Just 560 of the 48,000 acres of cranberries grown in the United States and Canada are organic. Why is the chemical-free crop so small? Cranberry vines produce fruit in wetlands filled with fungi, insects, and weeds. To get the highest possible yield, conventional farms apply synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, which contaminate the environment and linger on the fruit itself: In 2006, the USDA found traces of 13 pesticides on conventional cranberries.
Happily, the number of organic cranberry farmers is growing. At Cranberry Hill Farm in Massachusetts, for example, Kristine Keese fertilizes her bog with fish emulsion and other organic nutrients—sparing helpful newts and spiders while boosting soil health—and manages weeds with lots of hand pulling. “You have to treat it like a garden,” she says.
Enjoy some organic cranberries in these delicious recipes.
Pickling cranberries plays up their tartness and gives them a jewellike appearance. The liquid can be strained to use in cocktails, and the pickled cranberries can be tossed into salads and stuffings, or spooned over ice cream. If you are the canning type, double the recipe and put them up in jars for gifts.
Makes about 2½ cups
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon peppercorns
10–12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and red wine vinegar.
2. Tie coriander seeds and peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth and add to pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
3. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until skins begin to split, 2–3 minutes.
4. Let cool in saucepan, remove and discard spice sachet, and transfer cranberries and liquid to a jar. Refrigerate in sealed jar until ready to use. They will keep for a few weeks.
This refreshing raw relish is a nice complement to a traditional whole-berry cranberry sauce on the holiday table and is great on sandwiches the next day, too.
Makes 4 cups
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and quartered
1 skin-on clementine, cut into eighths
2½ ounces roasted, salted, shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1. In a food processor, combine cranberries, apple, clementine, pistachios, sugar, and maple syrup.
2. Pulse until finely chopped, about 1 minute. Do not overprocess. Can be made up to 3 days ahead.