Tart, zesty cranberries: too good to confine to a side dish

The early American Indians made pemmican by grinding cranberries with vension and fat. They dried the mixture in the sun, hardly an attractive recipe for today's home cooks.

In Colonial days it was family enterprise to string cranberries to adorn the Christmas tree. And before the invention of the freezer, these plump, sassy berries were only a seasonal item appearing in the form of sauces, relishes or perhaps steamed puddings.

Today we are as likely to serve cranberries in July as December, and in the first course or the last, for there are many innovative ways to include the bouncy "crane-berry" in soups, main courses and side dishes.

Here are some hints on preparation and storing, as well as some recipes.

Fresh cranberries can be stored by refrigeration up to 1 month.

Freeze cranberries, without prewashing, double-wrapped in plastic, up to a full year. When using do no thaw. Follow recipe directions using frozen berries.

To prepare for cooking, sort out soft berries and stems, rinse in cold water. Cranberry soup 2 cups cranberries 3 quarts water 2 large onions, sliced 2 cups finely shredded cabbage 1 1-pound can julienne beets Salt to taste 1/4 cup cugar 1/2 pint sour cream 3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

Cook cranberries in water about 10 minutes or until skins pop. Put all through sieve or food mill.

Skim off seeds that rise to the top. Add onions and cabbage. Cook about 30 minutes or until soft.

Add beets and liquid. Season with salt and sugar. Serve hot or chilled. Garnish with sour cream and slices of hard-cooked eggs. Serves 8. Festive Cranberry Meat Loaf 1 egg 1/3 cup milk 1 pound grond beef, extra lean 1/4 pound bulk sausage 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper Cranberry Glaze, recipe below

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg and milk in large bowl.Add remaining ingredients except glaze and mix well.

Shape into 5 loaves and place in a baking dish about 13 by 9 inches. Spoon Cranberry glaze over loaves.

Bake about 45 minutes, basting once or twice with glaze.

Remove to warm platter. Skim fat from sauce. Spoon some sauce over meat loaves. Serve remaining sauce separately. Serves 5. Cranberry Glaze 1 1-pound can whole-berry cranberry sause 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed tablespoon lemon juice

Combine ingredients and mix well.

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