Columbus Day = Time to pick the cranberries!

Columbus Day marks the date of a very enjoyable autumnal ritual of mine – picking wild cranberries.

Today was a gorgeous day for a slog through my favorite bog.

Panoramic view of a bog

Panoramic view of a bog

Closeup view of bog

Closeup view of bog

In particular, I was hoping to find the fruit of Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon).

First cranberry! (Large Cranberry = Vaccinium macrocarpon)

First cranberry!

Ripe cranberry ensconced in diversity of bog plantlife

Ripe cranberry ensconced in diversity of bog plantlife

My cran-apple lunch out on the bog

My cran-apple lunch out on the bog

This year, I actually found very few.  The hard freeze (especially in this lowland) during the peak bloom time of these plants clearly prevented many of them from bearing fruit.

Ripeness, size and quality of the cranberries I found

Ripeness, size and quality of the cranberries I found

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my outing and found enough to add to baked goodies later this fall and this coming winter.

Looking for some culinary inspiration with cranberries?  Take a peak at these suggestions.

Wild Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce, New England Style

Cranberry Mors

Homemade Fresh Cranberry Juice

Wild Cranberry Jelly

Cranberry Recipes: Create a Cranberry Feast

Cranberry-Wild Rice Bake

Cranberry-Wild Rice Stuffing

Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad

Fresh Cranberry Desserts

Cranberry and Wild Blueberry Pie

Want to know more about wild cranberries?  Read this.

Happy trails!

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Spicebush berries

Now is the time to find these beautiful ruby red berries throughout our area.

Spicebush berries

Spicebush berries

Spicebush is an understory shrub found in open forests and along forest edges in rich, moderately moist soils.  It typically does not grow much more than about eight feet tall.

In the latter half of April, Spicebush can be found blooming throughout our area.

Spicebush

Spicebush

However, as shown above at this time of year, our focus shifts to the red berries that these shrubs have produced.  Their aromatic spiciness lend themselves to some culinary creativity.

Recipes for your consideration:

Spicebush Tea

Makes a single serving of hot tea.

  1. Place one tablespoon of chopped berries in a cup of just boiled water and let steep for 15 minutes.

Spicebush Ice Cream
Makes approximately 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints half and half, OR 1 pint heavy cream plus 1 pint whole milk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground spicebush berries
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
  1. Over medium-low heat, bring one up of the cream, the honey, and the salt to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
  2. Whisk in the remaining cup of cream, the milk, the ground spicebush, and the vanilla if using. Cover and refrigerate overnight or as long as twenty-four hours.
  3. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and follow the machine manufacturer’s instructions to freeze.

Spicebush Berry Ice Cream

Makes about 1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. whole milk or almond milk
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • About 40 spicebush berries
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Have the bowl of the ice cream maker frozen and ready to use.
  2. In a blender, blend the spicebush berries and whole milk or almond milk until the berries are ground into small specks.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, ground berries, cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. As the milk mixture is heating, combine the yolks and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Whisk until the yolks are light yellow and thick.
  5. Once the milk/cream mixture has just stated to boil, whisk about 1/3 of it into the yolk mixture. Add another 1/3 of the hot milk to the yolks, then add it all back into the saucepan. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir the mixture over low heat for 3-5 minutes, until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Do not let the custard come to a boil or the yolks will be overcooked.
  6. Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer to catch any lumps and stir in the vanilla extract. Cover and chill.
  7. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for your ice cream machine, and churn the custard until thickened, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a freezer container and chill until firm.

Spicebush Poached Crab Apples

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cherry-sized crab apples, stems still attached
  • 1/4 cup sweet Riesling
  • 1/8 cup white sugar
  • 2 dried spicebush berries
  • Pinch salt
  1. Wash crabapples and set aside.
  2. In a small pot, combine the sweet Riesling, sugar, spicebush berries and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  3. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, add the crabapples.
  4. Simmer for approximately five minutes, remove from heat once the skin on the apples bursts.
  5. Store the crabapples in the poaching liquid in the refrigerator. Enjoy cold!

Apple-Spicebush Chutney (recipe is in the narrative of a story that appeared in The Atlantic)

To learn more about this native shrub –

Plant Guide: Spicebush (USDA PLANTS Database)

Happy trails!