Power up with a tart, sweet treat

My sister Jennifer Wixson and her husband, Stanley Luce, of Troy, Maine, are diversified farmers who raise Scottish Highland beef cattle, tend beehives and cultivate a wide variety of fruit, including cranberries.

This has been a banner year for cranberries, also known as bounce berries (because the ripe ones bounce). These shiny, scarlet berries grow in sandy bogs on low, trailing vines. The plant has small, evergreen leaves with dark pink flowers that produce light green fruit, ripening to deep red with sunlight. We have clumps of mountain cranberries growing wild here on Rabbit Hill.

A crop that was of significant importance to Native Americans, cranberries were used both for the food source pemmican and as a dye. Pemmican, an early form of jerky, was thin strips of venison pounded with cranberries and fat, and then shaped into cakes and dried in the sun. A high energy food, these cakes did not spoil easily and provided convenient sustenance for long trips and cold winters.

Nutritionally speaking, cranberries provide vitamin C, fiber, manganese and phytochemicals. Thanks to their natural preservatives, these bright red berries became an essential food for New England sailors in colonial days, and were taken on sea voyages to prevent scurvy.

For years, cranberries have been known to ward off urinary tract infections due to the presence of A-type linked condensed tannins. These act as a Teflon coating to prevent the E. coli bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder and urethra.

More recent research suggests that cranberry juice can fight other types of bacteria, including staph and salmonella infections.  Antioxidants in cranberries help reduce heart attacks, and may even help prevent breast cancer.

Although most noted for cranberry sauce or relish at the Thanksgiving table, cranberries are a welcome addition to our household’s cuisine. Chopped into muffins and breads, a tangy topping for meats, sautéed with vegetables and dried as part of a trail mix, cranberries add a zing and new dimension to your food.

My sister shared the recipe for Cranberry Chocolate Chip Bars. The original formula used fresh, whole cranberries, but when I tried it with frozen berries that had been chopped in the food processor, these bars were nice and gooey and quite delicious.

Without a sweetener, cranberries are quite bitter. The Pequot Indians referred to the food as i-bimi, meaning bitter berry. Because the tannins that make the juice so effective against urinary tract infections are extremely sour, the plant is unpleasant enough to repel bugs. Fortunately, it is easy to inject some sweetness to offset the berries’ tartness, producing a tasty, quite addictive treat.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Bars
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Makes 18 very rich bars
Cranberry Chocolate Chip Bars
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Makes 18 very rich bars
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup cranberries, chopped
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  1. Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square brownie pan.
  2. Sift the flour and sugar into a large bowl.
  3. Wash and coarsely chop the cranberries. Stir the chopped cranberries and chocolate chips into the sifted flour mixture.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the egg until well blended.
  5. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until incorporated. The batter will be thick.
  6. Spoon the batter into a greased and floured 9-inch square brownie pan. Smooth and flatten the top.
  7. Bake until golden and the middle just starts to set up, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack and cut into squares.
Recipe Notes

Nutritional analysis per bar: 178 calories, 1.5 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fat, 125 mg. sodium, 1.5 grams fiber.

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Cheryl Wixson
"Maine Dish" columnist Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. Her passion for organic Maine products led to the creation of her business, Cheryl Wixson's Kitchen. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected] or www.cherylwixsonskitchen.com.

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