When I first told my mother about this blog and how I was was going to ramp up my foraging this year, she asked if I was going to pick berries. I told her no. I hated picking berries (I think this may have changed now that I'm a little older and more patient). She suggested that in that case, the best berry for me was high-bush cranberries because you can pick them a fistful at a time.
|A member of the maple family, these shrubs turn early.|
|Check out my mom's awesome collapsible and water-tight bucket!|
As a seasoned picker, she had one incredibly helpful tip for me. Having cooked the berries, put them in a strainer and smoosh the berries through so that you catch the giant seeds. The bigger the holes in your strainer, the better, so that you can get more of the skin/body of the berry.
|Post-cooking/smooshing with only the giant seeds left in the strainer.|
I made the ketchup in honor of my mom's tradition, and for something new I made the butter. I am now totally obsessed with this butter and eat it on toast practically every morning. These berries have a high natural pectin content and part of the draw for the butter is that the texture was just so dang perfectly spreadable.
I changed up the recipe only slightly due to the fact that I had oodles of berries. It's awesome.
Highbush Cranberry Butter
6 cups highbush cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, grated zest & juice
Prepare jars. Boil berries & water until the berries pop and soften. Force through sieve to remove the seeds. Reheat and add applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, & salt. Simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and add lemon juice & zest. Fill jars with hot butter, leaving 1/4 in headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 4 cups.
Sweet, but not too sweet with a nice spice and slightly musky berry flavor. I basically have just been chowing down on this with toast and butter, but it would be great with anything you normally put jam on.
A note on consistency: I went ahead and did the classic droplet test. When testing a jam/jelly for thickness you simply dip a spoon in the sauce, and hold it up on its side and watch how the jelly runs down the spoon. If when the jelly drops off the spoon it drops off in individual droplets, it's not done, but if it runs down and then gathers and drops in connected droplets, you're good to go. Here's a more complete description.
Highbush Cranberry Ketchup
6 cups highbush cranberries
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup onions, diced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Prepare jars. Cook berries in water until soft and then force through sieve to remove seeds. Add onions, vinegar, sugar, & spices and boil until mixture thickens. Fill jars with hot ketchup leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 4 cups.
This tastes to me like a fruity barbecue sauce with a little bit of that classic highbush cranberry musky flavor. Great on pretty much any kind of meat or with beans.