Cranberries make for a bountiful side dish at Thanksgiving

“Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.” — Thomas Goodwin

What glory there is in gratitude. It can turn a dark day bright, it can suffuse the soul with salvation and it can bring about all kinds of positive change. As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, be reminded that if you are blessed with a warm home, enough food, if you are loved and love, if you are a member of a community of supportive friends and family, and if you are alive to breathe in the fresh of freedom, then you have so very much to be grateful for.

The Thanksgiving feast represents the truest sense of gratitude, while showcasing the bounty of local, seasonal foods. Since the very first gathering of grateful Pilgrims, there has been an emphasis on preparing natural and local ingredients for Thanksgiving. That initial feast may have included wild turkey, geese, swan, duck and venison, along with mussels, clams and oysters.

While cranberries were most likely readily available, as well as blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries and raspberries, the Pilgrims had likely depleted any stores of sugar they had transported with them, and would not have prepared any tart and tasty cranberry sauce for their gathering.

How fortunate we are, in this modern day, to have unlimited access to sweeteners of all kinds, as well as plenty of vibrantly healthy cranberries. It is nearly inconceivable to imagine Thanksgiving dinner without piquant and perky cranberries.

Cranberries freeze beautifully, for up to one year, so consider purchasing plenty of extra bags for your winter meals. Stash the whole bag in the freezer, and when ready to use, rinse them off and proceed with your recipe. Look for cranberries that are firm and brightly colored, with no visible rotting or softness.

This petite, but powerful berry packs a wealth of healthy benefits. Cranberries may be extremely helpful in preventing urinary tract infections, as well as preventing bacteria from binding to teeth. Rich in vitamins C and E, cranberries may boost immune function and prevent chronic illness. Full of fiber, cranberries are an excellent dietary aid. Eating more of them could potentially lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes or obesity.

Add vivacious verve to stuffings, chutneys, sauces, syrups, salad dressings, and stews with zesty cranberries. Cranberries will enliven your morning oatmeal or cereal and add snappy sass to cakes, pies, breads, pancakes, custards, cookies, and crackers. Mix finely chopped fresh cranberries with grated orange zest and a dash of orange liqueur to cream cheese, goat cheese or softened butter for a sensational holiday spread. Try a new twist on cranberry sauce with a cranberry onion jam.

Taste the great glory of gratitude when you prepare cranberries as part of your delicious life. May you have a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Onion Jam

Yields about 3 pints

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

2 pounds sweet white onions, sliced very thinly

¼ cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 cups fresh cranberries, well rinsed

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium - high heat. Add the onions and cook for five minutes, without stirring. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and very soft. Add the vinegar, maple syrup, cranberries and cinnamon, and continue cooking until the cranberries have split their skins and the mixture has achieved a jammy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.