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Cranberry Harvest: Ocean Spray’s Fruits of Labor

The world’s largest cranberry grower preserves generations of cranberry family farming.

The air is crisp, fall is in full swing as trees turn their colors, and cranberry bogs have peaked for harvest. These edible little gems will be served up as sauce, jelly, juice, or fresh in just about every American household this holiday season. It takes a lot of berries to do that, about 80 million pounds worth, and there’s one brand up to the task to handle that. Ocean Spray is the world’s number one producer of cranberry products, selling two-thirds of the world’s supply.

The small bright red wetland fruit was first harvested by Native Americans inhabiting the New England area for making medicines, dyes, and pemmican, a nutritious, concentrated blend of dried venison, tallow, and tart cranberries shaped into patties. Dutch and German settlers first called the fruit “crane berry” because the blossom resembled a crane’s head and bill. The humble cranberry most likely made an appearance at the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. In colonial times, people enjoyed cranberries in sauces, tarts, and preserves. In 1663, a recipe for cranberry sauce appeared in The Pilgrim Cookbook.

Photo: Ocean Spray

A Cranberry Empire

Cranberry cultivation was not commercialized until the early 19th century, starting in Massachusetts and spreading westward in the following decades, stretching from coast to coast. Mechanical pickers replaced manual procedures in the mid-20th century. Soon after, the development of innovative wet-harvesting techniques leveraged the cranberry’s natural buoyancy.

Photo: Ocean Spray

In 1930, three enterprising cranberry growers wanted to expand their marketing reach and formed Ocean Spray. The name “Ocean Spray” was coined by Boston attorney Marcus L. Urann. He was known as the Cranberry King and sold his tins of cranberry sauce as early as 1912. Through his efforts, he came up with the idea that revolutionized the cranberry industry. He merged similar companies run by John C. Makepeace and Elizabeth F. Lee, creating a formidable cooperative that would ensure Ocean Spray’s longevity and future growth. The brand’s focus on innovation, high quality, and great taste continue to delight Ocean Spray consumers.

Today, Ocean Spray includes over 700 cranberry growers in the United States, Canada, and Chile, preserving a farming way of life for generations. Twenty-five percent of Ocean Spray farmers are 4th generation or greater. Ocean Spray cranberries are used in over 1,000 products sold in over 100 countries. Recently, Ocean Spray announced that 100% of their cranberries were verified as sustainably grown, becoming the first fruit cooperative worldwide to achieve a 100% Farm Sustainability Assessment verification.

At harvest time, between mid-September through mid-November, growers prepare the berries to float, creating one of the most beautiful and unique harvesting methods in the world. The cranberries are corralled, loaded onto trucks, sorted at a receiving station, and shipped to become Ocean Spray products found on store shelves. Fresh cranberries found in the produce section of grocery stores are dry harvested using a mechanical picker that deposits the berries into burlap bags. The bags are usually collected by helicopter to protect the vines from heavy truck traffic.

Ocean Spray Cranberry Survey Results

  • Americans consume over 400 million pounds of cranberries every year, with 20%, or 80 million pounds, of that during Thanksgiving week.
  • Jellied cranberry sauce is a hit with Americans, with 5,062,500 gallons consumed over the holiday season.
  • Ocean Spray produces 70 million cans of cranberry sauce each year.
  • An average of 200 cranberries is used per can of sauce.
  • 96% of first-time hosts plan to use cranberries in some way for Thanksgiving.
  • 76% of Americans serve store-bought versus homemade cranberry sauce for their Thanksgiving meals.
  • 73% of Americans prefer cranberry sauce jellied in the shape of a can.

    Photo: Ocean Spray

Easy Cranberry Recipes

Bake ‘em, sauce ‘em, savory or sweet, the versatile cranberry perks up just about any recipe. Here are some of Ocean Spray’s popular and easy recipes, and you can find more good cooking at oceanspray.com/Recipes.

FRESH CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH

Photo: Ocean Spray

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Servings: 3 cups

INGREDIENTS

1 unpeeled orange, cut into eighths and seeded

1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained

3/4-1 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS

Place half the cranberries and half the orange slices in a food processor container. Process until mixture is evenly chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining cranberries and orange slices. Stir in sugar. Store in refrigerator or freezer. Makes about 3 cups.

NOTE: May also be prepared in a food grinder.

Nutritional information and reviews

NEW ENGLAND CORNBREAD STUFFING

Photo: Ocean Spray

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 3 cups

INGREDIENTS

2 cups cornbread stuffing

1/2-pound sausage meat, cooked, drained, and crumbled

3/4 cup Ocean Spray® Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon thyme

1/2 cup chicken broth

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine all ingredients, except chicken broth, in a medium casserole dish. Add chicken broth; mix well. Add more chicken broth for a moister stuffing. Cover and bake for 30 minutes or until heated through. Makes about 3 cups.

Nutritional information and reviews

WHITE CHOCOLATE CLUSTERS

Photo: Ocean Spray

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Servings: 16 clusters

INGREDIENTS

1 12-ounce package white chocolate chips or morsels

1 6-ounce package Ocean Spray® Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

1/3 cup shredded coconut, optional

DIRECTIONS

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on Medium-High (70%) power for 1 minute, stopping to stir. Microwave an additional 10- to 20-second intervals. Remove and stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Add remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly combined.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Let harden at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator, about 15 minutes.

Store in a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 16 clusters.

Nutritional information and reviews

OUTRAGEOUS CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY FUDGE CAKE

Photo: Ocean Spray

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 43 minutes

Servings: 10 servings

INGREDIENTS

For cake:

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate

1 cup Ocean Spray® Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For glaze:

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce

DIRECTIONS

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line an 8-inch round cake pan with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray. Dust pan with flour, tap to remove excess.

Microwave 2/3 cup chocolate chips, butter, and unsweetened chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl on High for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Microwave for 30 more seconds if necessary to melt chocolate.

Add cranberry sauce and sugar; mix well. Add eggs, vanilla, flour, and baking powder mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Refrigerate 1 hour or until cold.

Make glaze:

Microwave cream and chocolate chips together in a medium microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute on High. Stir until smooth. Microwave for 30 more seconds if necessary to melt chocolate. Add cranberry sauce; mix well.

Turn cake out onto a serving plate; remove foil. Spread glaze over the top, allowing some to drip down the sides of the cake. Chill 1 hour or until glaze is firm. Can be made a day ahead of time. Store at room temperature. Makes 10 servings.

Nutritional information and reviews