Apples & Cranberries: Dynamic Holiday Duo

Apples have a long history, starting with Adam and Eve in the Bible, through the Stone Age, into the Roman Empire and Europe, then made their way from England to America with the early colonists. Even the story of Johnny Appleseed is based on a real colonist, John Chapman.

However, according to Joe Carcione, author of The Greengrocer, a small book I purchased many years ago, a Quaker pioneer named Henderson Lewelling should get more credit. Johnny Appleseed actually traveled only as far as the Ohio Valley, while Lewelling brought grafted fruit trees of all kinds to the West coast and may be responsible for making Washington State the largest apple-producing state.

Whether or not you believe the legends surrounding the early history of the apple in the United States, most of us will admit that this fruit is one we buy frequently, whether for eating as a snack, as applesauce, apple pie, apple cookies, or apple juice and cider. This is fortunate, since apples taste good and are good for you. While the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be an exaggeration, there is still a great deal of truth in this statement. This fruit seems to reflect the concept of Let food be your medicine.

The Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds by Dr. Joseph Kadans profiles the apple thus: “the apple stimulates all body secretions and is well known as a beverage (apple juice), health tonic, medicine, cosmetic and bowel regulator all in one. The large variety of minerals, especially potassium (italics mine) and vitamins especially Vitamin A (italics mine) strengthen the blood. Apples also contain malic and tartaric acid, which help prevent disturbances of the liver and digestion in general. (Pages 66-67)

Dr. Bernard Jensen notes in Foods that Heal that apples are an alkaline food, which is a positive trait. (Acid-Alkaline foods will be discussed in a future blog. Basically, we need more alkaline foods and tend to eat more acid foods such as meat, dairy, and most grains.) Jensen also writes that apples contain Vitamin G (a new one on me!), which promotes digestion and growth. Apples also help the body to absorb the iron in other foods, such as eggs, and are also good blood purifiers, helping combat high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. They may not keep the doctor away completely, but they may improve your next checkup!

Cranberries may not be as popular year round as apples, but at this time of year they may take center stage, especially on holiday tables. I purchase some extra (frozen) organic cranberries during this time so I can use them throughout the winter season. They are a beneficial food that add color and zing to my winter dishes. Only about three or four varieties of cranberries are grown in the U.S, compared with many more apple varieties. More than half of the cranberry crop was originally grown in the bogs of Massachusetts by Native Americans and adopted by the Pilgrims. Cranberries are still associated with New England, which seems to be their “home base.”

According to the www.cranberryinstitute.org these red berries contain phytonutrients (naturally derived plant compounds)*, particularly antioxidants, (any substance that inhibits the destructive effects of oxidation)*, which help optimize human health, combating such problems as gum disease, stomach ulcers, urinary tract infections. In addition, these nutrients may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. I find this important news, since post-menopausal women are at risk for heart disease and cancer.

One caveat:cranberries are high in acid (as in acid/alkaline above), especially when overcooked and combined with sugar. Kadans suggests they should be avoided when they become highly acid-forming. This means that the best way to use cranberries is raw, as in the raw apple-cranberry relish recipe below.

Also combining cranberries with apples reduces the berries’ tartness, especially when paired with a very sweet apple. (Interesting fact: Apple experts, called pomologists, think that the first apples were probably small and sour, like the crabapple. So, the early apples used by Native Americans and the Pilgrims may have tasted tart, as do cranberries. Source: The Greengrocer.) If you do use a sweetener, try a little stevia* or fructose* in as small amounts as possible. I drink unsweetened cranberry juice with some unsweetened pomegranate or apple juice added to tone down the tartness and, at the same time, I have begun to acquire a taste for the tartness of cranberries. Tart is tangy, which livens up my palate.

So, why not try a couple of the recipes below for the holidays? Also, consider adding a few cranberries to your yogurt, oatmeal, or even salads. You might enjoy the zing!

*See Glossary for expanded definition


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CranApplesauce

Ingredients
One-two organic, sweet apples (try Honeycrisp)
One cup whole organic cranberries
Cinnamon stick
Apple juice
Honey

Directions

1. Wash, cut, and core apples. Peel and cut into smaller pieces and place in a saucepan with cinnamon stick; add a small amount of water or apple juice (sweeter results).
2. Cook apples until soft, adding cranberries near the end.
3. Add a small amount of honey for sweetness.
If the apples are too chunky, mash the sauce with a fork or potato masher. For smoother sauce, place in blender on Pulse for a few seconds. Cool and serve.


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Baked Apples

Ingredients

3-4 baking apples (try Rome)
1/2 cup organic currants or organic raisins+
one cup water or juice
cinnamon

Directions

1. Soak currants or raisins in water or juice. While they are soaking, wash and core the apples. Place in a baking pan.
2. Stuff apples with drained currants. Sprinkle on cinnamon. Pour soaking water over apples and bake at 350 degrees until soft. Add more water during baking, if necessary, to prevent burning.
3. Serve warm with yogurt or cream or cranberry-apple relish (recipe below).
(For sweeter taste, pour a little maple syrup over the apples before serving or topping them with yogurt or cream.)

+When fruit is dried, water is removed and the ratio of pesticides to dried fruit increases, so I always purchase organic dried fruit.


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Tart Apple-Cranberry Relish

Ingredients

One cup grated apple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 -1 cup organic cranberries, chopped
juice

Directions

1. Mix all the ingredients together, adding juice to moisten, if necessary. Also, add small amount of natural sweetener, if you think the dish is too tart.
2. This can also be placed on Pulse in the blender for a less coarse relish.
3. Serve as is, or stir into yogurt, oatmeal, or any place you want a tart, tangy taste!

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