The process of stewing cranberries in water and sugar, which is what we now consider traditional cranberry sauce, has been documented as far back as the 1630s. Cranberries were first grown in America in the 1800s, and during a process called as dry harvesting, the berries were manually plucked. This method is still used to harvest the fresh cranberries you see at the shop, however it was time-consuming and laborious. Cranberry sauce had become such a staple of American cuisine by the time of the Civil War that General Ulysses S. Grant ordered that soldiers receive them as part of their Thanksgiving feast. Someone discovered in the early 1900s that flooding cranberry bogs caused the berries to loosen from the vines until they fell off and floated to the surface. This process, known as wet harvesting, requires less time and labor than dry harvesting. Around the same time, Ocean Spray started selling the cranberry sauce cans that may have been a Thanksgiving staple in your childhood.
Whatever cranberry recipe you choose to serve for Thanksgiving, it may be the oldest item on your table.
Why do we eat cranberry sauce with our turkey?
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension claims that cranberries were used by American Indians as a food source, a fabric color, and a form of medicine. Only three commercially available fruits that are native to North America include the cranberry (the other two are blueberries and Concord grapes). In fact, cranberries can be found in both hemispheres, from the polar regions to the tropics. It is thought that the pilgrims and the American Indians would have eaten cranberries at the first Thanksgiving because of its significance and quantity in the 1500s.
It’s a common misconception that cranberries grow in water. On a perennial, low-growing vine, cranberries are produced. Cranberry vines have a lifespan of more than a century and can reach lengths of up to six feet. Cranberry vines love the impermeable layers of bogs comprised of sand, peat, gravel, and clay. Cranberries are frequently “wet harvested,” which means the bogs are inundated with water after the dark red, ripe berries have fallen off the vines, when they are being picked for juice or canning. The water-floating, ripe berries are drawn into a device for processing. Visit the popular among K–12 educators Wonderopolis website to see a brief video of a wet cranberry harvest.
A range of instructional programs are provided by Michigan State University Extension to help consumers and producers who are interested in eating healthily and developing Michigan’s local food system.
Are you a fan of cranberry sauce on your turkey?
The first known cookbook written by an American, The Art of Cookery by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796 includes a recipe for cranberry sauce.
Although it’s possible that the Pilgrims were aware of the wild cranberries that grew in the Massachusetts Bay region, it’s improbable that cranberry sauce was one of the dishes offered during the First Thanksgiving supper. No authentic sources regarding the First Thanksgiving feast mention cranberries. The only items described are venison, waterfowl, wild turkey, and “Indian corn.” The rest is still up for debate among food historians. Stuffings were a frequent manner to prepare birds for the table in the 17th century, despite the fact that they are not referenced in early sources.  Cranberries may have been utilized in the stuffing recipes, according to a “Thanksgiving Primer” issued by the Plimoth Plantation, but it is unlikely that they would have been turned into a sauce because sugar was extremely limited. 
In Hanson, Massachusetts, cranberry sauce was first made available to customers in North America in 1912.
 In 1941, canned cranberry sauce entered the market, enabling year-round sales of the good.
 Turkey, pork, chicken, and ham are just a few of the meats that can be paired with cranberry sauce.
In the United Kingdom and Canada, cranberry sauce is often consumed with turkey during Christmas or Thanksgiving, and it is rarely consumed or served in other settings there.
Is cranberry sauce a Thanksgiving staple?
Should canned cranberry sauce be served at Thanksgiving? Does the food actually go over well?
More than half (51%) of American households plan to include cranberry sauce in their holiday meal, according to an Ipsos survey of 1,020 adults. Whether you favor the traditional canned version or handmade versions, cranberry sauce is a staple at most American feasts.
According to AdWeek, Ocean Spray sells 67 million cans of canned jellied cranberry sauce between Thanksgiving and Christmas, controlling 70% of the market.
However, because of problems with the supply chain, it is more difficult to stock products this Christmas season, and some shops are running low on cranberry sauce. In advance of Thanksgiving, Publix, which has more than 1,280 stores in the southern United States, including Alabama, Florida, and Virginia, began restricting purchases of canned cranberry sauce and some other necessary items, such as jarred gravy and canned pie filling.
According to research firm IRI, cranberry sauce was only offered at 79% of U.S. shops during the week of November 7, down from 89% at the same time last year, according to CNN.
Why are cranberries and turkeys so crucial to Thanksgiving?
The original purpose of Thanksgiving Day was to celebrate a successful harvest. Before the European pilgrims arrived, the native Americans observed it. In areas that are now part of the United States, Thanksgiving was also observed by Spanish and French colonizers.
Virginia was first settled by Europeans in 1619. At the Plymouth Plantation, they observed a Thanksgiving holiday in 1621 as a way of giving thanks for their first abundant harvest. Squanto, a former slave in England where he picked up the English language, assisted the immigrants. He belonged to the Patuxet tribe of Native Americans. He was able to translate for the settlers thanks to his fluency in English. He showed them how to fish for eel and plant maize. During the first winter the settlers spent in America, they ran out of the supplies they had brought from home, but Massasoit, the head of the Wampanoag tribe, provided food to the immigrants.
There were 50 English settlers and 90 Wampanoags at the first Thanksgiving meal. Three days were dedicated to the feast.
Since when is cranberry sauce a Thanksgiving staple?
- One of the key ingredients of the traditional Thanksgiving meal is cranberry sauce.
- One of the few fruits that are native to the United States that are grown commercially is cranberries.
- It took until the 19th century for the typical cranberry sauce, which is sweetened with sugar, to gain popularity.
In America, the traditional Thanksgiving meal often features a large roast turkey surrounded by mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and, of course, cranberry sauce. However, individual family traditions and multicultural interpretations may vary.
Whether you favor canned or fresh, Americans have pretty much agreed that we should hold off on eating this sweet and sour side dish until November. But where did the custom originate?
Cranberries are one of the only Native American fruits
The only native American fruits that are grown commercially are cranberries, blueberries, and concord grapes. Therefore, if you had to choose a fruit to symbolize the American crop, this would be it.
Despite what your elementary school teacher may have told you, we can’t say for sure what was served at the first Thanksgiving, but there are records of Pilgrim governor Willam Bradford sending four men on a “fowling mission,” which could have involved hunting for a turkey, goose, duck, or swan, according to the History Channel.
Beyond that, we have no way of knowing what was on the menu. It is likely that they were discovered on Thanksgiving Day, 1621, as Native Americans were known to regularly consume cranberries and use them as a natural dye for clothes. But it wasn’t until much later that sweetened cranberry sauce was created.
The original cranberry sauce recipe origins
Cranberries could not be sweetened, even if they were naturally occurring in the Americas. According to the History Channel, sugar cane was carried here by the first Americans, but it took them nearly 50 years to figure out how to make it grow in the strange environment.
By the 18th century, cranberry sauce was a well-known side dish for game meat like turkey, according to reports of the original Native American cranberry sauce recipes, which were made simply with sugar and water.
According to The Washington Post, Amelia Simmons’ 1796 textbook American Cookery has the first reference to a cranberry sauce recipe and instructs readers to serve roast turkey with “boiled onions and cranberry-sauce.”
Ocean Spray reinvents the way cranberries are harvested
Farmers began dry-harvesting cranberries from vines in the early 19th century, which was a laborious and challenging procedure. Cranberries didn’t become more commercially feasible until Ocean Spray changed the game in the 1930s by introducing the wet harvest, which is known by the iconic image of a farmer standing up to his waist in a swamp covered in cranberries.
It just only a few individuals to wait until the cranberries float to the surface of the flooded bog in order to harvest the crop, as opposed to numerous workers picking the cranberries off vines on dry land.
What about canned cranberries?
The invention of canned cranberry jelly was actually a response to a problem with the delicate and fussy character of cranberry harvests: the current mechanical harvesting technique frequently damages the fragile, sour berries, making them unsuitable for sale.
Marcus L. Urann, who had the original idea, worked with Ocean Spray to find a solution, which they have been doing since 1912, by turning these shabby-looking berries into a jelly-like consistency.
What stands for a cranberry?
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There is a myth among the Lenni Lenape Indians about how cranberries arrived in New Jersey thousands of years ago.
In that story, the enormous mastodon served as the pack animal for all the other creatures but thought of himself as the king of the beasts and revolted, starting a huge fight.
When the conflict eventually came to a close, the Great Spirit smote the participants with lightning. It left the country in ruins and turned it into a marsh. Green plants planted by the Great Spirit covered the ugliness, and these vines later bore cranberries, a colorful fruit.
Today, the Pine Barrens bogs in Southern New Jersey, which are within a short distance from the shore, provide approximately 85% of the state’s cranberry supply.
After New England and Wisconsin, New Jersey is the third-largest cranberry producer in the US.
Cranberries were given a prominent place in Lenni Lenape society. Cranberries were used by the great Sachem of the Delawares to symbolize enduring peace and goodwill at peace festivals, and it was recognized as a symbol of peace. The name “Pakimintzen” for the Sachem translates to “cranberry eater.”
Cranberries were a primary food, medicine, and textile dye for the Native Americans. Friendly Indians offered the berry to the earliest settlers, who soon realized its importance and flexibility.
Cranberries were utilized by the Indians to make pemmican, which was a combination of dried venison, fat, and cranberries. The materials were ground to a pulp, formed into cakes, and baked on rocks in the sun. The Indians also understood how to produce a cranberry poultice that served as a potent remedy for blood poisoning.
Only the cranberry can be found only in North America. In no other country in the world has it ever been grown commercially.
Raking on the flood, which took the role of the manual approach on many bogs in the 1920s, is currently one of the most common ways to gather cranberries in Southern Jersey.
This is accomplished by flooding the marshes, which causes the vines to float to the surface where they are picked up by big rakes with long, curved teeth.
Wetpicking involves pushing water reels over the bog to collect the berries after the bogs have been flooded. This method of harvesting is known as “beating the bogs,” and the water reel is referred to as a “egg beater” since it functions somewhat similarly to an egg beater in the kitchen. The water is stirred up by two sets of rotating reels, which also cause the berries to float free and gather into a red mass.
The “wetpick or waterreel method of hauling in cranberries” is being tested in Southern Jersey; this approach was developed by Wisconsin and West Coast cranberry growers. William S. Haines of Chatsworth, whose 5,000-acre cranberry and blueberry property with more than 700 acres covered in cranberry vines, was a prominent pioneer in the wetpick trials that were initially conducted in New Jersey in 1962.
The Chatsworth property in the Pine Barrens was created by his father and uncle, Ralph and Ethelbert Haines, who gave it the catchy moniker of Hog Wallow. Today, Hog Wallow yields up to 185 barrels of cranberries per acre, with an approximate 40,000 barrel crop per year.
Wetpicking, which allowed Mr. Haines to gather 95% of the berries in less than half the time it required to drypick them, is what Mr. Haines credits for his record crops. The risk of frost damage is also reduced by the earlier harvest.
Wetpicking involves opening a reservoir’s floodgates so that water may fall into ditches and over vines to a height of about 18 inches, just high enough for the water reel or egg beater to function.
Every part of cranberry production has been heavily influenced by New Jersey residents. Martin Decker Jr., an agricultural engineer at Rutgers University, created the cranberry dryer. It is made up of air chambers covered by an inclining screen. The berries are dried before being cooled by the air as they pass through the screen.
an orange Additionally, it must show that it has “the Jersey bounce.” Each fruit has seven chances to pass through four-inch wooden barriers thanks to mechanical separators. Only the firm berries are sent to the screening rooms, where keen-eyed ladies pick out other berries that are below par. Berries that fail to pass the barriers are tossed.
The color of cranberries varies greatly depending on how they were grown. The color tends to deepen the longer the fruit is left on the vines.
From Salem, New Jersey, pickled cranberries were sent to Europe as early as 1700. However, Andrew J. Rider, who eventually founded Trenton’s Rider College, deserves all the credit for turning the cranberry into a global favorite. On a cruise to England, he brought many crates of cranberries. He discussed the fruit with the chef before serving it as sauce to other passengers. He always had a tiny bouquet of cranberries in his buttonhole whenever he showed up on the deck. The miniature bouquets began to be worn by other passengers.
When Mr. Rider wanted to make Queen Victoria a cranberry fancier, he made his greatest effort. She was renowned for disliking publicity gimmicks. Rider made contact with the then-Prince of Wales, afterwards known as King Edward VII, who authorized the shipment of a container to his house, St. James Palace.
A little while later, the Prince’s secretary informed Mr. Rider in a letter that “they will not be turned away” if grapes were sent to her Royal Highness at Buckingham Palace. Therefore, Queen Victoria had to like them. As soon as the information spread, devoted subjects started to request them. The “cranberry king of New Jersey” was Rider, who owned 500 acres of cranberry bogs in Hammonton.
The Ocean Spray Corporation, one of the local cooperatives producing cranberries, operates a plant in Southern Jersey on property that once belonged to Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon I, Emperor of France. After his brother was overthrown, Joseph, the monarch of Spain and Naples during Napoleon’s rule, traveled to Bordertown in search of refuge.
Ocean Spray has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Joseph Bonaparte. It appears that a railroad that had initially acquired title to the land through a merger in 1872 borders on two strips of land that surround the Bordentown processing factory. As a right-of-way for the first New Jersey railroad, one of the merging parties had acquired the land from Joseph Bonaparte in 1836.
When Bonaparte sold the land to the railroad, he included a “reverted clause” that said that if the train stopped using the property, it would revert to Bonaparte’s estate. Ocean Spray wants to make sure it now has a clear title to the land it purchased in case there are any Bonaparte relatives still alive, even if legal researchers claim there are none.
The cranberry has definitely been New Jersey’s most intriguing fruit throughout history, and every fall, when the bogs turn into a “sea of ruby red,” it is an undeniable indication that one of the largest cranberry days of all—Christmas—is approaching.