Canned Cranberry Sauce Has New England History

Cranberry harvest in Massachusetts

Cranberry harvest in Massachusetts

Ocean Spray began producing the jelly-like canned cranberry sauce in 1912. This long history of why we eat canned cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving is explained in a post by The Kitchn.

Cranberries are one of the few fruits native to North America. Wisconsin produces the majority of the cranberry crop, over half of the world’s total crop, according to the post. New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Massachusetts are also producers.

Cranberries are native to Massachusetts, which may account for their association with the Thanksgiving meal. “It’s widely accepted that the Pilgrims were introduced to the berry and its many uses by the Native Americans,” The Kitchn said. This would make it likely that cranberries were part of the meal at the first Thanksgiving.

The rise of canned cranberry can be linked to changes in harvesting techniques for commercially grown cranberries, largely by the Ocean Spray company. Cranberries grow on vines and were originally “dry harvested,” which was very labor intensive. In the 1930s, wet harvesting was introduced, which involves flooding the cranberry bog and loosening the berries. It also produces berries that aren’t perfect enough to be sold in stores. The solution Ocean Spray came up with was to can the cranberries.

Who knew that jiggling, can shaped cranberry sauce that will probably end up on your Thanksgiving table had this background? If you are like me and prefer not to partake of this classic side, here are some recipes for making your own fresh cranberry sauce.

Photo by HalBrown and published under a Creative Commons (cc) license. Some rights reserved. 

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