I had some perilously ripe bananas perfect for baking with, so I made banana bread today, and for some seasonal fun, I added chopped fresh cranberries to the bread, as an experiment. It turns out, fresh cranberries are quite lovely-looking, and tasting, in banana bread. They were in the Kindness Cake recipe too. They are perfect in sweet baked goods because their tartness balances the flavors, and I like them better than dried cranberries because their flavor is more subtle, and they don’t get stuck in your teeth.
The cranberry is one of the traditional American Thanksgiving foods that is actually native to this country. They were first eaten by Algonquien Native Americans, and may have been one of the foods they shared with the early British settlers in Massachusetts. According to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, commercial cranberry cultivation began in the northern US in the 19th century. Contrary to what you might think, cranberries are not grown in water. They are grown in shallow beds that are flooded at harvest time, because cranberries float and it’s easier to harvest them that way. New England is particularly known for its cranberries, and there are lots of recipes from this region using cranberries as a result. Most of you are probably familiar with the cranberry jelly in a can. It was first produced in Massachusetts in 1912, but not available nationally until 1941.
Fresh cranberries are in stores seasonally, and that season is Now. They freeze exceptionally well, so I encourage you to buy a few extra bags of fresh cranberries over the next few weeks, pack them in zip top freezer bags, and toss them in the freezer to enjoy long after the holidays are over, when you’re looking for something bright and bold to liven up your winter meals. Give them a try in your own banana bread recipe.