Despite their name, highbush cranberries aren’t actually cranberries. High bush cranberries are actually in the honeysuckle family and are closely related to elderberries. (Vivian Mork Yéilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly)

Despite their name, highbush cranberries aren’t actually cranberries. High bush cranberries are actually in the honeysuckle family and are closely related to elderberries. (Vivian Mork Yéilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly)

Highbush holidays: Recipes using the berries

These are some tasty ways to use those not-actually cranberries this season.

By Vivian Mork Yéilk’

For the Capital City Weekly

I can’t believe I’m starting to celebrate Christmas this year before Thanksgiving. I know I am not the only one. I’ve always been one of those people who never did that. I put lights up right after the Public Market in Juneau every year. Planet Alaska always had a table at the Public Market. We would work through Thanksgiving and make a quick stop at the houses of friends or family and keep on working. I’d rest a day or two and then pull out the eggnog, lights, Christmas music and line up the classic movies. This year, there is not a physical Public Market, but they have gone virtual this year for those of you who want to support local sales as much as possible this holiday season.

I feel like I have to purposely grab onto as much good as I can find as the days get shorter this year. I started my Christmas movie line up with “The Ref,” “Die Hard,” “Rare Exports,” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” because that’s just the kind of person I am. I’m probably going to need Costco eggnog this year. Most importantly, I am calling and Zooming with as many friends and family as I can right now because I know people are going through hard times everywhere. I am also not a person who usually uses Zoom either. This year it is important to me so I’m spending hours chatting and listening to friends and family.

The reoccurring conversation we are all having is how much we miss each other, and how difficult this holiday season will be. One of the ways I show people that I care about them is by making them food I have harvested. This year everyone is getting jams, jellies, syrups, teas and baked goods. I’m going to fight back the heavy many of us feel by rolling up my sleeves in the kitchen and putting all the love I can into everything I can imagine. I’m not buying anything from big name companies for presents for anyone. They are getting love in a jar that tastes like summer.

These zip-up baggies contain 32 ounces of highbush cranberries that can provide a taste of summertime during the holiday season. (Vivian Mork Yéilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly)

These zip-up baggies contain 32 ounces of highbush cranberries that can provide a taste of summertime during the holiday season. (Vivian Mork Yéilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly)

This summer was not a good year for blueberries here in Juneau, but it was an excellent year for highbush and lowbush cranberries. Did you know that highbush cranberries are not a cranberry? Lowbush cranberries are from the heath family and highbush cranberries are actually in the honeysuckle family and are closely related to elderberries. Some people dislike the musky smell of highbush cranberries and some people love the smell. Some people dislike the smell of the berries cooking but absolutely love the taste of the jelly, syrup, ketchup and other lovely things you can make with them.

All of these recipes can be adapted with a variety of spices and amounts based on your preferences of flavor. A wild harvesting tip for you all: highbush cranberries can still be harvested in the winter. So if you didn’t harvest any this summer you and your bubble of people can get out of the house and out into the woods to hunt for the beautiful red berries which are easy to spot now.

When you are out there hunting for highbush cranberries this winter make sure to stop and cherish the moment. Smell the forest, feel the breeze, listen to the birds off in the distance, breath deep, and take care of each other. If you are harvesting with people you don’t live with please wear a mask and keep a distance so that we can all have a less stressful Christmas.

Vivian Mork Yéilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly
While it wasn’t a good summer for blueberries in Juneau, it was a good season for lowbush and highbush cranberries.

Vivian Mork Yéilk’ / For the Capital City Weekly While it wasn’t a good summer for blueberries in Juneau, it was a good season for lowbush and highbush cranberries.

Highbush cranberry rhubarb orange juice

(Recipe from UAF Cooperative Extension Services)

2 cups highbush cranberry juice

2 cups rhubarb juice*

2 cup reconstituted orange juice

½ cup sugar

Combine all ingredients and chill before serving. Yield: 6 cups

To extract rhubarb juice: Cut rhubarb into ¼-inch pieces. Measure 4 cups cut rhubarb into a glass or plastic bowl or a stainless steel saucepan. Boil 2½ cups water and pour over rhubarb. Cover bowl or pan and let rhubarb and water stand for at least 6 hours. Strain through a jelly bag or a cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander. Do not squeeze. Yield: 2½ cups Rhubarb juice may also be extracted with a steam juicer. Follow the manufacturer’s direction for steam juicing rhubarb.

Holiday highbush cranberry juice

8 cups highbush cranberries

3⁄4 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

3⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large covered pot, simmer highbush cranberries and water for 30 minutes while stirring occasionally. Press berries through a strainer, cheesecloth, or food mill; discard skins and seeds. Measure 6 cups of the pulp into a pot and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes while stirring frequently. Cool. Drink fresh or refrigerate to use later or freeze to preserve.

Highbush cranberry ketchup

(Recipe from UAF Cooperative Extension Services)

6 cups highbush cranberries

1½ teaspoons celery salt

1½ teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon pepper

2 cups sugar

1½ teaspoons allspice

½ cup water

1½ cups onions, chopped fine

1 cup cider vinegar

1½ teaspoons ground cloves

Prepare jar lids. Cook the cranberries in the water until soft, then put through a food mill or a sieve to remove seeds. Add the onions, vinegar, sugar and spices. Boil until the mixture thickens and reaches the proper consistency. Immediately pour ketchup into hot canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and cover with prepared two-piece lids. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Serve this cranberry sauce with poultry or meat or use in baked beans. Yield: 4 cups.

Highbush cranberry apple butter

(Recipe from UAF Cooperative Extension Services)

8 cups of highbush cranberries

1 cup water

4 cups unsweetened applesauce

6 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon of allspice

½ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

1 lemon, grated rind and juice

Prepare jar lids. Boil berries and water together until berries pop and are soft. Put through a sieve or food mill to remove seeds. Reheat and add the applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Simmer until thick. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and grated rind. Spoon apple butter into jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and cover with prepared two-piece lids. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield: 8 cups.

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