Thank A Cranberry Farmer


For some reason, whenever I think of cranberries, I think of the northeast. And while it’s true that Massachusetts and New Jersey together account for about 35% of cranberry production, Wisconsin is actually the nation’s leader in cranberry farming, producing almost 60% of the U.S. crop yearly.

Which, I suppose, means (among other things) Wisconsin is not all cheese and exiled Canadians, after all. There are also, apparently, a hell of a lot of cranberry bogs. More than eighteen thousand acres worth of them from what I can find — making Michigan’s two-hundred and fifty-ish acres look pretty measly in comparison.

Still, I like to pick up a couple pounds of the local* variety in the fall. Not the least of the reasons for which, cranberries are pretty and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside to support other Michigan farmers. But also because in the week directly following Thanksgiving I choose to exist solely on leftover turkey sandwiches made with copious amounts of mayo and cranberry chutney. Chutney I make ahead of time and stash away like a pack rat for winter. Because it’s also great on ham at Christmas and pork chops just about any time.

This recipe takes four cups of cranberries, but listen: when in doubt about whether or not you’ve got enough, buy extra. You don’t want to get halfway through the recipe and have to run out for more. Plus, next week I’m going to post a cranberry bread recipe, too. Might as well just stock up while you’re there.

Ready? Let’s go…

Michigan Cranberries Juiced Orange Pecans, Chopped Course Pear

Cranberry Chutney
Makes 8-9 Half Pints

4 Cups Fresh Cranberries; Rinsed, Stems Removed
1 Cup Water
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
3 3-inch Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Cloves
1 tsp Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Cup Red Onion
1/4 Cup Pulp & Juice of Freshly Squeezed Orange (about 1 small)
2 1/2 Cups Pear; Peeled, Cored & Chopped Course (about 2 medium)
2 1/2 Cups Golden Delicious Apple; Peeled, Cored & Chopped Course (about 2 medium-large)
1 Cup Celery; Finely Diced (about 2 stalks)
1 Cup Golden Raisins
1 Cup Pecans; Chopped Course

Cooking Cranberry Chutney

First, prep and measure all your ingredients. And as long as we’re talking about prep work, a little note on consistency: I like a chunky chutney, something with a little texture to it. I chop my fruit and nuts course so they don’t cook down too much, but if you like a smoother chutney or are looking for more of a cranberry sauce effect from this recipe just chop your apples and pears fine. They’ll cook down just like the cranberries and you’ll have a smoother end product. Easy peasy.

Combine Cranberries, water, sugar and spices in a large stock pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until cranberries begin to pop. This’ll take 5 – 15 minutes depending on your stove. See how some of the cranberry skins in the photo above are split? Those cranberries have “popped”.

Add onion, orange juice, pear, apple, celery, and raisins and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until mixture begins to thicken.

Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars, and lids. To do this I like to put my empty jars in the canner and cover them with water, and then heat the whole shebang on the stove while I cook. Lids, of course, go in a separate, small sauce pot, over low heat to simmer. Remember: you don’t have to boil your jars (and you definitely don’t want to boil your lids). Sanitizing jars is an unnecessary and redundant step in home canning as the act of handling your jars after they’ve been heated re-contaminates them. The entire point of the canning process — whether boiling water bath or pressure — is to sterilize the entire contents of the jar, which includes the inside of the jars themselves. Sterilizing jars? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Cranberry Chutney in Mason Jars

Once thickened, remove mixture from heat and find, remove and discard the cinnamon sticks. Ladle chutney into half pint jars, leaving a generous half inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims with a clean, dry towel before applying lids and tightening rings to fingertip tight.

Return filled jars to canner, bring to a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes.** Allow jars to cool completely on a towel on your counter before storing in a cool, dark place. Or devouring. Whichever.

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Disclaimer: This recipe is an original, inspired by a number of other recipes, in a number of other sources. Some of those inspiring recipes are older than I am — which means they’re probably rather outdated on the safety front. I have not pH tested this recipe, or had it tested for safety in any way. In fact, I’m fairly certain it’s no longer recommended that we can nuts at home. Please understand the risks and principles behind home canning and proceed in such a way that you feel comfortable. If you’d like a test kitchen approved recipe for Cranberry Chutney, I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

*Michigan’s cranberry farms are in the state’s northeast upper peninsula and southwest lower peninsula, both of which are quite a drive from the heart of the lower peninsula where we live. Thus, I may be using the term “local” loosely. What do you expect from a gal who has to drive an hour one way to get groceries?

**10 minutes processing is sufficient at or below 1,000 feet elevation. If you live at a higher altitude you’ll need to adjust the processing time accordingly.

*** Nom!

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