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Ingredient of the Week: Cranberries

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Last week, we gave you beets to help turn your pee a festive color for the holidays. This week, just in time for Christmas, we bring you another vermillion ingredient. Not to worry though; it won't turn anything red (except maybe your shirt, should you lose control of your utensils while gorging on holiday supper).

What is it?

Originally named "craneberries" for the plant's resemblance to the bird, cranberries were first eaten by the Native Americans, who believed the fruit held medicinal benefits. Cranberries, which are first white but turn red as they ripen, have since become a traditional part of American holiday meals and grow mostly in the northern states. Foods and drinks that contain white cranberries use berries that are mature but have not yet taken on the bright color. The fruits are harvested in the fall, when they are most ripe, anywhere from September to November. They have an acidic, sour, even bitter taste, making the raw berries difficult to swallow without added sweeteners.

Cranberries help prevent bacteria from attaching to stomach and urinary tract linings, which may decrease the likelihood of ulcers and bladder infections. And like beets, they also contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancerous nutrients.

How do I use it?

Most cranberries are turned into secondary products before being consumed, such as jam or juice. Some are sweetened and dried and can be added to trail mixes or eaten as a plain snack. Cranberries are also baked or added to foods during cooking for extra tartness.

Where can I find it?

Either in the produce section or the seasonal holiday food section of most grocery stores.

Recipe: Cranberry Sauce Say goodbye to those canned varieties. Here is a very simple recipe for making that favorite accompaniment to holiday turkey and ham. Isn't it more appetizing than the strangely shaped gelatinous, cylindrical kind?

What do you do with your cranberries?

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