High Bush Cranberries Almost Ready to Pick

I was walking in the Edmonton river valley this morning and I saw that there seem to be plenty of high bush cranberries this year.

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The beauty of these berries is that they are free, easy to pick, and delicious in jellies, smoothies and ketchups.

I’m not going to tell you precisely where I saw lots on the trees, but the Edmonton river valley should be able to provide enough for all of us. The key is to pick them when they’re ripe (I estimate next week), but not to wait too long or someone else might steal your secret stash.

Haskap Berries AKA Honeyberries

If you haven’t already planted Haskap berries in your garden I can’t imagine why not. The first of all my bushes to provide me with fruit, the Haskap are by far my favorite. They taste like a blueberry, but with a bit of a tangy raspberry taste as well. Best of both worlds.

Hardy in Edmonton, luscious early fruit. Mmmm.

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Plums, Cherries and Haskap Berries

What could be better than watching your fruit trees produce abundant flowers in the spring? How about watching the fruit develop, or the actual eating of the fruit? Yum!
I planted fruit trees and bushes in my yard for the joy they bring and food they produce. Beautiful flowers, lovely scents and delicious fruit. I’ve got a Princess Kay plum tree, Carmine Jewel cherries, haskap berries, gogi berries, and raspberries. They each produce at different times in the season, and some I eat straight away while others become jams and jellies.

Princess Kay Plum in Blossom

Princess Kay Plum in Blossom

Carmine Jewel Cherry

Carmine Jewel Cherry

Haskap Bush in Flower

Haskap Bush in Flower

 

 

Highbush Cranberries: Making Jelly and Ketchup

 

Lucy inspects the berries

The highbush cranberry is a shrub that grows up to 4m in height and produces a bright red or orange fruit in August and September. It’s not really a cranberry at all, but the fruit is used similarly and often served with game, turkey or pork. Bushes produce abundent berries which are relatively easy to pick, making them popular for the amatuer canner. 

Jelly made with the berries can be served with bread, muffins or toast. It is delicious with poultry and can be served with any meat that is enhanced by a fruit chutney. 

Highbush cranberry ketchup is made with cranberry puree, vinegar, sugar, onions, garlic and spices to create a flavourful sauce that can be used as a substitute for regular tomato ketchup in any recipe. HBC ketchup is delicious served with burger, hotdogs, game meats and pork. It can be used any time you reach for the regular Heinz stuff. 

Viburnum trilobum is a native shrub found close to rivers from one end of Canada to the other and as far north as Alaska & the Territories. I picked a couple of pails of the ambrosial berries one evening in early September while I was walking my dog down along the river valley in Edmonton. 

After washing them and picking out all of the leaves and stems, I had approximately 32 cups or 12 lbs of berries. I added 8 cups of water (just enough to almost cover them in a large stock pot) and boiled them on the stove for about 15 minutes, crushing them with a potato masher and stirring constantly.

I strained this mess through a jelly bag overnight and was rewarded with 16 cups of clear cranberry juice. I processed the juice in two seperate batches (8 cups each) adding 3 cups of sugar to each batch and 1 1/2 pkgs of Bernardin “No Sugar Needed” Pectin. I used this product so that I could use less sugar than would be needed with standard pectin. I wanted the jelly to be less sweet than some of the other jellies I make, but that’s just a personal preference. 

When all was said and done, I had 10 x 500 ml jars (5 from each batch) of bright red and vibrantly flavored cranberry jelly. 

I also had a jelly bag full of cranberry mash. I ran it through a food mill to make 6 cups of puree. To this I added several cloves of garlic and one small onion chopped, lightly sauteed in a pan then pureed in the blender. In a large pot I mixed the puree with 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1/4 tsp ground cloves. I cooked it for several minutes on the stove then poured it into hot sterile jars and processed them for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. 

This made several jars of highbush cranberry ketchup, which is used on meat and anywhere that regular ketchup might be used. 

Note: I am not an expert canner. There are canning websites that can give you much better advice about canning fruit than you’ll ever get here. Because canning is tricky and can potentially result in food safety issues, please don’t take any advice from this blog as the gospel truth with respect to proper technique.