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!