Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cranberry Harvest

I don't drive to Cape Cod very often, although I did spent a week on Nantucket one summer.  I drank Nantucket Nectars, polished off ice cream cones, and collected a few more freckles on my nose by the week's end.  There was also an unfortunate situation in which I went to dinner wearing a floral jumpsuit and hat only Blossom could have pulled off.  Somewhere there are pictures of my ten year old self to prove it.  

But for the most part, our summer vacations were spent in Maine.  My parents did their best to avoid the flock of masses heading south. We went against the grain, heading north to York, Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunkport.  I decided to revisit the Cape over the long weekend.  It's a beautiful time of year to take in the early foliage, but more importantly, it's cranberry harvest season.  Having lived in Massachusetts all my life, I've seen pictures of flooded bogs.  It's an iconic image splashed in books and on postcards, but I had never seen a bog up close and personal.

I pulled onto Cranberry Highway in Wareham on Saturday morning.  The southeastern part of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, is home to more than 14,000 working cranberry bogs.  What I pictured to be a small gathering was actually a very large festival with helicopter rides, local artisans, and a cooking demonstration. We took a bus to visit the bogs and headed towards the dry harvest area first.  This particular bog is over one hundred years old.  I was able to walk onto it to get a closer look.  

I learned that cranberries grow on low-lying vines, similar to the way strawberries do.  They can only grow in special conditions found in the wetlands.  Aren't they beautiful?  They remind me of Christmas.  I also tried a few tart berries right from the vine.  The dry harvested cranberries represent the fresh fruit available at farmers' markets and grocery stores this time of year.  Amazingly, the dry harvest makes up only 5% of the Massachusetts cranberry harvest.

The other 95% of the crop is picked wet and used to make juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries.  This scene is probably the one we're all most familiar with, thanks to those Ocean Spray guys.  In this method, the fruit is separated from the vines and the berries bob up to the top of the water. 

The cranberries are corralled together and then travel along conveyer belts to trucks. 

I never knew so many shades of cranberries existed.

After visiting the bogs, we listened to live music and tried a beer sample.  Harpoon makes a Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale right from the very bogs we visited.  Harpoon also donates $1 per six-pack of Grateful Harvest to the local food bank in the area in which it was purchased.  I love that idea. 

This raw cranberry honey was screaming my name.  It's produced during cranberry pollination on Cape Cod and Nantucket.  I took a jar home and can't wait to try it in a cup of tea.

And of course, I left with lots of fresh cranberries.  It would be a crime not to.  I plan on freezing some for Thanksgiving and Christmas.   

Once I got home, I made a batch of these scrumptious spiced Cranberry and Almond Upside Down Cakes.  They're made with almond flour and honey and taste as festive as they look.  I have a feeling they'll make another appearance around the holidays, perhaps with a dollop of cashew cream and cinnamon.  I have my sights set on this Cranberry Pear Tart next.  I'm so happy I got the chance to learn the history behind this amazing, tart, little gem, which also happens to have some amazing health benefits.  Be on the lookout for cranberries!  Hope you all had a nice long weekend!  


Inside a British Mum's Kitchen said...

What a fabulous post! I loved hearing about the cranberry harvest - really neat!
Mary x

Laura Dembowski said...

I love fresh cranberries! They have such amazing color and flavor. I also freeze them to bake with year round. It is so cool how they are harvested.

carpet cleaning Fargo said...

Cool photos. The harvest is great

Eileen said...

I've never been anywhere near the Cape Cod cranberry fields (does driving the circuit around Boston once count?), and now I'm kind of jealous! You must be able to make such an amazing variety of fresh cranberry...everything. :)

Sue/the view from great island said...

Beautiful post, and those pictures are amazing...I never made it to a bog, I'm so glad you shared all this. That honey is screaming my name, too...I wonder if they ship!!

Amy said...

Ohhh cool! You're right about having that water-harvesting made famous by the Ocean Spray guys... that's the only way I've known about it haha. I love cranberries though, and I am so excited when they'll start popping up all over the blog world. Let us know if you make that My New Roots tart! I love that blog, and that recipe looks really good.

Stephanie said...

Thanks Mary, glad you enjoyed it! Laura, freezing them is such a great idea. I already have a few bags in the freezer. I've heard they can last up to a year frozen. Eileen, isn't driving in Boston fun? ha! Thanks Sue. They do ship. Here's the website:

Hey Amy, will do! Doesn't it look good? I've been eyeing that one for a while. The cranberry almond upside down cakes were great too!

Colleen @ Culinary Colleen said...

That must have been so cool to see in person. I can't wait to pick up some fresh cranberries now and start cooking!

Clair said...

Your parents sound like my parents! When we finally took our first summer vacation, we headed up to Nova Scotia. And the vacation after that was during December!

These photos are so so beautiful and interesting. Cranberries are something I wish I did more with. Excited to see what you pull out of your back pocket. =)

Stephanie said...

Hey Colleen-it was, really interesting. Can't wait to see what you do with them!

Clair, that's too funny! I'm not the only one. I whipped something up yesterday, I'll get working on a post for it real soon :)

kale said...

they are most definitely beautiful. and these cranberry photos are so pretty and insightful!

Margie Larrazabal said...

oh my goodness! what an awesome trip and what a breathtaking post. :) i had no idea how cranberries grew as i have never seen a real tree. i am so jealous of this trip and someday would love to experience this too! nice post stephanie. :)

Stephanie said...

Thank you. They are easy on the eyes, aren't they ;) Thanks Margie, glad you enjoyed it!