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Forage Your Own Cranberry Sauce

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

The holiday season is a special time of year that brings about many fond memories of joy and togetherness with friends and family. However, amid the festive cheer, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can also bring some stress and anxiety. For those of us who need a little escape from this often hectic time of year, consider taking a step away to rejuvenate and find solace in nature. Foraging for cranberries can be a great excuse to get outdoors and to make the often overlooked cranberry sauce that will round out your holiday meals!

Cranberry fruit

First, you will need:

A nice day after the first frost (this week will be perfect!)

Hiking boots (make sure they are thoroughly waterproof, and the taller, the better)

A container for cranberry collection

A map and good directions

Now, the trickiest part of all this is going to be finding a bog to harvest your cranberries. Cranberries love growing in areas with peat mosses and plenty of sunshine. Try looking up local wetland or asking around for any recommendations. Wetmore pond in Marquette is one of the easiest bogs to visit, but finding cranberries could be difficult due to its local popularity. Wherever you go, make sure that you have permission to be on the land! Additionally, exercise caution when exploring wetlands and bog habitat. True bogs, with a floating mat, can be dangerous to walk on top of in areas where the mat is thinning. Be aware that the sphagnum moss that makes up a bog mat is typically thinnest near the edges where open water can be observed. Another sign that an area isn’t safe is if you feel wobbly or unstable while stepping across the mossy mat. It’s always a good idea to bring along a friend and let someone know where you are hiking before venturing out.

Small cranberry leaves

Once you have your location picked out, it's time to start hunting for berries! We have two types of cranberries that grow around Marquette, large (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and small (Vaccinium oxycoccus). They’re very similar, with the main difference being the shape of the leaves. Large cranberries have small, oval shaped leaves, while small cranberry leaves are more pointed and triangular. For this recipe, either cranberry will do! Just make sure to only take what you know you will use, and leave plenty behind for wildlife and other foragers. The following recipe only uses 1 cup, so it’s

Large cranberry leaves

a relatively small amount to harvest. A good rule of thumb is to take no more than 30% from any given area. Try only taking every third berry you find while wandering around the bog. Cranberries are incredibly high in antioxidants, so it’s fine to store them in a cool, dry place in your house until ready to use.

Once you have your haul (wahoo!!), it's time to make cranberry sauce! It’s incredibly easy to make.

You will need:

1 C Foraged cranberries

½ C Sugar (adjust for your sweetness preference)

½ C Orange juice + the zest of the orange

¼ tsp. Cinnamon

Hefty sprinkle of Nutmeg

Pinch Salt

Combine all the ingredients together in a medium pot. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for around 10-15 minutes. The cranberries will pop and the sauce will thicken, and that’s it! This small batch of cranberry sauce goes great on a cheese board or as an addition to any Thanksgiving plate. And, it comes with the added bonus of knowing that you harvested the berries yourself!

DISCLAIMER: This blog is an informational resource based on traditional and modern use of plants created to inspire others. The information provided on this website is not intended to replace professional or medical advice. Proper identification is the responsibility of the forager. UPLC does not advise the consumption of any wild plants or fungus to the readers of this blog. In addition, UPLC encourages all blog readers to consider the ecological and/or cultural impacts of foraging prior to removing any plant or fungus from its environment. Furthermore, careful attention should be given to all potential dangers related to interacting with wild mushrooms and plants.

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