It’s time to freeze some cranberries

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I bet there are cranberries in your house right now. Cranberries are a must for most families at Thanksgiving.
What’s your favorite way to serve them? For some, it has got to be the jellied cranberry sauce…complete with those little ridges straight from the can. Other families look forward to a sauce made with fresh whole cranberries and oranges, or maybe you prefer a special jelled cranberry mold.
Thanksgiving is perhaps the only time of year some people eat fresh cranberries. Cranberry growers estimate that 20 percent of their crop is eaten this month. I think it’s time to change that. Why? Because they are good for you and taste good, too. It doesn’t make sense to relegate cranberries just to November.
Cranberries are high in fiber and vitamin C and contain just 25 calories per 1/2 cup of fresh berries. They are also low in sodium and a source of vitamins A and B, calcium, phosphorus and iron. Packed full of antioxidants and other natural compounds, cranberries promote the prevention of urinary tract infections, gum disease and stomach ulcers.
Fresh whole cranberries are available in our markets now, but won’t be there for long. Their season is September through January.
These berries will keep in the refrigerator for one month. Buy a couple extra bags and simply throw them in the freezer. They’ll maintain their quality for 9-12 months. The berries don’t need to be washed before you freeze them, but be sure to wash and sort them just before use. When sorting, white berries are safe to eat; they have just not developed their full color. Take out any bruised, wrinkled or dried berries.
Unlike other fruits, cranberries are usually considered too tart to eat alone and are usually combined with other ingredients to make them palatable. Most cranberry juices have sweeteners added and dried cranberries are sweetened prior to drying. Sweetened dried cranberries will keep for up to 12 months in a cool, dry place.
For nutritional and taste boost, add dried cranberries to your tossed salads. Dried cranberries are also great added to your breakfast oatmeal or your favorite cookie recipe in place of raisins.
One of my favorite cranberry recipes is for a Cran-Apple Crisp. I’ve been making this recipe for many years and it has become a tradition in our house. The original recipe came from “The Favorite Recipes from the Microwave Times.”
I sometimes use different types of apples in the recipe. Rome, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are good cooking apples, but using sweeter apples like Red Delicious, Gala or Braeburn allows me reduce the amount of sugar added. You can adjust the sugar or add a sugar substitute like Splenda to help reduce the calories, but you’re going to need a little something to offset the tartness of the cranberries.
Since a “crisp” has only one topping, it has fewer calories than a traditional two-crust pie and using the oats as part of this topper not only adds flavor and crispness, but healthy fiber, too. Leaving the skins on the apples adds more fiber to the recipe and I don’t think hurts the flavor or texture. Just wash the apples well first.

Cran-Apple Crisp
2 cups whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
4 apples, sliced (I leave the skins on for more fiber; your choice)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup oats (regular quick or rolled oats are good; not instant)
Combine cranberries, apples and sugar in an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Mix lightly; set aside.
In another bowl, make the topping by placing
the butter in the microwave for 15-30 seconds
on high until softened. Blend in brown sugar
and mix in flour, oats and cinnamon until crumbly. Sprinkle over the
cranberry and apple mixture.
Microwave uncovered for 10-11 minutes on HIGH until fruits are tender, rotating dish once. Great served warm. The crisp freezes well, but there’s hardly ever any left over to worry about.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at NC Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center at 253-2610.