Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cranberries are in...better stock up!

Years ago, when my friend Hannah had her baby Frances, I wanted to take her a tasty baked good and squeeze that little girl.  I found a cranberry orange muffin recipe in a Martha Stewart cookbook, whipped them up, and took them over to her.  Hannah is one of the most lovely gift recipients!  She expressed her gratitude on the spot.  Then a few days later I received this postcard from her.

My inspirational bookmark

It was a thoughtful note that I wanted to keep, so I stuck it in the cookbook as my bookmark for the cranberry muffin recipe.  It continues to be my bookmark (and inspiration to give the gift of muffins).

The next year I decided, when planning a brunch with some ladies, that those muffins would be a good fit for the menu.  I volunteered to bring them.  Little did I know that cranberry orange muffins in February are NOT a reality UNLESS you have done some stowing away of the cranberries.  I was not aware that the “cranberry season”  lasts all of 2 weeks…okay a little longer than that…2 months maybe.  I had no idea!  And unlike the blueberries and strawberries that I can find in the freezer section of my grocery, I cannot find cranberries (which by the way I do not understand… there is money to be made on these amazing berries year round)!  Appalled, I called my mom and she said, “Oh, did you not know?  They have a very limited availability in the stores and you have to stock them up and freeze them!” 

So I learned my lesson.  My mom, who is a bulk-buyer (in life) suggested that she and I buy a case and split it when the season rolls around again.  I said, “YES! That should last me a calendar year”.  Well, when my 13 bags of cranberries arrived and we were trying to fit them into my one little side by side freezer/fridge Dave said, “Really?  Do we need this many?  What are we making with them?”  I said, “You know muffins and stuff”.  Of course, my mom has 6 freezers in her life, so the storing is not that big of an imposition.  At my house we were eating bowls of ice cream and cooking meat from the freezer that week to make room for the cranberries.

About June, when we had approximately 10 bags remaining, and our household was having to alter our ice cream purchasing because of the cranberry stockpile, Dave suggested we ramp up the cranberry recipe making!  And we did. And eventually, about 2 years later, we made our way through them all. 

So I learned another lesson.  Buy in bulk proportionate to your freezer capacity and the amount you realistically think you will use in a calendar year.  I am getting better over time at predicting this.  And am trying to be sensitive to the small amount of freezer/refrigerator space, and the shared dominion over them.

It is November.  I have been watching and anticipating the cranberry season.  And I am thrilled  to tell you that I came home one day this week and opened my fridge and you won’t believe what I found stacked on the shelf in my refrigerator… 4 bags of fresh cranberries that Dave bought when he was at the grocery!  I let out a squeal! Not only are cranberries in, but Dave’s cranberry resentment is gone…he actually purchased them voluntarily!

Lucy, in her costume, helping me top the
bread with cranberries- a great counting game!
I have been having a cranberry fest this week.  I am writing about cranberries, talking about them and making cranberry recipes! Earlier this week Lucy, my 2 year old, and I made a Cranberry Pecan Bread recipe, that my friend Emily emailed to me recently. Yesterday my college student friend, Caroline, came to bake and we made Cranberry Oat Muffins and Cranberry Orange Salad.

It has been hard to decide what to post.  I have included the Martha Stewart –"Welcome baby Frances" Cranberry Orange Muffins I told you about, Cranberry Oat Muffins (my favorite), and my mom’s  Cranberry Orange Congealed Salad that I request every Thanksgiving!  They all have a cranberry-orange element to them, which I love.  There might be some more cranberry recipes coming on future posts, but I'll try to keep it under control.

In the meantime I suggest you go buy your stash of cranberries and clear some space in the freezer. The clock is ticking!


1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Flour (I use part whole    wheat/part white whole wheat)
¾ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
¼ cup buttermilk powder (dry milk)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 Tbsp orange zest
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter

1 Tsp orange juice
½ cup powdered sugar

Whisk together the dry ingredients, stir in chopped cranberries and nuts.  Whisk together the orange zest, eggs, milk and melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stir until fully combined but don’t beat it or over-stir!  Fill greased muffin cups almost to the top. 

Bake in 375 degree oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until they are golden.  Remove from oven, leave in pan for 5 minutes.  Stir glaze ingredients together, adding powdered sugar and orange juice to get the desired thickness.  Dip the tops of the warm muffins into the glaze.
Using this handy pampered chef chopper makes the cranberrry and pecan chopping simple.
Zesting the orange!
Dipping the tops in orange glaze
Several years ago I found this recipe in a King Arthur Flour ad.  Because I believe in King Arthur Flour, I tried it and LOVED it!  It became my new favorite. They call them Cranberry Whole-Grain Muffins but I call them Cranberry Oat Muffins because the oats are such a defining characteristic of the muffin.  They have a crispy, craggy crown and a hearty, dense crumb which I appreciate in a muffin.  I love the wholesome complexity of them.

The Cranberry Orange Salad is my favorite cranberry dish for Thanksgiving.  It is a congealed salad that my mom invented by merging a couple of other recipes.  It is chock full of fruit and texture and is both tart and sweet.  It goes great with all the creamy, rich, savory foods of the season.

1 (1 pound) bag of fresh cranberries
1 orange
1 cup sugar
3 3oz. boxes of jello (one each of lemon, raspberry (or cranberry) & orange)
20 oz. can crushed pineapple

Grind 1 bag of fresh cranberries and a whole orange (with rind) in the food processor.

Pour 1 cup sugar over and let soak for 1 hour.

Add 3 jello packages to  2 cups hot water.
Drain the juice from the crushed pineapple. Add water to the juice to equal 1 cup of liquid.
Add crushed pineapple.

Stir together all ingredients until combined well.  Pour into dish and refrigerate for several hours until set.

Great to make ahead!


  1. Oh my goodness -- this is a great post! All kinds of good tips here. And I like how you pointed out that Lucy was in costume (as if you don't just randomly dress her like that on a regular basis!).

  2. :) I realized when I posted the photo of Lucy that she looked over-dressed for the task, and for the Hunt's house in general! Felt a disclaimer was in order! Thanks for reading, Cherilyn. Can't wait to see you soon!!

  3. oh. yum. i need a cranberry oat muffin now.

  4. Hi Julie,
    I love the whole cranberry story complete with its very happy ending.
    Leslie Riley

  5. I love cranberries and enjoy making cranberry bread at Christmas. I'm very impressed with how Dave bought cranberries for you as a surprise! That is true love! :-)

  6. Hi Julie! a) these muffins look ridiculously good. I'm trying them soon! b) I'm trying to reach you about an opportunity with Nashville Parent magazine but can't find your email address. Would you mind emailing me? anne.mcgraw @ - thanks!!

  7. Your mom was actually the person that taught me about cranberry "season". I had never looked for them outside of the holidays and this year I will be stocking up!

  8. hi, julie! can i add some thinly sliced celery to the cranberry salad? i like the crunch of the celery... wasn't sure if it would be ok to do or not... love your site! miss seeing you in person... kelly moreland jones

  9. kelly, Yes, I think celery would work just fine with this recipe. It's pretty adaptable and forgiving! I too miss seeing you. Thanks for reading!