The Humble Cranberry
There’s a beautiful wooden cranberry rake by my fireplace that I use to hold magazines, but my dad had used, as a boy growing up on Cape Cod, to harvest red cranberries from his childhood farm each fall.
My dad would get a chuckle out of how “sexy” cranberries are today. They’ve been identified as a superfood, packed with nutrients and antioxidants—fresh, frozen, dried and eaten as a snack. Centuries ago, Native Americans knew their value. Cranberries were a staple of the northeastern Native American diet, long before the first Europeans arrived. (It’s thought that the Europeans named the berry, as its flower resembled a crane.) They ate the berries fresh, with maple sugar or honey to sweeten their tanginess. They ground or mashed cranberries with cornmeal, and baked it into bread. And then there was “pemmican,” mixing cranberries with wild game and melted fat to form a type of jerky, a survival ration for the winter months. (Sounds a little like our Thanksgiving meal—turkey, gravy slathered with cranberry relish.)
The Pilgrims learned how to use cranberries from the Native Americans in the 1620s, brewing cranberry poultices to draw poison from wounds, cranberry tea to calm nerves. And then there was using the juice as a dye. By 1683, settlers were making cranberry juice. American whalers and mariners carried cranberries onboard to prevent scurvy.
Cranberries are part of Nantucket Island’s lore, as the peaty soil lends itself well to growing the bush. In fact, there’s an annual cranberry festival held in October, as the berries are harvested out of bogs. Small pockets of air inside the berries cause them to float when the bogs are flooded. What a sight—a sea of red berries!
Fresh cranberries are only available during this time of year, so stock up and freeze the bags. This Nantucket Cranberry Pie recipe was a favorite of my dad’s. I make it to finish off our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Enjoy!
Suzanne’s Nantucket Cranberry Pie
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the Filling:
Butter, to grease the pie plate
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
For the Topping:
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
Place the cranberries in a buttered, 10-inch pie plate. Toss the sugar and walnuts evenly over the berries.
Cream eggs and butter with sugar. Slowly, add flour and almond extract to the mixture.
Pour the topping over the cranberry mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. (Check to make sure the center isn’t wobbly. It’s a moist cake, but you want to make sure it’s baked through.)
Serve warm, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Deelish!
More about Phoebe’s Light
Phoebe Starbuck has always adjusted her sails and rudder to the whims of her father. Now, for the first time, she’s doing what she wants to do: marrying Captain Phineas Foulger and sailing far away from Nantucket. As she leaves on her grand adventure, her father gives her two gifts, both of which Phoebe sees little need for. The first is an old sheepskin journal from Great Mary, her highly revered great-grandmother. The other is a “minder” on the whaling ship in the form of cooper Matthew Mitchell, a man whom she loathes.
Soon Phoebe discovers that life at sea is no easier than life on land. Lonely, seasick, and disillusioned, she turns the pages of Great Mary’s journal and finds herself drawn into the life of this noble woman. To Phoebe’s shock, her great-grandmother has left a secret behind that carries repercussions for everyone aboard the ship, especially her husband the captain and her shadow the cooper. This story within a story catapults Phoebe into seeing her life in an entirely new way–just in time.
In this brand-new series, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher brings her signature twists and turns to bear on a fascinating new faith community: the Quakers of colonial-era Nantucket Island.
Suzanne Woods Fisher has a specialty: she writes about real people living in faith-based communities. With over 750,000 copies of books sold worldwide, she is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, ranging from children’s books (‘The Adventures of Lily Lapp’ series) to novels (The Choice) to non-fiction books (Amish Peace: Simple Living for a Complicated World).
When Suzanne isn’t writing, she’s probably playing with puppies. She’s been involved with Guide Dogs for the Blind for over fifteen years. Raising puppies, she says, is like eating a potato chip. You just can’t stop at one.