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Cranberries, those American free spirits, are yet another reason to be proud of Oregon.  Grown in “bogs,” cultivated flooded areas, along the central coast, our cranberries are jewel-toned, drop-dead gorgeous, and better than other cranberries.  OK, maybe that last statement is a bit of an exaggeration, but think of it this way:  you know the really pretty, dark red, perfectly unmottled cranberries you see in your bag of Ocean Spray?  Those are the ones from Oregon.  :)

So where can you purchase these beauties?

Almost nowhere.

The Oregon cranberry crop is a commercial crop, and aside from a few farms and operations that have a personal, longstanding relationship with the cranberry growers on the coast, they are shipped out of the area and sent to the big corporate cranberry outfits away from the fair Pacific breezes.

We are fortunate enough to have one of those insiders: Detering’s Orchards in Harrisburg.  You can check out their site, listed to the right.  I spoke with the ladies there yesterday, and they explained that they drive down to Bandon to pick up a load of cranberries in the weeks before Thanksgiving, then bag them up in 2-lb bags for their customers.  They confirmed that you can’t even get them wholesale, and said that they probably won’t make the drive back to Bandon this season.  The prices are, well, almost embarrassing.  They could be charging twice what they’re charging without any complaints.  They should be. And the cranberries are beautiful and 100% local.  You don’t even have to pick out the pretty ones from the Ocean Spray bag.

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For those of you interested in my Gifts from the Kitchen class on December 13 — yes, I bought a bunch of them.  I couldn’t resist.  We’ll be doing local cranberry chutney or jams; I haven’t decided yet.  Are you still waiting to sign up? Comment here, or send me an email at wellsuited at gmail dot com, and I’ll get you set up.

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If you are unable to make it out to Detering’s Orchards before they run out, you can also purchase *frozen* local cranberries from the Willamette Valley Fruit Company at Market of Choice on 29th (and certainly other places — please comment if you know of others).  I don’t think freezing changes much of anything when you’re making cranberry sauce, since you want a cooked-down product, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Also worth noting: a reader commented that she’s seen a low-scale operation in previous years operating out of the parking lot in the Oakway center the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Apparently, a pickup truck full of the ruby darlings shows up from the coast, and you can get your cranberry fix that way.  Party in the back, indeed.    I’d love to hear of more places, if you know them!

Now, iffen you’re wanting a cranberry sauce recipe…jest sit right down and Auntie Eugenia will take care of y’all.

The following is, without any doubt, the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever tasted. For years, I made the cranberry-orange-cook-the-cranberries-til-they-pop-then-refrigerate-overnight sauce, which is fine, but one year, a friend brought this dish to my annual dinner, and I was hooked. The consistency and mouthfeel are divine: velvety, melty sweetness with just a few punches of tart to make it interesting. Being a fan of the tart punchiness myself, I added hot pepper and ginger to his recipe to make it utterly fascinating.

Punchy Cranberry Sauce

24 oz. cranberries (equivalent of two standard bags of berries)*
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups orange juice
zest of one orange
3 cinnamon sticks
2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
2 dried hot peppers (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to the barest low simmer. Cook uncovered for about two hours, mushing the berries into a pulp after about an hour. In the second hour, watch the pot for potential burning, stirring frequently. The liquid will cook down and the berries will dissolve into a spreadable, thick, jam-like consistency. Remove cinnamon sticks, ginger, and hot peppers before serving. Good warm or cold.  You might want to make a double batch.  Last year, mine was gone before I had a chance to get seconds!

* The Detering’s bags, as I mentioned, are 2 lbs., or 32 oz.  Increase the orange juice and the sugar by a skosh if you have 32 oz.  This isn’t an exact science, so don’t worry too much about it.

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