Nov 11, 2009

cranberries without sugar experiments, part 1

Walking through the vast halls of my local Costco the other day, I came across this 3-lb bag of fresh (not frozen) cranberries.

Intrigued (and without much thought), I grabbed it. I knew that cranberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and the opportunity to get them fresh only lasts a couple of months per year.

Now I have never cooked with cranberries before, but I knew from years of thanksgiving dinner experience that these little morsels of health were usually served in a super-sweet sugar glaze that makes them.. less healthy. A few internet searches confirmed this, recipes typically added a whole cup (8-oz) of sugar to a 12-oz package of berries. Wow!! And sugar-free recipes were usually sweetened anyway, just with sugar substitutes.

So, living by the rule to "approach love and cooking with reckless abandon," I did the unthinkable: cooked cranberries completely without sugar. I boiled them for ten minutes until most of them "popped", then let them cool for an hour. Then I force-fed the result to my wife and kid.

The water had turned into a thick glaze, but without sugar.

Steve, unusually tolerant of unsweetened bitter flavors (I eat 100% chocolate.. and prefer it to milk chocolate): "This is ok. I can learn to like this."
Alex, "It's not as bad as I thought it would be. Which isn't saying much."
Joe (5-years old), "Um, it's ok." do you want more? "No."

Verdict: too tart for most tongues.

I decided to add a little sweetener to what was left. The last time we made pancakes, we used half of one of those little cracker barrel bottles. The remaining half was sitting in our cabinets, waiting to become a science experiment.

It seemed to me, and I was hoping, that when it came to sweeteners, "a little bit goes a long way." So I added that little bit of maple syrup to that big bowl of cranberries, and repeated the force-fed taste-test.

Steve: "Cranberry taste and tart still present, but the overall flavor much more pleasant."
Alex: "Much better. I like it."
Joe: "Um, it's pretty good." Do you want more? "No."

Verdict: not inedible. would serve with dinner.

I have 3lbs of this stuff, so I will experiment more and report back here.

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  1. Dude - that bowl of berries looks great or maybe I am just starving right now.

  2. making it into pancake syrup is a great idea. I'll bet that's yummy. of course you don't want to get into the habit of having pancakes everyday for breakfast! I've always heard cranberries are good for detox. let us know what else you make. :)