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.







Apple-Mint Jelly


Apple Jelly

I grew up eating my mother’s homemade apple jelly, and nothing tastes better on toast as far as I’m concerned. This year I was able to get a bag of fresh apples from my sister-in-law’s tree in Manitoba (yeah, I had to drive there, pick them and drive back, but it was worth it). I decided today that I would make some apple jelly, but I wanted to add a twist: mint. Many things go well with apples – ginger, lemon, cloves – so use your imagination when creating your own designer jelly.

Apple-Mint Jelly

I am not an expert jelly-maker, and this should not be taken as the definitive recipe for apple jelly. Use with caution.

This recipe can be adjusted for the amount of apples you have. For every 2 1/2 cups of strained juice, add 1 lb of sugar.

Wash and cut up the apples. Place them in a large stock pot and just cover with water. Add the juice of two lemons. Place several stems of mint in a muslin bag and tie, then add this to pot.

Bring the apples to a boil and simmer for an hour. Strain the juice using a jelly bag, but do not press the fruit. Test for pectin content (more information here ) and add more pectin of necessary. I added two packages to my juice.

Mix the juice and white sugar (in my case I had 15 cups of juice so I added 6 lbs of sugar) in a clean stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly until the set point is reached (more information here ), then remove the pot from the stove and skim the jelly if necessary.

Pour the jelly into sterile hot jars and cover. If the jars do not seal properly or if you are not using sealers, you can pour wax on top of the jelly once it has set.

Carmine Jewel Cherry: A True Jewel of a Fruit Tree

Carmine Jewel Cherries

I was laying in my hammock earlier this week breathing in the sweet scent of cherry blossoms from my Carmine Jewel cherry tree. Enjoying the warm afternoon in my hammock is one of the primary joys of creating a private oasis in the city.

I planted my cherry tree two years ago, and I have visions of it growing to be it’s full height of 3 meters and shading the hammock with it’s long waving branches. This cultivar can be grown as a bush – it’ll grow to about 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide – or it can be trimmed to a more tree-like form. Mine was carefully pruned by the growers (Bylands in British Columbia) to create an appealing shape that will some day provide not only a beautiful display of white springtime blossoms, but a productive and attractive shade tree.

The Carmine Jewel (Prunus cerasus ‘SK Carmine Jewel’) was developed at the University of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada. A cross between Mongolian Cherry and the Tart Cherry, it’s hardy to zone 2a and has done well for its two winters here with me in Edmonton. It’s self-fertile, so I don’t have to worry about it being pollinated by a like-minded cherry elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

It will have tart cherries by mid-July which will mellow into a smoother tasting fruit by mid to late August. I prefer to pick them later on for eating fresh, but earlier for making jellies. I’ve heard they make great pies.


Carmine Jewel Cherry Jelly

Recipe:   Carmine Jewel Cherry Jelly

6 cups cherries

1 cup water

1 pkg powdered pectin

4 1/2 cups sugar

Wash and stem cherries and place in saucepan with water. Bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes until soft. Mash fruit to press out juice and strain. Combine juice (approximately 3 1/2 cups) with pectin crystals. Heat on high and stir until boiling. Stir in sugar and bring to a vigorous boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour in sterilized jars and seal.

Carmine Cherry Blossoms

Carmine Jewel in Blossom