rack of lamb with cranberry-serrano sauce, roast duck with cranberry mostaza, or buttered white wine and cranberry fish. For vegetarians, nutty quinoa is the perfect pairing for cranberries and slivered almonds.
The Final Course
Orange zest, a dash of nutmeg, and kosher salt are the key components to a stunning cranberry pie. Instead of cheesecake, serve a mascarpone cranberry tart with a pecan crust. For an ode to warmer months, try cranberry upside down cake or serve cranberry granita with black and white angel food cake. Sometimes simple is best, after a heavier meal; sugared cranberries are pure holiday elegance.