Mountain Cranberry Relish

September 14, 2008
by Jack McNulty

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Fresh Mountain Cranberries Make Fantastic Preserves, Chutneys, Compotes, Sauces and Pies

One of the real special treats this time of year has to be the arrival of fresh Mountain Cranberries (Preiselbeeren). You have to be quick and persistent to find these seasonal treats as they are only available for about 2-3 weeks each year and only with a few vendors at fresh food markets – but your efforts will be rewarded.

Fresh mountain cranberries make fantastic preserves, chutneys, compotes, sauces and pies. They are a core autumn ingredient throughout central and northern Europe, often paired with a variety of game dishes.

As its name suggests, the mountain cranberry is closely related to the large American cranberry. Both fruits are extensions of the Ericaceae family tree, which also bring us the blueberry. Most of these fruits are quite tart and have high concentrations of vitamin C, dietary fiber and high levels of antioxidants. 

Mountain cranberries are available from about mid-September until the first week or two of October. If you happen to find them at the market, then make sure you are a bit picky in your selection. Healthy fresh mountain cranberries should be evenly colored and quite firm. Avoid those which have any discoloration or a shriveled appearance. White berries are unripe and should be discarded. Fresh berries can be stored in the refrigerator for about 1-2 weeks, or quickly frozen and kept for up to one year.

Mountain cranberries can be used as a substitute for cranberries in any recipe – or if you prefer, use frozen cranberries instead of fresh mountain cranberries if you can’t find them at your favorite market.  Here’s how we like making cranberry relish:

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cranberry relish
We like making about one liter (double this recipe) of relish each year, which we can easily use throughout the entire winter. We serve cranberry relish with game dishes, potatoes, polenta and cheese.

Start by washing carefully 500 gr. of fresh mountain cranberries. Make sure to discard any shriveled or white berries. Place the berries in a large glass bowl with 100 gr. sugar, 2 tablespoons of honey, a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of crushed anise seeds. Add one sectioned orange to the bowl with 1 dl. water or white wine, then cover with plastic wrap and leave the mixture at room temperature for one night. The next day, place the entire contents in a heavy pot and bring the mixture slowly to a boil. Simmer until the cranberries are soft – about 10 minutes. Immediately strain and reserve the mixture, making sure to reserve the juices in a clean pot. Reduce the remaining liquid over medium-high heat until the juices are quite thick. Add the reserved cranberry mixture to the juices and cook for about one minute, then remove the pot from the heat. The cranberry relish is ready to eat right away, but you can also seal the relish in warm sterilized jars and keep for up to one year.