Thursday, October 11

It's That Time Of Year Again....Cranberry Harvest: Seize The Season!!

It's October, which means it's time to harvest cranberries, that wonderful tart fruit that floats! Cranberries are uniquely American and tug at my heart strings....yes, I'm a bit of a sap.... Nestled among the towns and villages of Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod is the home of over 14,000 acres of working cranberry bogs...that's a lot of cranberry sauce my friends! 
I'll admit it, I have a certain nostalgic fondness for cranberries. Chuckle if you must, but cranberries are Fall, they are holidays, they are time spent in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers.....they are FAMILY. Cranberries bring memories flooding back to me. A sentimental journey. Drinking cranberry juice every morning while away at college. The taste of my grandmother's homemade cranberry sauce. The feel of my nose and cheeks, frosty and cold on Thanksgiving morning. Our first Christmas together, young and married with little money for new ornaments, Mr.P and I strung popcorn and cranberries for our ever so humble Charlie Brown tree! And of course......PLOP! How can anyone forget the sound of cranberry sauce being dropped from its can onto a serving plate! Really.
From a distance, the typical summer cranberry bog looks like a simple green field. But get closer, and you'll see a mass of tangled bushes. Around the edges of the field runs a water filled trough. When the berries are bright red and ready to harvest, one of two things will happen. If the bog produces consumer cranberries, the kind you see in the produce section of your supermarket in November, the berries are harvested much like wheat only more gently.
However if the cranberries are bound for cranberry juice or canned cranberry sauce, the bog is flooded. A machine sweeps up and down, churning the water and bushes and shaking loose the cranberries, which float to the surface where they’re easily gathered in. Most of them, anyway....there are always some berries left floating around the edges, fair game for anyone passing by with a strainer and basket.

The cranberry harvest on Cape Cod is eagerly anticipated each fall by the locals. They get to enjoy seeing a brilliant red floating carpet where formerly there were only green bushes and sometimes the growers will allow children to get into the flooded bog themselves. 
The end result?

Cranberries. Lots and lots of cranberries, ready to freeze, cook, or turn into a pie or cake. A testament, perhaps, to the short seasonality of this bright red, wonderfully tart fruit. Fresh cranberries are relatively scarce, only about 5% of the total cranberry crop is sold fresh, the rest being dried and sweetened, or processed into juice, sauce, and jam. 

The following recipe is one of my all-time favorite cranberry recipes. It has been to the state fair and's a keeper!

 Nantucket Cranberry Cake 

A layer of sweetened fresh cranberries and walnuts topped with tender, moist yellow cake.


1 tablespoon unsalted  butter
2 cups fresh Cranberries
1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

What To Do

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10″ pie plate or 9″ square cake pan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter, and drizzle it into the bottom of the pan.

Spread 2 cups fresh coarsely chopped cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts over the butter in the pan.
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

No baking powder? No baking soda? Yes, that’s right. This isn’t a typo. Trust me; it works.
Spread the thick batter over the cranberries and nuts in the pan. Sprinkle coarse white sparkling sugar atop the batter, if desired; it adds a pleasant crunch. 

Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cranberries are bubbly, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean of batter or crumbs.
Remove the cake from the oven.
I know it looks messy, but believe me, you won’t be able to resist the wonderfully tart-sweet cranberry-nut filling.

Serving this cake unadorned is fine, but serve it hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you certainly wouldn’t be amiss…it's 'S'wonderful!

If you have little ones or would just like to take a mini-break from the city, head out to one of the many local cranberry farms to explore and taste the goodness of cranberries. Some of the farms are open for visitors to purchase fresh cranberries and many allow the opportunity to watch the harvest process up close.  You might even be allowed to actually put waders on and get into a flooded cranberry bog. Your little people will LOVE this and  it makes for a very definite Fall memory for your whole family.

Enjoy this Fall friendly fruit that is truly American......'ll be glad ya did!


the domestic curator ~ ronda

Remember, y'all, it's ALL about the prep. Take away the stress by doing the prep work the night or day before. You'll look like a star in the kitchen!


  1. Looks delicious, and now I want to take the kids to a cranberry harvest.

  2. Ya learn something everyday. I never knew cranberries were harvested this way. Your blog is lovely, Ronda. I'm following you now. Hope you'll follow on mine. That makes it easier for me to get back here.

    Blessings, Coleen in Ukraine