As a child on Cape Cod, I marked the passing of the seasons by the activity in the cranberry bogs throughout the landscape. These were big, commercial operations that had helicopters to come in to pick up their crops. We skated on the bogs in the winter, and walked around them in the spring and summer.
When I moved to the Island 15 years ago, I was delighted to learn that we have one of the nation’s only organic cranberry bogs, run by Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF). Unlike the bogs of my youth, VOLF dry-harvests its crop. Cranberries grow on a low vine. If you haven’t seen one in real life, it is definitely worth it to find a picture of one. Through Island Grown Schools, we’ve been able to share this magic of harvesting cranberries through school field trips to the VOLF bog. Even better, their cranberries are for sale at Cronig’s and Morning Glory Farm, so everyone can enjoy this truly local berry. I buy several bags and eat them fresh, and also toss them into the freezer to use through the winter.
Try this cranberry tea to warm you up on a rainy day!
Recipe by Robin Forte
4 cups water
2 12-oz. bags of fresh or frozen cranberries
3 Fuji apples, cored and diced (or whatever apple you prefer)
2 whole cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
juice of 3 oranges
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. honey
In a medium stockpot, bring water to a boil. Then add the cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Cook on medium heat for at least 20 minutes, until all cranberries are cracked and gushy. Turn off heat, and remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
Strain liquid through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a container, pressing the juice out of the cranberries and apples with a large spoon. Set the fruit remains aside (you can use this as the base of a cranberry sauce or chutney), or add it to your compost.
Once the liquid has cooled a bit, strain the lemon and orange juice into the cranberry liquid. Add the honey for some sweetness. You can serve this as hot tea or iced! Just use 1:2 ratio of cranberry liquid to hot water.