Sunday, October 11, 2009
When the air gets brisk and the leaves put on their golden display it's time to harvest cranberries. Massachusetts is the 2nd largest producer of cranberries in the United States with Wisconsin being the largest. The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America - the Concord grape and blueberry being the others. Cranberries were widely found in Massachusetts, as documented by the Pilgrims who settled here. Rumor has it that cranberries may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth. Recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s.
Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines that have slender, wiry stems and small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink in the spring which eventually yields a large red berry in the fall. The plants are found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the United States. The name cranberry derives from "craneberry," first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane.
We are lucky enough to live in the heart of cranberry country.
As a matter of fact the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray is only a few miles from our house. So what does one do when it's cranberry season? Why you celebrate this colorful fall bounty by visiting the annual Cranberry Festival.
There are several cranberry festivals all over our region, but our favorite is the one hosted by Edaville in Carver, Massachusetts. Edaville is a family amusement park famous for it's old-fashion train rides that wind through acres of cranberry bogs.
After a leisurely train ride we headed for the exhibitor booths and food court.
We stopped at the general store for some some delicious cranberry jam and warm bread.
I enjoyed watching the blacksmith do some forging. My grandfather was a blacksmith so this always brings back memories of visiting his shop when I was a child.
After enjoying some time talking to local craftsman we headed for the cranberry museum. Here's a display made entirely of vintage labels.
This is an early cranberry processing machine. The cranberries would move along the belt and the ones that bounced the most had the highest quality.
Some old cranberry crates.
A vintage barrel label.
These are dry harvesting machines.
A selection of vintage wooden cranberry scoops. These comb-like tools are used to harvest cranberries by hand.
This displays shows the different layers that comprise a cranberry bog.
Here's what's in those layers.
A vintage wet harvesting machine.
Vintage wheelbarrows that are made to hold crates of cranberries.
A vintage barrel.
This display shows the timeline of Ocean Spray.
A cool old truck.... every time I see one of these I want one for myself.
Another harvesting machine.
When we left the cranberry museum we headed for a tour of the bogs.
Here the cranberry bog has been flooded for harvesting.
Andy (on the left) stopped to chat with the man who had just finished harvesting one of the bogs.
As the vines are wet harvested they often get tangled in the machine and have to be cleaned out periodically.
These 3 cranberries look like eggs to me.
Here's a cranberry bog as it looks prior to being flooded. It's not very pretty at this stage but soon it will be a sea of red berries.
All of these cranberries got me itching to do some baking. I'll be posting my favorite cranberry bread recipe soon so stay tuned.