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Cranberries: History of the "Super Fruit" and 11 Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Cranberries are a great treat that goes well with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

Cranberries are a great treat that goes well with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

There are some things in every country that you must be born to endure; and another hundred years of general satisfaction with Americans and America could not reconcile this expatriate to cranberry sauce, peanut butter, and drum majorettes.

— Allistair Cooke (British-born American journalist, well known as host of "Masterpiece Theater" PBS

Are Cranberries an American Tradition?

Love it or hate it, cranberry sauce is a ubiquitous cast member of the traditional American Thanksgiving Day meal. The history lessons of our childhood tell tales of Pilgrims and Native Indians sitting down together to dine on pumpkins, beans, rabbit, and cranberries.


But Long Before That First Thanksgiving...

Cranberries were also known and used in northern Europe. The common cranberry of North America is of the genus Vaccinium oxycoccos. Its smaller cousin, The Vaccinium microcarpum or Oxycoccus microcarpus) grows in northern Europe.

In Some Places, It's a Tradition

The combination of savory meats (turkey) with tart cranberries is not unique to the Pilgrims' celebration, and not unique to North America. I'm sure you have heard of Swedish meatballs with lingonberry (also known as low-bush cranberries) sauce.

Despite the popularity of cranberries, they aren't grown everywhere.

Oh My, They Are Fussy About Where They Will Grow!

Cranberries require very specific and unique growing conditions:

  • Their growing places, or beds, are commonly bogs (damp, marshy depressions in the earth scoured out thousands of years ago by the movement of Ice Age glaciers).
  • They require acid soil.
  • They need sandy soil.
  • They must have an ample supply of fresh water.
  • Their very specific growing cycle is April to November.

Top 10 Cranberry Producers in the World

According to the World Atlas, North America still dominates in the global production of cranberries. The top 10 cranberry-producing countries in the world are:

10. Spain (100 tons)

9. Tunisia (205 tons)

8. Macedonia (264 tons)

7. Romania (464 tons)

6. Ukraine (800 tons)

5. Latvia (1,500 tons)

4. Azerbaijan (2,400 tons)

3. Belarus (6,500 tons)

2. Canada (122,084 tons)

1. United States (405,770 tons)

Let's Start Cooking

I promised ideas for how to use cranberries in breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. Here are the recipes I chose:


  • Cranberry-walnut scones
  • Double chocolate cranberry scones


  • Wild rice spinach salad
  • Thanksgiving quesadilla
  • Rosemary chicken salad


  • Cran-raspberry sauce (for your turkey dinner)
  • Hazelnut-crusted salmon with dried cranberries
  • One pan cranberry balsamic roasted chicken
  • Cranberry turkey meatballs


  • Lemon-cranberry loaf
  • Cranberry tea cookies
Cranberry-Walnut Scones

Cranberry-Walnut Scones

1. Cranberry-Walnut Scones


  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cut butter into dry ingredients. Stir in cranberries and walnuts.
  4. Mix together buttermilk and vanilla; stir into flour mixture. Knead twice. Pat into a circle and cut into 8 wedges. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
Double Chocolate Cranberry Scones

Double Chocolate Cranberry Scones

I adapted the following from a chocolate scone recipe on the King Arthur Flour website:

2. Double Chocolate Cranberry Scones


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Chocolate frosting (homemade or packaged)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flours, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix thoroughly.
  4. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
  5. Stir in the dried cranberries.
  6. Whisk together the vanilla, egg, and milk.
  7. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture is evenly moist. If the mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and place the two pieces onto the baking sheet. Pat them gently into two 6" circles, each about 3/4" thick.
  9. Cut each circle into 6 wedge shapes.
  10. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, until they lose their moist look, and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean; or with just a smear of chocolate from a melting chip.
  11. Remove the scones from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
  12. When the scones are cool, drizzle on homemade chocolate frosting. If using store-bought frosting warm about 1/2 cup of frosting in a small microwave-safe bowl for about 15 seconds or until of a pouring consistency (do not warm too much and allow to melt).

3. Wild Rice Spinach Salad


  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup smoked turkey breast from the deli, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries


  1. Squeeze as much water as possible from the thawed spinach.
  2. Mix the spinach and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

4. Thanksgiving Quesadilla

My husband thinks the best day of the year is the day after Thanksgiving, when he can build a sandwich of turkey, mayonnaise, and cranberry sauce. I think this version might make him even happier:

  • Whole wheat tortilla (we're being healthy, right?)
  • Sliced cooked turkey (because)
  • Cranberry sauce (just a little bit)
  • Whipped cream cheese (to hold everything together)
Rosemary Chicken Salad

Rosemary Chicken Salad

5. Rosemary Chicken Salad

I love this in a sandwich; oatmeal honey bread tastes wonderful with it.


  • 3 cups cooked chicken, diced (I think white meat is best in this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, (I used non-fat)
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and chill for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.
Cran-Raspberry Sauce

Cran-Raspberry Sauce

6. Cran-Raspberry Sauce

This recipe from Epicurious combines tangy cranberries and sweet raspberries for what has become my family's favorite sauce to have with turkey.

7. Hazelnut-Crusted Salmon with Dried Cranberries


  • 1 pound salmon fillet, cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, rough chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place salmon pieces on the baking sheet, skin-side down. Spread equal amounts of mayonnaise on each piece of salmon
  3. Top with hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Sprinkle on tarragon, zest, and salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.
One Pan Cranberry Balsamic Roasted Chicken

One Pan Cranberry Balsamic Roasted Chicken

8. One Pan Cranberry Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Lindsay Cotter is a gluten-free nutritional specialist; she created the blog Cotter Crunch and this one-pan sweet-savory-tangy dish that pairs chicken with cranberries, garlic, fresh herbs, and balsamic vinegar.

Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

9. Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

Erin is the brains behind the blog Well Plated and the creator of these moist and flavorful meatballs. She says "If Thanksgiving were a meatball, it would be an Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatball. Sweet, juicy, and tangy, these turkey meatballs take the ingredients and flavors I most associate with family holiday gatherings and pack them into a single, melt-in-your-mouth bite."

Lemon-Cranberry Loaf

Lemon-Cranberry Loaf

10. Lemon-Cranberry Loaf

Ingredients for the Basic Loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Add This to Make the Streusel Topping

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Add This to the Basic Batter to Complete the Loaf

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons orange juice


  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Mix flour, 1 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt, and in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl.
  4. Stir the chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons brown sugar into this reserved mixture and set aside. This will be the topping on the loaf.
  5. Mix baking soda and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture. Add the fresh cranberries. Whisk together the buttermilk, lemon juice, vanilla, and egg in another bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture to the cranberry mixture and stir just until combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved topping evenly over the batter.
  7. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
  8. To make the icing whisk together the powdered sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the loaf.
Cranberry Tea Cookies

Cranberry Tea Cookies

11. Cranberry Tea Cookies

I don't know if Lisaisbossy, but she created a wonderful little shortbread-like cranberry tea cookie.

© 2016 Linda Lum