Friday, December 3, 2010

Cranberry History and Lore

I also felt the need to provide you with some Cranberry History and Lore I got from the  Enjoy!  

Cranberry History and Lore

Cranberries are both a popular American food and closely linked to our history. Many books and websites list the cranberry as one of three fruits that are native to North America, the other two being the blueberry and the Concord grape.

However, this is not true as there are numerous other edible fruits native to North America. A better phrasing, which some sources use, is that cranberries are one of three fruits native to North American that are commercially grown on a large scale . Large being the operative word here as other varieties of native fruits are also grown commercially.
The name cranberry is actually a shortened version of crane berry or craneberry , which is the name given to the fruit by early settlers in North America because the shape of the flowers of the cranberry bush have a resemblance to the head of a crane.
Probably because cranberry sauce is a traditional Thanksgiving dish and Thanksgiving is associated with the Pilgrims in Massachusetts people often associate cranberry production with Massachusetts.
While Massachusetts is both a major producer of cranberries and the home of the first company to produce and sell canned cranberry sauce commercially (the Cape Cod Cranberry Company produced marketed in Massachusetts the first canned cranberry sauce in 1912 under the name Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce - the Cape Cod Cranberry Company later evolved into today's Ocean Spray Corporation) it is not the only state where cranberries are grown. Other major cranberry producing states are New Jersey, Oregon, Washington state and Wisconsin.
While cranberries may or may not have been served at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, the Pilgrims were aware of cranberries having been introduced to them by the Indians who had long used cranberries in their own cooking especially in the making of pemmican, a nutritious, high energy food that had a long shelf life but was also compact and traveled easily.
Pemmican generally consisted of mostly dried deer meat (elk, bison or meat of other available game was often used in place of deer) and fat along with various other ingredients such as dried fruits (cranberries being one option), maple sugar, dried, corn, etc. depending upon availability.
After drying, the meat and any other ingredients used were pulverized and mixed with fat to make the pemmican which was the main food eaten by Indians, the French Courier de Bios (fur traders in New France who traveled west from Montreal by water to trade, often illegally, with the Indians for furs) and nineteenth century Arctic explorers, while on long wilderness trips.
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, farmers began producing cranberries commercially for both domestic use and export to Europe. During the long siege of Petersburg, Virginia (June 15, 1864 - March 25, 1865) in the Civil War, the Union General Grant ordered cranberry sauce to be included with the supplies shipped to feed his troops. This was probably the first large scale use of cranberry sauce as a food and, given the large number of Union troops involved in the siege, enough apparently brought home fond memories of cranberry sauce that its popularity as a side dish caught on. Since cranberry sauce goes well with poultry, especially turkey, it soon evolved into a Thanksgiving staple.