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.

 

 

 

 
 

 

Drying Apples: Rings of Gold

 

Dried apple slices

Drying apples is surprisingly easy. Well, ok not easy exactly, but certainly not difficult. 

I picked a large bag of apples at a neighbour’s yard and brought them home to see what I could make with my new dehydrator. I started by using an old fashioned peeler/slicer to cut them up into rings. It’s pretty cool how it makes a spiral of the apples and removes the core, saving a ton of labour. 

If you’ve looked closely at the picture, you can see that I didn’t even bother to peel all of the apples. After about the third batch in the dehydrator I didn’t think it was necessary, and not peeling them saved me a significant amount of time and effort.

I soaked the apple slices in the requisite amount of Fruit Fresh preservative, which is supposed to prevent them from turning brown but frankly I saw only a small amount of difference between using it and not. It makes no difference to the taste what-so-ever, only the appearance. If I was making these for a gift I might be more concerned, but I plan to eat (almost) all of these myself. So there!

I then placed the slices in my dehydrator, careful not to overlap them. They took about 4-5 hours to dry at a setting of 120F. Voila, I had the most amazing dried snacks that will keep in the fridge for months should they be so lucky to last that long.

Note: I made apple fruit leather at the same time; for that blog post go here.