I grew up in central Manitoba where wild high bush cranberries are plentiful and my mother and us kids as well as most other families in the area picked them pretty well every year.
They are such a thing with me that I crave for them if I do not have some in what ever form, raw, jelly or juice at least once a year. The taste to me is out of this world and special. I think I am genetically hardwired for them.
In later life I moved to southern Ontario in the Toronto area. To my delight, one autumn day, I discovered wild high bush cranberries growing along the roadsides. I slammed on the brakes and ran to pick some and to my dismay I found them to be somewhat bitter. The same sweet tart flavor as the ones in Manitiba but with an added bitter taste component, that is best desctibed as a dirty socks taste and smell.
(Citified taste buds usually cannot handle this bitterness, as well as a lot of other good things, that good country folks learn to love.) After a few years of research and asking questions I learned that there are two kinds of highbush cranberries, the sweet and the bittersweet. My experience so far is that the bittersweet variety grow closer to Lake Ontario maybe up to roughly a 100 kms plus from the lake. I found some to be less bitter in some areas beyond the 100 or so km range.
So I experimented with making jelly with this bitter variety, because they were readily available, and discovered that the simplist way to make jelly out of these bitter ones, is to simply pick as much berries as you like and clean them of course, (use only the reddest healthiest looking berries, do not use the orange ones, they are not fully developed and more bitter. Better to pick them that way, then to sort and clean after.
I put the berries in a stainless steel pot and cover with water, bring to low boil and turn off heat. No need to boil more, just enough to soften the skin, this way you preserve the vitamins and enzymes as much as possible.
I press the juice out by putting some berries in a good quality strong large sieve and pressing the berries with a good strong big spoon till all the juice is pressed out into a suitable container. Use the water with the berries. Discard seeds and skins. Or if you wish you can add some hot water to the seeds and skins, stir well, and run throught sieve one more time to get out a bit more juice and add to your other juice to extend your amount a bit if you don't have much juice. Try a bit on the side first to see if you like it.
Add enough sugar to make the juice mixture palatable. Pretty well close to one part sugar to one part juice, unless you are a hard core low or no sugar type, or diabetic, you can try less sugar, or some sugar substitutes or some sugar and some sugar substitute. Experiment as you like.
Let the juice cool in the fridge or, freezer, if you want it as cold as possible as quick as possible.
I use a packet of orange jello powder and make orange jello as directed and simply use (substitute) the cold water portion with the cranberry juice.
The directions on the jello box usually calls for adding jello powder to 1 cup boiling water, dissolve thoroughly, then I add just under a cup of cold cranberry juice to the hot water mixture.
I use about 7/8 of a cup of juice to make a firmer jelly. Put in fridge until jelled and vo-la you have a delightful jelly in which the bitterness is well masked. I tried cherry jello and it tastes good also. ( I use a 500 ml plastic container, like the ones from sour cream or cottage cheese. )
Spread on toast with peanut butter or eat like jello in a bowl and with some cream or ice cream or yogurt, or any other way that your heart desires.
I tried adding 1/8 cup 35% whipping cream to 3/4 cup cranberry juice, stir well, then add to the boiling water jello mixture also, and it was wonderful too. Even less bitterness.
This method takes the least amount of time and jello powder costs less than pectin and you do not have to over boil the juice, therefore preserving the vitamins and enzymes to some degree. Maybe you can find some way to squeeze the juice out without cooking and make a raw juice jello and save all the nutrition if you are a hard core raw food type.
This jello will keep in the fridge for a couple of months at least.
Another delicious and medicinal way (I am sure) to use this cranberry is to just make the juice and add sugar to taste as explained above. But instead of making jelly, just put in a jar (and put in the fridge to keep longer).
If you can drink it straight, more power to you, it is not too bad cut with apple juice or orange juice, half and half, but it makes a delightful tea, by simply adding a couple of teaspoons of juice to a cup of boiling water. A quart or litre of this juice goes a long way. It will also keep in the fridge a long time if mixed with sugar half and half.
I have a neighbor couple that recently moved from Lithuania and it was his idea to use it as a tea. Such teas are customary in their country. It is delicious and I am sure, theraputic for something. No bitter taste, this way.
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