Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Ginger Jelly

This is a recipe I got from Dr. Sunyatta Amen. She is a Naturopathic physician. I took it, tweaked it, made it my own and it came out great so I want to share it with you.

But first...according to Dr. Amen, there are several reasons to love fresh cranberries. Here is what she says:

Why fresh cranberry?

* Urinary Tract Infections - The proanthocyanidins found in cranberry appear to block the adhesive strands on the E. coli bacteria
* Anti-Cancer Activity - It has been suggested that the proanthocyanidin compounds found in cranberry exhibits anti-carcinogenic activity.
* Heart Disease - Cranberry extract has been shown to inhibit low density lipoprotein oxidation thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
* Kidney stones - quinic acid in cranberry may help to prevent the development of kidney stones.

I did some additional cranberry research of my own and I found a website that hailed all the benefits of this often overlooked fruit. Here is what some of the research shows:
Anti-cancer - In 1996 laboratory studies conducted by University of Illinois scientists and published in Planta Medica demonstrated the potential anticarcinogenic properties of cranberries. More recently researchers at the University of Western Ontario demonstrated, using an animal model, that human breast cancer cells showed significantly lower incidence of tumor development when the experimental group's diet was supplemented with cranberries. Although these results are very preliminary, compounds in cranberries may prove to be a potent cancer fighter.
Anti-aging - Using an animal model James Joseph, Ph.D. and Barbara Shukitt-Hale Ph.D. have been experimenting with cranberries and their ability to protect brain cells from free radical damage and subsequent motor and cognitive function losses. Rats feed diets supplemented with cranberries are put through a series of tests to evaluate their neural function compared to a control group. Preliminary results indicate that there will be compelling evidence that cranberry can help protect the brain from neurological damage (unpublished results).
Dental - Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (2002) reported on a preliminary clinical trial using a mouthwash containing cranberry NDM. Saliva samples of the experimental group showed a two order of magnitude reduction in Streptococcus mutans colony forming units compared with the placebo group (unpublished data). A large percentage of dental caries (cavities) can be attributed to S. mutans.
Heart - Flavonoids have been shown to function as potent antioxidants both in vitro and in vivoand may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Cranberries contain significant amounts of flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds that have been demonstrated to inhibit low density lipoprotein oxidation. Ongoing research continues to suggest that cranberries may offer a natural defense against atherosclerosis.
Ulcers - Peptic ulcers are increasingly being attributed to infection by Helicobacter pyloribacteria, as opposed to stress and/or stomach acidity. A high-molecular-weight nondialysable constituent of cranberry juice has been shown to inhibit the adhesion of H. pylori to human gastric mucus in vitro. These preliminary results suggest that cranberry may be beneficial in the prevention of peptic ulcers through the inhibition of H. pylori adhesion to gastric mucus and stomach epithelium.

For someone like myself without insurance, I found the dental information to be the most appealing. In fact, I ordered myself a sample of Burt's Bees newest all natural cranberry toothpaste just a week or so ago (still waiting for it to come in). Obviously someone is catching onto the research and at least giving it a shot. (Now I'm anxious...where is my toothpaste?)


Ok ok. I know what you're thinking. On with it. Alright, so here is the recipe:

1 pound fresh cranberries, rinsed
2 oranges (peeled and de-seeded)
2/3 cup agave syrup
1 inch thumb ginger, finely grated
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
So you add these ingredients all together in a food processor. High Pulse several times to allow the cranberries to break up. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to set and let the flavors mingle.

I didn't have any agave syrup on hand so I used Grade B Pure Organic Maple Syrup in its place. Taste-wise they come from two very different worlds. However I love pure maple syrup and it adds a nice earthy taste to the recipe. Also, pure maple syrup is a decent source of the trace mineral manganese and zinc. You could also substitute Blood Oranges for regular ones.

As is, mine didn't set like a jelly would. Cranberries have enough pectin naturally that you don't need to add any for it to set. However the more ripe the fruit is the more the pectin breaks down. Maybe I was just impatient but it wasn't setting like I wanted it to, so took half the batch and added some to see how it would differ.

The as-is version taste great just as it is. If you like you could eat it like you would apple sauce or something. Really good. Also you can eat with fruit, add to muffin mix to make cranberry muffins, add to oatmeal or cream of wheat to help sneak in healthy nutrients for your kids, or add it to a jello to make fruit jello, eat with crackers, add on top of a homemade cheesecake... etc. You can get really creative with it. I also used it as a spread on turkey sandwiches, and it was, as Rachel Ray would say, Delish!
Those are just a few of my ideas...do you have any others?? Leave a comment and let me know if you do.

So for the other half of the batch, here is what I did:

Heat mixture on stove and allow to come to a full boil.
Add a package of fruit pectin (I used Sure-Jell)
Allow to boil again. Stir in a tbsp of sugar (needed to help it set otherwise I wouldn't have as it was plenty sweet enough)
Pour into ball jars leaving 1/8" space at the top for expansion. Boil a pot of water and set sealed jar in and allow to boil for 5-10 minutes. 5 minutes for jelly, 10 minutes for jam according to instructions. I didn't really time mine. It was somewhere in that range though)
Allow to cool. (After the jars cool, check seals by pressing the middle of the lid with finger. If it springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Store un-opened jams and jellies in cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year.

Refrigerate opened jams and jellies up to 3 weeks.
Please let me know how yours comes out should you decide to give it a try and also how you like it. I am interested in what everybody thinks!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blood Oranges

In trying to keep with the theme of seasonal eating, I would like to present to you Blood Oranges (Citrus sinensis) a member of the Rutaceae family. It sounds so cryptic doesn't it? Blood oranges? However be ye not alarmed. There is nothing ghastly about this fruit.

It is very noticable upon cutting into its fruit its crimson red-toned flesh. Its color comes from anthrocynanin-a chemical found in many fruits, but typically not citrus fruits.

Pictured is the Moro variety of the fruit, whose flesh is closer to purple than red.

Blood oranges, being a citrus fruit, are particularly high in vitamin C and is also is a decent source for some potassium. The anthrocyanins-the chemical responsible for its color- are antioxidant.

When picking the fruit, look for fruit that is heavy for its size. Storage is best in the refridgerator. It keeps for a few days at room temperature, but lasts longer-for up to two weeks, when stored in the fridge.

For the Moro variety-peak season is December thru March.

I'll be back in another post with a recipe using this fruit. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Storing Produce

I came across this article here about the proper way to store produce. Its great information for keeping your produce fresh and what to store where and for how long. Check the link for the entire article but here are a few of the main points:

If your produce rots after just a few days, you might be storing incompatible fruits and veggies together. Those that give off high levels of ethylene gas—a ripening agentwill speed the decay of ethylene-sensitive foods. Keep the two separate.

Use trapped ethylene to your advantage: To speed-ripen a peach, put it in a closed paper bag with a ripe banana. One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. Mold proliferates rapidly and contaminates everything nearby, so toss any spoiled produce immediately.

For longer life, keep your produce whole
don't even rip the stem out of an apple until you eat it. "As soon as you start pulling fruits and vegetables apart," says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University, "you've broken cells, and microorganisms start to grow."
Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures. Store them on the counter, not in the fridge. Once they're fully ripe, you can refrigerate them to help them last, but for best flavor, return them to room temp.

The ABCs of Fresh

The main way to lengthen shelf life is by using cold temperatures to slow food's respiration, or 'breathing' process," explains Marita Cantwell, PhD, a postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davis. In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration, which is why refrigeration is critical for most produce. But while you want to slow it down, you don't want to stop the breathing altogether. "The worst thing to do is seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag," says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University. "You'll suffocate them and speed up decay."

Some fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds ripening and can lead to the premature decay of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables. Put spinach or kale in the same bin as peaches or apples, and the greens will turn yellow and limp in just a couple of days. So the first trick is to separate produce that emits ethylene from produce that's sensitive to it. (See "Gas Wars" sidebar.)




Bananas, unripe

Bananas, ripe
Brussels sprouts
Lettuce and other leafy greens
Sweet potatoes
Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more. But separate them so their flavors and smells don't migrate.

Fastest to Slowest Spoilers: What to Eat First
You can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with just a single weekly trip to the supermarket, with proper storage and a little planning.

The key is eating the more perishable produce early on. Use this guide, right
created with the help of Marita Cantwell, PhD, postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davisbased on a Sunday shopping trip. The timing suggestions are for ready-to-eat produce, so allow extra days for ripening if you're buying, say, green bananas or not-quite-ripe pears.

And remember, looks count. Appearance
vivid green spinach; smooth, unbruised peaches; plump orangesis the best clue to whether fruits and veggies are fresh to begin with.
Eat First:
Sunday to Tuesday

Green beans
Mustard greens

Eat Next:
Wednesday to Friday

Eat Last:

Bell peppers
Brussels sprouts

Winter squash