Bumper cranberry crop for baking

Massachusetts is the leading cranberry-producing state in the US and is expecting a record harvest of the berries this year. Harvesting of the state's cranberry crop has been under way since late September, and the forecast is 1.26 million barrels. Thus, there will be plenty of cranberries available for holiday cooking, from the simplest relish to breads, cakes, and cookies.

If you decide to freeze cranberries, wash them under cold running water and pick out any soft berries and pieces of vine. Make sure they are dry before placing them in freezer bags.

Cranberries should be chopped or sliced while frozen to obtain the best results in cooking. Cranberries should never be put whole into a batter or dough or the finished product will have pockets of very tart berries. Cranberry Fruit Bread 2 cups sifted flour 1 cup sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup shortening 3/4 cup orange juice 1 tablespoon orange rind, grated 1 egg, well beaten 1/2 cup chopped nuts 2 cups cranberries, chopped

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Combine orange juice, peel, and egg. Add to dry ingredients, mixing just to moisten. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Turn into greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

Bake in 350 degrees F. oven for 60 minutes. Cool. Wrap and store overnight before slicing. Makes 1 loaf. Variations: For Cranberry-Banana Bread substitute 1 cup cranberries and 1 cup mashed banana for the 2 cups cranberries; and 1/4 cup orange juice instead of 3/ 4 cup.

For Cranberry-Apple Bread substitute 1 cup cranberries plus 1 cup chopped apples for the 2 cups cranberries, and 1/2 cup apple juice instead of 3/4 cup orange juice.

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