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Cranberry Sauce: Turkey Topper and Table Talk

Easy to make and it travels well, bringing Garden State history to the table.

When the hosts take up your offer to bring something for Thanksgiving, do it Garden State-style with homemade cranberry sauce.

This dish is pretty and almost as easy as opening a can. It also tells a story of New Jersey history, which might be useful table talk at Thanksgiving dinner.

Cranberries have grown in New Jersey for centuries. One of the earliest written references is a letter from emigrant Mahon Stacy.

Writing to his brother in 1680, Stacy said, "We have from the time called May until Michaelmas a great store of very good wild fruits as strawberries, cranberries and hurtleberries. The cranberries, much like cherries for color and bigness, may be kept until fruit comes in again. An excellent sauce is made of them for venison, turkeys and other great fowl and they are better to make tarts than either gooseberries or cherries. We have them brot to our homes by the Indians in great plenty."

Cranberry cultivation in New Jersey began around 1840. John Webb is said to have established a cranberry bog in Ocean County. He sold his wares to whalers, who took them to sea. Cranberries contain vitamin C, which helped them ward off scurvy. Webb earned $50 per barrel, making cranberries a valuable commodity.

Still today, "cranberrying" is a major industry in NJ, with approximately 3,500 acres under cultivation. The state ranks third in the nation in cranberry production, behind Massachusetts and Wisconsin, and produces about 10 percent of the nation's berries.

For the literature-minded, here's a cranberry-themed trivia question: What work of classic American fiction describes a main character as "crazy," because he refused cranberries?

So a little history, literary trivia, some vitamins and a recipe for basic cranberry sauce; what's not to be thankful for?

Traditional Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag of cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

Combine in a saucepan and stir. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, or until the berries begin to pop. Turn off the heat. Leave the sauce on the burner to cool. That's it: you now have cranberry sauce.

The method is the same for the two variations that follow.

Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag (12-0unce) Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1 Cup packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (or more if you like ginger) grated ginger

Savory Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 Bag (12-0unce) Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1 Cup packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons horseradish

Answer: The book is Moby Dick and the character is Captain Ahab. A sailor said of Ahab, "Go out with that crazy Ahab? Never! He refused to take cranberries aboard. A man could get scurvy, or worse, whaling with the likes of 'im."

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