Cooking with Cranberries
Cranberries are often associated with sweet recipes, but they can also be used in delicious, savory, paleo recipes. In addition to the great flavor possibilities of cranberries, they also have incredible health benefits. Despite all the great reasons to cook with cranberries, they’re all too often seen only as the main ingredient of the gelatinous, canned cranberry sauce that always seems to appear on Grandma’s Thanksgiving table.
According to the Cranberry Institute, cranberries are rich in antioxidants, which help protect our bodies against free radicals. The antioxidants contained in cranberries also serve as an anti-inflammatory agent in our bodies, and research has shown that inflammation is one of the leading causes of many of our modern day diseases and afflictions.
In addition to antioxidants that help protect our bodies against certain cancers, heart disease and other diseases, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs) and a type of phytochemicals called tannins, which have known health benefits. PACs help prevent certain bacteria, including E. coli, from adhering to the wall of the urinary tract. They may also have an anti-adhesion effect on the bacteria that causes gum disease and stomach ulcers. Tannins can aid in the treatment of asthma, the inhibition of the oxidation of bad cholesterol and the promotion of heart health.
There are some tips to remember when cooking with cranberries:
- Add a small amount of baking soda to neutralize the acidity of the berries
- Cook cranberries only until they pop, otherwise they will become mushy and the taste will become more bitter
- Frozen cranberries can be used without being defrosted first
- Cranberries are generally in season from early fall through December
- When purchasing, look for berries that are bright red and shiny. Ripe cranberries should bounce when they are dropped.
- When making cranberry sauce, add the juice of an orange to cut the tart flavor without adding sugar or other sweeteners
There are numerous great ways to incorporate cranberries into your paleo diet, but here are a few good options:
- Various cranberry sauces to top chicken, turkey or pork
- Cranberry relish (with raw cranberries), as a side dish or atop meat
- Added to Brussels sprouts
- Mixed with avocados to make salsa
- Used to make sauce for ribs
- Used in chutney
- In paleo-friendly smoothies
- As a glaze for salmon
- As a topper for salads
- To make cranberry balsamic vinaigrette
- As a side dish, mixed with beets and red cabbage
- Combined with apples and acorn squash
- Used to make a cranberry herb sauce