Cranberries. They’ve been a part of my life since I was conceived. I’m certain my mother ate them while pregnant, and soon after I was off the bottle and on real food, I’m certain she fed them to me. I have never stopped eating them. If I had a penny for every cranberry I’ve eaten, I’d be a millionaire with growing investments.
Each October, we were sent to the woods with pails to pick berries. By the end of October, my siblings and I had picked enough cranberries to make dozens of bottles of ‘jam’.
I call it jam. Some call it spread. Others call it sauce. To me, it was jam because that’s what I put on my sandwich. If it was a successful pick, we had enough jam to do us until the following October. Most years, it was a successful pick.
While most endured the tangy taste of the red berry with turkey at Christmas time, I ate it every day. Every day. From primary to grade 12, I took a cranberry sandwich to school with me for lunch. While others were having peanut butter and jam sandwiches or egg sandwiches, I enjoyed the sour red berry squished between two slices of bread. Mmm.
On weekends or during summer, I usually made a cranberry sandwich for lunch, or a snack or supper if I was in a hurry. When I began working at age 16, my lunch contained – you guessed it – a cranberry sandwich.
At this point, one might think I was addicted, or crazy or completely mad. That’s okay. I’ve never had a urinary tract infection. But that’s not why I eat cranberries.
For all my working life, the main component of my lunch was this delicious sandwich. It turned heads, inspired comments and squished-faced expressions of disgust. And two questions:
- How can you eat that?
- How can you eat that every day?
So it’s no surprise this addiction has made it into my novels. First, Bronwyn Darrow shares this addiction. In the Castle Keepers series, I call them fenberries. Same berry. Different century. In Shadows in the Stone, Bronwyn makes a fenberry sandwich for Isla of Maura.
In Northern Survival, I was wondering what Olive and John could find to eat in late September, early October in Ontario. Naturally, the cranberry came to mind. They find a patch, cook them over the fire and add water to make a thick cranberry juice. They don’t strain away the pulp; that would be a waste. They need everything they can find to eat.
Five decades have passed since my first taste of cranberry, and I haven’t tired of that lovely berry. I have widened my horizon though. I now eat them in muffins.
Here is my Zesty Cranberry Muffin recipe that I’ve been making for years. Usually when I decorate the top with the berries, it’s one for the muffin and one for my mouth. Mmmmmm.
Zesty Cranberry Muffins
In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients…
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup quick oats
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2/3 cups white sugar
- 3 tablespoons zest of an orange
- 2 cups cranberries (cut in half or smaller)
In another small bowl mix the wet ingredients…
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of orange juice
- 1/4 cup melted butter
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix.
Spoon batter into muffin tray. If you don’t have paper liners, grease the pan. Makes 12 muffins. Press three uncut berries into the top of each muffin – presentation is everything!
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 minutes.
Enjoy with a cup of tea.