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It's All In How The Berry Bounces

It's All In How The Berry Bounces
By Mark Mulcahy

According to the Cape Cod Growers Association, the cranberry harvest takes place once a year from mid-September through early November. There are two methods of harvesting cranberries.


Organic Cranberries


Cranberries
October was official National Cranberry Month, but I think it should be November, as that is when the majority of cranberries are consumed. We all love to eat them in sauce, muffins, trail mix and more, but do you know how they are harvested?

According to the Cape Cod Growers Association, the cranberry harvest takes place once a year from mid-September through early November. There are two methods of harvesting cranberries:

Dry harvesting involves using walk-behind machines to rake the berries off the vines into boxes or bags. Berries are removed from the bogs by either bog vehicles or helicopters. The fruit is delivered to fresh fruit receiving stations where it is graded and screened based on color and ability to bounce (soft berries will not bounce). Dry harvested cranberries are used to supply the fresh fruit market. These cranberries are most often used for cooking and baking.

Wet Harvesting - Cranberries have pockets of air inside the fruit. Because of this, cranberries float in water, and thus, the bogs can be flooded to aid in removing fruit from the vines. Water reels, nicknamed “egg-beaters,” are used to stir up the water in the bogs. By this action, cranberries are dislodged from the vines and float to the surface of the water. Healthy cranberries float! Wooden or plastic “booms” are used to round up the berries, which are then lifted by conveyor or pumped into a truck to take them to the receiving station for cleaning. More than 85 percent of the crop is wet-harvested. Wet-harvested cranberries are used for juices, sauces, or as ingredients in other processed foods.

Pretty amazing, huh?

If you love Melissa’s organic cranberries and want to keep them around a little longer, why not try making your own dried cranberries at home to last you throughout the year? Here is a recipe I adapted from Mary Bell 's "Complete Dehydrator Cookbook":

Easy Dried Cranberries
12 ounces of Melissa's Organic Cranberries
2 quarts Boiling Water
¼ cup Organic Sugar (optional)

In a bowl, pour boiling water over the cranberries or submerge them in a pot of boiling water with the heat turned off. Let them sit in the water until the skin pops. Do not let the berries boil or the flesh will turn mushy. Drain. If a sweeter berry is desired, coat the berries with granulated organic sugar. Transfer the berries to a cooking sheet and place them in a freezer for two hours. Freezing the berries helps break down the cell structure, promoting faster drying.

Turn on the oven for 10 minutes at 350º F. Then place the cranberries on a cookie sheet in the oven, turn off the oven, and let them sit overnight. Store dried cranberries in the freezer. Enjoy!

Quick tips for choosing Organic Cranberries
While color is what draws us in to the bag or bulk displays, it is not always the most reliable indicator of quality. Yes, you should choose cranberries that are a deep red color, but firmness is really the most important quality. The best tip is to choose berries that are very firm to the touch, fresh looking, plump, with a rich redness.

The firmness check starts at the farm during the harvest. Berries are rolled down a ramp of slanted boards and those with the most bounce that can make it over the boards are the ones that make it to market. A couple of years back I visited a cranberry operation and had the chance to sort cranberries on old fashioned ramps, it was quite a treat. If you ever get a chance to visit a cranberry farm it is fasinating to watch the whole operation.

Looking for a sweet way to use your homemade Melissa’s Organic Dried Cranberries.

Try making these Cranberry Walnut Hermits I found (and slightly adapted) on http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/06/cranbe...

You’ll need
1 stick Organic Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed Organic Dark Brown Sugar
2 large Organic Eggs
½ cup Organic Molasses
2 cups Organic Flour
¾ teaspoon Baking Soda
¾ teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Allspice
¼ teaspoon Mace
½ teaspoon Cloves
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg
½ teaspoon Salt
1 cup Dried Cranberries
1 cup Organic Walnuts, roughly chopped (I used Organic Pecans and they turned out great as well)

To make them:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy and smooth, about four minutes.

Beat in eggs.

Add molasses and beat until incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, and allspice.

Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients, beating just until mixture is evenly incorporated and batter is smooth. Mix in cranberries and walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Remember to share and your friends will be truly thankful!