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Ingredient in Focus: Cranberry

By Megan Tempest in Food on Dec 1, 2009 5:40PM

With its vibrant color and pleasantly tart flavor, the cranberry is a festive addition to our holiday meal traditions. This is the time of year where fresh cranberries are thriving at their nutritional peak.

Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, fiber and dish up a hearty serving of antioxidants. Research suggests compounds in cranberries have anti-cancer effects and may slow proliferation of tumor cells. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, cranberries (as with all berries) contain a phytochemical called ellagic acid which may prevent various forms of cancer, including breast, lung and skin cancer. Cranberries may protect against heart disease by reducing our “bad” LDL cholesterol and raising our “healthy” HDL cholesterol. Cranberries are also believed to prevent infections of the urinary tract and kidneys due to their ability to acidify urine, impart antimicrobial effects, and inhibit harmful bacteria from latching on to the urinary tract lining.

Now is the time to eat your cranberries, but please don’t drench them in sugar before you do! Instead, try this unique twist on a traditional holiday cranberry dish...

Cranberry Pear Relish: In a large saucepan, heat up about 1 cup of liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup) over medium heat. When it starts to look frothy, add 3 cups fresh cranberries, 2 chopped pears, ½ teaspoon each of grated nutmeg and ground allspice, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then stir in a couple teaspoons of grated lemon zest. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Chill then eat!