Winter Super Foods: Cranberries: Preparation and Varieties

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Cranberries are often too tart to be eaten raw. Most cranberries need be cooked before they are eaten. No matter what preparation method you choose, cook cranberries only until they pop because overcooking gives them a bitter taste.

Since cranberries are almost 90% water, do not thaw frozen cranberries before cooking them. Thawing, will cause the fruit to breakdown, resulting in soft cranberries.

Cranberries may be baked with a sweetener to make a topping or sauce, or they can be added to baked goods, such as muffins. They are also good chopped with oranges to make a relish.


There are four major varieties of cranberries: European, American, Mountain, and Highbush.

This variety is the most common in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses this variety as the standard for fresh cranberries and cranberries used for juice. This variety is bright red.

This variety is smaller than the American and is eaten less often than other varieties. It is primarily ornamental.

This variety is approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter and is bright red to dark red. It is occasionally found in markets.

This variety is primarily used for jellies, jams, and sauces. It is also used as an ornamental fruit.

Make Cranberries Part of Your 5 A Day Plan

• Add dried cranberries to your favorite hot or cold cereal for a tangy twist on breakfast.
• As an easy way to include cranberries in your diet, drink 100% juice blends that include cranberry juice.
• Sneak a few cranberries into your blueberry muffins to add color and flavor.
• Cranberries are not only for turkey. Top chicken or pork with a cranberry relish for a nice change.