Every time I think it's the last time I'll get to go berry picking for the season, another opportunity comes along and surprises me. On Sunday, I was invited to go cranberry picking with some friends. At her parent's house, Fiona was telling me that the leaves have fallen off the high bush cranberries which makes them both super easy to spot and to pick.
For those of you unfamiliar with them, high bush cranberries aren't at all like cranberries you find in the store. They look more like salmon eggs than they do low bush cranberries. They don't even taste much like low bush cranberries, either. They have a...well, I've heard it called a "muskiness", and that seems to be about accurate. They're also not as versatile. These aren't berries you really want to throw into pancakes or muffins. But they're still fruit, they're still very good for you, and there are plenty of things you can do with them. Fiona's mom was telling me about people she knows who make tasty juice from them (recipe at the bottom). I had dreams of making some sort of cranberry jelly for giving away to friends and family at Christmas, along with the fireweed jelly.
However, when we came across a giant patch of untouched low bush cranberries, I admit I jumped into it and almost completely ignored the high bush cranberries. Because they are more versatile, and they're both super tasty and super healthy. NOM. With a little bit of help from Fiona's mom, I picked almost a gallon of low bush cranberries before moving on and picking just a few high bush ones before we decided it was time to go. I didn't get nearly enough high bush berries to make jelly with. I might go back this weekend, or I might not. I haven't decided yet. The jelly idea is still very tempting.
I did end up getting more high bush cranberries than I managed to bring home, however. My friends were bringing their dogs out, so Pepper came along with us. For the most part she did her little security sweeps ("I gotta keep Mom safe!") and confusedly watched me picking berries. When the group moved on to a better high bush spot and I stayed with the low bush cranberries she got a little anxious. ("We're not with the group, Mom, what are you doing?!") But she did great. So when I picked about a handful of high bush cranberries and just set them on the lid (I didn't want to dig out the container for them at that moment), she ate them and I couldn't be upset about it. I just laughed and told her what a good dog she was. Honestly, I don't think she enjoyed them all that much. She seemed to have an attitude of, "Well, if you're picking them they must be worthwhile..."
So now I have a lot more cranberries in the freezer. I'm feeling pretty well stocked for winter. I didn't get to pick nearly as many berries as I wanted to, but I did all right. Combined with the store-bought fruit and my jars of rhubarb and applesauce, we have way more fruit put up this summer than we did last summer. Hooray!
High Bush Cranberry Juice:
Combine cranberries with about 1.5 times the amount of water. Add sugar or honey to taste. (If using sugar, probably about a 1:1 ratio with cranberries. If honey, a bit less.) Crush the berries a bit and mix. Leave in the refrigerator overnight, then strain out the berries the next day and enjoy.