Friday, January 04, 2008

Cranberries, Cranberry Bread Pudding - WHB #114

I haven't participated in Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging in a long, long time, and decided it's time to start again. I'm making cranberry bread pudding today - two batches; one to eat now and one for later. I still have some frozen cranberries in the freezer, and need to start using them up. Cranberries aren't an herb, but WHB is for more than herbs, and can include fruits or vegetables.

I've seen the commercials for Ocean Spray with the guys standing in flooded cranberry bogs, and decided to learn a bit more about how they're grown and harvested.

Here's what I learned from Wikipedia:

"Historically, cranberry beds were constructed in wetlands. Currently cranberry beds are constructed in upland areas that have a shallow water table. The topsoil is scraped off to form dikes around the bed perimeter. Clean sand is hauled in to a depth of four to eight inches. The surface is laser leveled with a slight crown in the center to facilitate drainage. Beds are frequently drained with socked tile in addition to the perimeter ditch. In addition to making it possible to hold water, the dikes allow equipment to service the beds without driving on the vines. Irrigation equipment is installed in the bed to provide irrigation for vine growth and for spring and fall frost protection.

Cranberry vines are propagated by moving vines from an established bed. The vines are spread on the surface of the sand of the new bed and pushed into the sand with a blunt disk. The vines are watered frequently during the first few weeks until roots form and new shoots grow. Beds are given frequent light application of nitrogen fertilizer during the first year. The cost of establishment for new cranberry beds is estimated to be about US$70,000 per hectare.

A common misconception about cranberry production is that the beds remain flooded throughout the year. During the growing season cranberry beds are not flooded, but are irrigated regularly to maintain soil moisture. Beds are flooded in the fall to facilitate harvest and again during the winter to protect against low temperatures. In cold climates like Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and eastern Canada the winter flood typically freezes into ice while in warmer climates the water remains liquid. When ice forms on the beds trucks can be driven onto the ice to spread a thin layer of sand that helps to control pests and to rejuvenate the vines. Sanding is done every three to five years.

Cranberries are harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red color. This is usually in late September and into October. To harvest cranberries, the beds are flooded with six to eight inches of water. A harvester is driven through the beds to remove the fruit from the vines. For the past 50 years, water reel type harvesters have been used. Harvested cranberries float in the water and can be corralled into a corner of the bed and conveyed or pumped from the bed. From the farm, cranberries are taken to receiving stations where they are cleaned, sorted, and stored prior to packaging or processing. In 2005, a new type of cranberry harvester called the Ruby Slipper was introduced into the industry. Whether this type of harvester with fewer moving parts will be accepted by the industry still remains to be seen."

Cranberry Bread Pudding

¼ cup honey
2 large eggs , beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups warm milk
2 cups cubed French or Italian bread
1 cup fresh cranberries

Stir honey, eggs, vanilla and salt into milk. Add bread and cranberries. Toss gently to mix. Pour into a shallow 1 1/2 qt. baking dish and bake at 350˚ 25 minutes or until firm. Good served with cream or vanilla ice cream.

I made a double batch, and this is the one that's going into the freezer.

Note for next time: This will probably be just as tasty with Splenda instead of the honey, and I bet I could try multi-grain bread instead of the French bread.


Kalyn Denny said...

I didn't know any of that stuff about how cranberries are grown, very interesting. Sounds like a great way to use cranberries. Welcome back, it has been a long time.

Lunch Buckets said...

I love bread pudding - comforting and decadent all at the same time! Those fresh cranberries make it look so beautiful - like little round jewels :)