Long before cranberries had been exalted as a hot new superfood that can ward off cancer, promote gastro-intestinal health and reduce stress levels (see Craving Cranberriesfor more on that!), cranberry sauce had already claimed the exalted spot between the turkey and the dressing on the Thanksgiving table.
Native American tribes used cranberries that they called Sassamanash for food, dye, and to dress their wounds, and indeed these bright red berries may have been present at the very first Thanksgiving in 1621. They were first cultivated on Cape Cod in the early 1800's and have since become a staple of the holiday season. (History of Our Thanksgiving Meal divulges all the juicy details of traditional Thanksgiving fare, should you feel so inclined).
But cranberries deserve to be enjoyed year-round thanks to their powerful nutrient profile and possible benefits to the body and mind. Perhaps one of the healthiest dishes that you will eat this holiday, cranberry sauce packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals and essential micronutrients.
- Cranberries, grown in acidic bogs, contain a fat dose of vitamin C, which promotes health immune system functioning.
- Cranberries have important anti-clotting properties and may reduce urinary tract infections, dental plaque and kidney stones.
- Low in calories and high in fiber, cranberries contain 100 grams of raw cranberries contain 14.3% of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber.
- Cranberries contain polyphenol antioxidants, which are phytochemicals that may benefit the cardiovascular and immune systems by stabilizing free radicals. These phytochemicals are being heavily researched now and may also protect against cancer and age-related afflictions.
- New studies show that cranberries may also protect gastro-intestinal health and prevent stomach ulcers by inhibiting some food-born bacteria from attaching to the digestive tract.
This Thanksgiving, forget the can-shaped jelly roll and cook up my grandmother's easy recipe for a chunky, crunchy sweet cranberry sauce:
Ingredients (organic if possible):
- 16 oz. fresh cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped fine
- 1 apple chopped fine
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Dash nutmeg
- Dash salt
1. Combine cranberries and 1 cup of water in a large stewpot and heat until boiling.
2. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well and refrigerate overnight.
Notes: This cranberry relish recipe makes a large batch – enough for a Thanksgiving table – and can easily be cut in half. The sauce will last for days in the refrigerator and is a smart dish to make ahead.
image: Owl Pacino