Friday, December 18, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Colonial Cranberries

This post was named a #1 Foodbuzz Top 9 Pick. Thank you Foodbuzz!
~Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle’s
Colonial Cranberries

When I found out our secret ingredient this week was cranberries, I had wanted to do a “Mock Cherry” pie for you. This very old American dish, in which a cook substitutes cranberries for cherries, has been around for years. I will be doing a mock cherry pie in the near future, but this week I simply did not have the time. Then I realized who does have the time?! So I changed up the idea and decided to do something unique but extremely simple, something you can create in a flash.

I have enjoyed making this cranberry dish almost every holiday season, whenever those scarlet berries are available fresh in our local grocery. The inspiration for my “Colonial Cranberries” actually came from Jeff Smith, whose research dug up a note in John Adams’ 18th century journals in which he spoke about enjoying a dinner that included wild goose on a spit and cranberries in a cast iron skillet baked in a “slack” oven.

Cleo's Colonial

My version uses a much handier casserole dish. My sugar choice is light brown for added depth of flavor. Oranges were not so easy to come by in 18th century Massachusetts, but I think adding orange zest brings a lively bright note to this dish. Orange and cranberry is a fairly common combo in recipes , but I especially like it because professionals in the coffee trade have taught me to look for citrus notes in some of the very best coffees of the world (Ethiopian Yirgacheffee and La Esmeralda Especial for instance), and I think it works in this dish, too.

Cleo's Colonial Cranberries

We’ve enjoyed this sweet-tart sauce warm over ice cream, pound cake a la mode (as you see pictured below), on pancakes in place of syrup, on French toast, as a kind of loose jam on raisin bread (one of my favorite ways to eat it), and as a chutney with spicy Indian meat dishes. The flavor may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of raspberry flavor and tart berry jams and jellies, this just might be up your foodie alley… We know Mr. Adams certainly enjoyed it!

Cleo's Colonial Cranberries
Serving suggestion:
ver pound cake a la mode...

To download this recipe in a PDF format that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Cleo Coyle's
Colonial Cranberries Recipe

Recipe: Place in a medium casserole dish 2 cups cranberries (sliced in two), 1 cup light brown sugar (lightly packed), ½ teaspoon orange zest (grated rind of an orange, no white pith).
Stir together well. Cover. Bake 1 hour in an oven pre-heated to 250° Fahrenheit. After baking, remove from oven, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. You’ll notice some of the sugar will have collected on the bottom. A good stir will fix this and nicely incorporate the final vanilla flavoring. Eat with joy.

Serving ideas: Pour over ice cream, pound cake, French toast, pancakes, apple pie a la mode. Use like a loose jam on a slice of raisin bread, croissants, or slices of toasted French or Italian bread. Serve as a sweet chutney with spicy Indian meat dishes.

Flavoring options: Replace the vanilla with 2 teaspoons almond extract OR 1-2 tablespoons of Amaretto or 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite brandy.

CLEO'S TIPS: On the casserole dish: I spray mine lightly with nonstick cooking spray to prevent the sugar from sticking. On the cranberries: Be sure to slice the cranberries in two. This may take a few minutes, but you need to do this to expose more of the berry to the sugar and the process of carmelization. On the cooking: Don’t try to rush the process. Keep the oven temp low and do the full hour of baking to give the flavors time to develop.

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle
author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

"Where coffee and crime are always brewing..."

National Hardcover
Mystery Bestseller

National Bestseller

Now in paperback.

or on book covers to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.

"Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle, a new addition to the coffeehouse mystery series…adds in jolts of souped-up coffee, sweet cooking…and super sleuthing to deliver a fun and gripping fa-la-la-la latte surprise."

~ The Huffington Post

Let's look at that
one more time...


Text and photos in this post are copyright (c) 2009 by Alice Alfonsi who writes The Coffeehouse Mysteries as Cleo Coyle with her husband, Marc Cerasini

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

To get more of my recipes,
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learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


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Mrs. McClure

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, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. Unbelievable!! Thanks so much for sharing

  2. I'm thinking my "destroyed" picture would be slightly different because there wouldn't be a single crumb left! Oh *goodness* that looks good. Either the vanilla or the amaretto would be excellent. YUM.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Oh, Cleo... this looks fabulous. Gorgeous photos, too. I'm with Elizabeth... my "destroyed" version would be an empty plate. Love the recipe and the bit of history. Cranberries are so pretty and so wonderful. Your recipe is the crescendo on our Secret Ingredient theme!


  4. This looks amazing. I agree with Julie - my destroyed version would be a clean plate - I might have even licked it when someone wasn't looking!

  5. Ok, I sent my entry in for the most romantic ingredient I could think of... it is for Valentine's month after all

  6. I'm thinking this would taste great over some cinnamon pancakes! I'm sure my daughter would help destroy anything I put it on.

  7. I'm going to use this for a trifle -- pound cake, custard flavored with a little orange liqueur and this lovely cranberry sauce!! Thanks for a great recipe!!

  8. How cool! I see I'm not the only one with an interest in historical recipes and foods. Yum!!

  9. Have to love a recipe with a historical edge! This is a fun one! :)

  10. YUM! I want it on ALL of the above!
    Fabulous pics, C! What a great week.

  11. I love the destroyed picture! Can't wait to try this recipe!

  12. This is a must try recipe! It couldn't be any easier and I'm sure it's delicious!

    ~ Krista

  13. Jeff Smith was a great source for the history of food (in spite of his unfortunate & unsavory personal life controversy). I own all his books and they're a great reference source.....great post!

  14. Looks so delicious! I can have right now even after before going to bed. heh

  15. Emily, Elizabeth, Julie, Jenn, Krista, Avery:

    Thank you for the comments! This post was loads of fun to do. It helped that the recipe really was incredibly easy.


  16. Tasty Eats at Home – Thank you! Licking the plate clean is my favorite hobby, too. But I needed something to photograph so I left a little on there, lol!

    A Year on the Grill: Ooooh, a “romantic” secret ingredient suggestion for February – color me intrigued!

    Janel – You are so very right about the cinnamon pancakes. That’s why I love it on raisin toast. Cinnamon and raisin are excellent complements to this sweet-tart sauce.

    ~ Cleo

  17. Reply to Linda Farrell – Oh, you have nailed a wonderful dish! The orange liqueur flavored custard will be absolute heaven in a trifle with this sauce. Too bad we can’t e-mail each other tasty samples of our recipes. Mmmmm…

    Reply to Tasty Trix – You are my inspiration! Thank you for dropping by! Everyone, for a real treat, drop by Tasty Trix’s blog and check out her 12 days of Medieval Feasting recipes. To visit one of my favorite Tasty Trix recipes for this project, Gynger Brede, : Click here

    Reply to Mae – thank you! This one *is* fun because it’s so easy!

    Reply to Kathyvegas – Indeed he was. I absolutely agree. Thank you for dropping by…

    Reply to Penny aka jeroxi – Thank you! Yeah, I can promise you the “destroyed” picture was not exactly a chore to create, lol!

    ~ Cleo
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  18. bibliochef - I agree for "brevity is the soul of wit" and "mmm" the point of cooking!


  19. These are really beautiful i especially like the serving suggestion with pound cake... will absorb wonderful and lots of flavor!!!

  20. What a nice dish! I think I know what I'll do with the cranberries I just bought... :) And I love your photos!

  21. Reply to "A Year on the Grill" - Thank you, kind sir.

    Reply to "dokuzuncubulut" - Glad you liked it!

    Reply to Andrea@WellnessNotes - Thank you! And I must give you props for your Peas and Carrots in sesame sauce. To get Andrea's wonderfully tasty yet healthy recipe from a recent Foodbuzz Top 9: Click here.

    Reply to Mariandy - Cheers! So glad you liked it.

    ~Cleo Coyle
    author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter