how to make a cranberry
You’ll be amazed at the difficulty – and downright strangeness – involved in growing a crop of cranberries…
We know and love it as the piquantly delicious ingredient in our American Road Trip Muesli. But if you’ve never grown a cranberry yourself then you probably don’t realise just how tricky – and frankly, bizarre – the process is.
So we thank all the clever and resourceful cranberry farmers out there – and provide these handy instructions to anyone interested in joining their ranks!
The Dorset Cereals guide to cranberry farming in six not-at-all-easy steps…
Step 1: Locate your bog
Yes, that’s right: cranberries grow in bogs. Acidic ones.
Ideally your bog will be in one of the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere where the Vaccinium macrocarpon species naturally grows. North America is perfect. Watch out for grizzlies though – in 17th-century New England cranberries were also known ‘bearberries’, because bears sometimes came along and ate them.
If you have successfully identified an available bear-free bog skip to Step 3. If not, then you’ll need to build your own – continue to Step 2 for instructions…
Step 2: Prepare your bog
Take a field with ready access to fresh water, dig it out to an even depth and line it with successive layers of sand, peat, gravel and clay. It should end up about a couple of feet deep. The idea is that your field should now be able to hold water.
Step 3: Plant your one-year cranberry vine cuttings
Cranberry vines grow up to seven foot long and and eight inches in height, have wiry stems, small evergreen leaves and distinctive dark pink flowers pollinated by bees.
Plant vines that are a year old, water them regularly and wait for three or four years.
Step 4: Flood your bog
To start with the berries in your bog will be light green, but when they’re ripe they’ll become plump and red. When that happens (it will be autumn) you’ll need to somehow flood your bog to a depth of about eighteen inches. Good luck!
Step 5. Loosen your cranberries
Now use water reels known as ‘eggbeaters’ (a bit like a lawn mower that floats) to agitate the bog water so that the individual cranberries are loosened from the vines and float free. Be careful, this takes a fair bit of skill.
Step 6. Scoop off the cranberries. You’re done!
Congratulations – you’ve made your own cranberries!
Now you can smash them into a sauce (ideal to go with your Christmas turkey) or turn them into a juice and make Cosmopolitan cocktails.
However, we like them dried and blended with oats, barley, almonds and orange zest to make our intrepid American Road Trip muesli, inspired by Route 66 and the great open spaces of America.