Food: It?s cranberry harvest time
One of my favorite places to visit this time of year is Lake Nokomis Cranberries in Eagle River. There is something about this operation that always puts me in a good mood.
And I was thinking that one day last week as I made my way there to do a story for the Hodag Buyers’ Guide. It was one of those fall mornings where the sun was warm and the air misty. As I traveled over the Rainbow Flowage dam and down the highway, the trees were so loud in hue they bedazzled me. I saw colors I thought not possible on a plant, from Bucky Badger reds to hunter wear orange and yellows as bright as a finch, with every tint in between.
I don’t know what it is about cranberry marshes and the fascination I have for them. Every year I make it a point to visit one and usually I find some spot to just sit and watch the action. There’s a lot going on. When the beds are flooded a special machine knocks the berries off the vines where they float on top of the water. Then workers in waders coral them using bumpers and they are loaded into wagons and taken away for processing. To see these huge beds, ruby red in color, is unbelievable. The friendly folks at Lake Nokomis Cranberries make viewing this phenomenon even easier by providing free tours during the harvest. And the gift shop holds everything cranberry from wines, to candles to mustard.
Another favorite event which is taking place this weekend is the Cranberry Festival in Eagle River. There homage is paid to this berry in cakes, chutneys and even beer.
It’s no wonder the cranberry is so popular that it warrants its own festival. Wisconsin is number one in the country for growing this fruit. It’s been around a long time too. Early Native Americans revered this berry not only for its many uses at the table, but cranberries were also used in poultices and their juice was used as a colorful dye.
I never got to see a cranberry harvest until I moved to the Northwoods many years ago. I am thankful this tasty food is grown so close to my home and I can go to these marshes and watch the harvest for myself, but most of all I just love cranberries. I love how healthy they are and all the ways they can be served. I’m always on the lookout for tasty cranberry recipes and I’ve included two this week that are favorites. When I make a batch of the Cranberry Jam I like to give jars away to friends and family, especially some elderly folks who live down the road. I always get ohhs and ahhs upon delivery.
If you are looking for a fun Fall activity check out the action that’s going on now at local cranberry marshes. I guarantee it will put you in a good mood.
12 oz. pkg. of whole cranberries
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
1 yellow cake mix
3/4 melted butter-melted
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, white sugar, and water. Cook, stirring occasionally until all of the cranberries have popped, and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, melted butter, and eggs. Stir in the oats, brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture, and spread the rest into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Pack down to form a solid crust, getting it as even as possible. Spread the cooled cranberry mixture over the crust. Pinch off pieces of the remaining mixture and place evenly over the cranberry layer.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is lightly brown. Cool completely before slicing into bars.
12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan and boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, stirring frequently until cranberries have softened and mixture thickens to a jam like consistency. Let cool completely. Ladle into small jars and store in refrigerator.