Cranberries are seasonal, tart, red berries. They are used in sauces, baked goods and juice. They are a great snack in the dried form.
I have written multiple articles about cranberries through the years. It is a common misconception that cranberries must grow in bogs. Readers have been surprised to know that I have two small plots of cranberries in my garden.
In the past, they have produced a gallon or more berries. This year’s yield was very small, and I blame the weather for the low production. Cranberries are best grown in cooler climates. They fare well between zones two and five.
Due to the unusually warm weather, many berries got soft and fell from the vine, before they ripened. I plan to thin my beds next year, since cuttings and seedlings can be planted in the spring from April to the end of May. They can also be planted in the fall from October to November, so I have missed that window.
Cranberries have unique requirements. The beds should contain a lot of organic matter with soil that has a low pH. A good size for a plot is about 4 feet by 8 feet. The plot should contain a mixture of peat moss, bone meal and blood meal.
Cranberry plants are grown from cuttings or seedlings. They will not produce fruit until their third or fourth year. Cranberries need to have space because they send off runners. Cranberries must be kept moist but not saturated. If the roots dry out, the plants will die. I lost several plants this year, because they dried out.
Once cranberries are established, they will produce for a long time. Some cranberry bogs have been in continual production for more than 100 years.
Cranberries have many health benefits, which make them an excellent addition to your garden and diet. There are lots of ways to eat cranberries besides in a sugary sauce. They are delicious in this sweet, tender babka (Polish bread) recipe.
For the dough:
• 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
• 1-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 egg
• 3 tablespoons softened butter
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
• 2-1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
• 1/4 cup orange juice
• 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
• 1 cup fresh cranberries
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pour warm milk into a bowl, sprinkle with dried yeast and sugar.
Let set until it gets frothy.
Add egg, butter, vanilla, 1 teaspoon orange zest, flour and salt, stir and knead until everything is incorporated into a smooth dough.
Lightly grease a bowl, put dough into bowl and turn over (to lightly grease the top), cover and let set in a warm spot until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.
Make the filling while the dough rises by adding orange juice, brown sugar and all the cranberries to a saucepan.
Cook over medium low heat until the fresh cranberries begin to pop and the texture becomes jam-like.
Remove from heat, stir in butter, orange zest and cinnamon. Cool.
Roll out the dough to form a 12-inch-by-14-inch rectangle.
Spread the cranberry mixture over the dough, leaving about ½-inch near one of the short ends bare.
Roll up the dough, starting from the opposite side, pinching the edge without the filling to seal the roll.
Slice in half lengthwise, place both halves next to each other with cut sides up. Twist the two pieces around each other, keeping the cut sides up.
Pinch the ends together and place in a greased 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until it begins to get higher than the pan.
Preheat over to 350°.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, loosely tenting with foil after 30 minutes to keep it from getting too dark.
Rub the top with butter after baking to keep the crust soft.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.