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Cranberries

I am not a huge fan of late fall when all the leaves are gone, there’s no snow on the ground, and everything looks dead. The leaves have been driven on or blown around so much that they’re no longer bright yellow, but more of a dirty brown color and everything is stark and empty. But, with this not so pretty time of year comes a last bit of berry picking.

I enjoy picking the lowbush cranberries here in Alaska. They are the wild version of the cranberries you can buy at the grocery store during the holidays; the wild berries however are not as big. I have made a couple of different types of cranberry sauce without a whole lot of success in them setting up. I made one today using the Ball cookbook for home canning. Hopefully it will set up, but I’m not holding out much hope at the moment. The little bit I had left over hasn’t set up yet, bit it was delicious and would work well on pancakes if nothing else. If you have a favorite cranberry sauce recipe that sets up, I would love to know what it is!

My favorite use of the berries, and the one that I save most of the berries for is cranberry/orange muffins. I don’t make muffins very often, and rarely is it me making them. Mostly because I hate cleaning out the muffin pan when I’m done. I also don’t like using cupcake paper liners for muffins as they don’t seem to let go of the cooked muffin very well and I end up with half the muffin stuck in the paper lining. But one of my daughter’s enjoys making cranberry muffins, and because she is willing to make them, I am willing to do the cleanup because they are so good! We use a recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook, however there are a ton of recipes online as well and since none of them are mine, I’ll let you do the research to find a recipe you enjoy.

Lowbush cranberries are a fairly firm berry as compared to a blueberry or especially a raspberry. For this reason, I like to vacuum seal the cranberries, they last longer and hold their shape even under the pressure of the vacuum. I wouldn’t suggest vacuum sealing with any other kind of berry as they would get squished, and you’d end up with berry juice and skins when they were all thawed out. I am so grateful for the bounty that the land around us provides, at least in the form of berries. I have taken a couple of classes about wild plants in my area, and when I am finished, I feel like there is so much to know and remember that I may never get it. But the berries, I remember the berries, and love being able to use them in so many different ways. Every area around the world has edible plants, and it’s good to know what you can and cannot eat for survival purposes. Berries are one of my favorite wild plants and I’m grateful I can at least keep track of the edible and inedible berries around here. Learning how to identify the native plants around us is important, not only to know which to avoid, like poison ivy, but also to know what you can eat, on an everyday basis, or in an emergency situation. I would encourage you to look into the plants around you and learn what you can, because you never know when that knowledge will come in handy.

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