Most of us relegate cranberries to a mere condiment, a once-a-year side of sweet, trembling jelly or sauce. At most, we venture a sweet bread. But consider the cranberry as an ingredient, and not just one that must be automatically sugared to within an inch of its life. Start mentally exploring. Tart? Sure, so think about where you’d use lemon. (In salsa? With fish? In a meringue pie? In salad dressing?). Then there’s scarlet-hued juiciness . . . hmm, not entirely unlike tomatoes. (In savory sauces? Again, in salsa? As an ingredient with which chicken or pot roast is cooked?) Then, there are dried cranberries, which look and taste like zingy raisins. If raisins find their way into scones, breads, desserts, cole slaw or sauces at your home, dried cranberries can do the same, with style.
First, “pick over” the cranberries (that is, remove any of the thread-like stems you notice and remove any moldy or very soft berries). Often, you’ll next crush or chop the berries, though not necessarily precook, before using them. This is easily done in a food processor, with or without sugar or other ingredients.