I think cranberry sauce is one of my favourite things about Thanksgiving dinner. Bright red and sweet, it’s like a little treat with all that meat and veg.
Cranberries are native to North America and are related to the blueberry. Used by First Nations people as food, medicine and dye, they were likely introduced to settlers in New England to become part of the first Thanksgiving feast. While cranberries grow wild, the ones we get have been cultivated for easy harvesting. Grown either in wetlands or areas with a shallow water table, the area is flooded when the cranberries are ripe and the berries are removed by machine. Since the berries float, this creates the picturesque cranberry bog we see in photos or on television ads.
This wet method of harvesting is usually done for berries destined to be processed into juice or jelly. Some berries are still dry-harvested (picked by hand or with gentle machinery that doesn’t harm the vines), and these are more likely to be the ones sold to consumers whole.