Cranberries: A B.C. love story
Most of us enjoyed cranberry sauce with our turkey this past Thanksgiving but do you know where those cranberries came from?
Cranberry farming is a big deal here in B.C. and The British Columbia Cranberry Growers Association (BCCGA), represents one of B.C.’s largest berry crops by both volume and value. Approximately 80 farm families, some fourth-generation, are literally ‘bogged’ down in the cranberry world with many growing directly for the Ocean Spray cranberry brand.
So how do cranberries grow? If you have driven around the farmlands of the Lower Mainland you may have noticed fields of bright red emerging this time of year. These are cranberry fields that have been flooded to harvest. The berries actually grow on long running vines in sandy marshes or bogs and are flooded as part of the harvesting process. The majority of cranberries are harvested between September and November and the most common way to gather the berries is by this wet or water harvest methods The beds are flooded, and the fruit is “beaten” off the vine using a specialized harvester. The floating fruit is then corralled and loaded onto trucks for delivery to a receiving station.
The cranberry scene actually goes way back here in B.C. The early settlers called the fruit “crane berry” because the shape of the blossom resembles the head of a crane. Fort Langley, established by the Hudson Bay Company on the banks of the Fraser River in 1827, was an important trading post. Here cranberries that were traded with the local Indigenous people were then packaged into 100-pound barrels and shipped to San Francisco for sale. Cranberries were also widely used on sailing ships to prevent scurvy because of their high Vitamin C content.
I had the unique opportunity to wade into a cranberry bog in Pitt Meadows at Hopcott Farms. The Hopcott family also raises non-GMO, no-added hormones or steroids beef and local produce that they sell in the onsite store with other speciality grocery items. Go visit!
Cranberry sauce is so versatile. Every year I try something new from adding orange juice to Port wine to different herbs and spices from sage to star anise and chopped fruit. This Thanksgiving I wanted to share the local celebration by adding delicious B.C. apples to the mix. And remember to use the cranberry sauce in your turkey sandwiches the next day and the rest you can freeze for Christmas.
3 cups cranberries
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil and stir to make sure sugar is melted. Turn down heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes or until sauce thickens to preferred consistency and the cranberries have popped. Enjoy.
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