Sunday, February 20, 2011

Red: Cape Cod Cranberry Pie and The End of an Age


Remember how I told you of my love for cranberries?
Well, I have more to tell.

But first, I should tell you that my camera died last week. My parents got me this Kodak EasyShare over five years ago for Christmas, and it was a great camera. I went through only two batteries with it, but saved a lot of quality photographs to aid my memories. The motor on the lens finally gave out, so Nathanael and I chose a replacement which is probably much better (and is certainly newer, while less costly), but it is going to take me time to get used to using the new one, so we'll see how it goes. My old camera had one feature that I will miss dearly, and I feel a little ridiculous explaining it. In the top left corner after you took every picture it would show you a little hand; red meant that the picture was bad, yellow meant ok/not sure, and green meant good. The camera gave these ratings based on light and blurriness, not quality of the composition of course, but since those are the qualities you can't be sure of on a two inch screen, it was a super helpful thing to have (and it was almost never wrong). 

 So, some of my next few posts will have the last pictures my old camera took, mixed with some I've borrowed Nathanael's camera for, mixed with the pictures I'm taking on my new camera while I get used to not having my camera give me a color coded helping hand.

Oh cranberries.
How could you help but like something so beautiful and delicious, and whose home is the bog?
The first time I picked cranberries myself was on the road side, driving home from church. My Dad, like he mysteriously always does with small objects, saw the tiny fruit as he drove along at 45 or 50mph, and we stopped and gathered some from the marshy shoulder as a family before continuing home. I remember being amazed at how such tiny spindly plants could produce and hold up two or three substantial berries, but I think it is still a mystery of the botanical world (ok, of my botanical world). Another thing that makes these fruits an enigma is that they are more tart when ripe than unripe. You may have seen the advertisement for ocean spray white cranberry juice making such claims, but as a biologist who has visited many a bog and eaten many a white cranberry, I tell you, it is quite true.
I love bogs.
Not only are they home to cranberries, but also sphagnum moss, pitcher plants, sundew plants, and quite often orchids, unique hydrology and beautiful ecosystems. If you happen to live in the north, buff up your camera and scope out some bogs to explore this spring.
But back to the pie...

My Mom found this pie recipe more than ten years ago in a coupon flier and cut it out for me because I love cranberries. I had seen it there too, but passed over it because I figured that recipes in coupon fliers were probably all bad tasting shenanigans to get you to use specific products. That Thanksgiving I made this pie, and as soon as I had put the pie in the freezer and licked the mixing spoon I was convinced, and have since tried a number of coupon flier recipes (though I use generics, he he).
This pie is the most wonderful combination of fruit and dairy I can think of, and it would probably even be wonderful with other fruits, but I think it's magical just the way it's written. The recipe is very simple, and as long as you have all of your ingredients prepared (cranberry sauce and crust) it should take you merely minutes. I encourage you to make the cranberry sauce and crust yourself, but if you decide you only have time to make one, choose to buy the crust.

Cape Cod Cranberry Velvet Pie  yield 8 servings
(Recipe originally from Keebler)

1 8oz. packaged of cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream (this is a variety of heavy cream found in a carton beside half-and-half, etc.)
16oz whole cranberry sauce (homemade is best, just follow the recipe on the cranberry bag)
1 Shortbread crust *

In a mixing bowl, beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the softened cream cheese until fluffy. Return the whipping cream mixture to the beater and gradually add the cream cheese to it, beating  until smooth and creamy. From the cranberry sauce, set aside a few spoonfuls (with whole berries) for garnish, then fold the remaining sauce into the whipped cream mixture. Spoon into pie crust. Freeze for 4 hours or until firm. Garnish with reserved cranberries. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

If you are going for super easy, a shortbread crust can be purchased at the grocery store. However, shortbread is one of the simplest cookies to make and the crust is just as simple and takes just about one recipe of the cookie dough:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Mix flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth. For the crust, roll the ball out as best you can and spread the dough into your 9-inch pie plate. Prick with a fork here-and-there, bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes until golden.

For a gluten free pie, use crumbs of your favorite cookie, mix with a bit of butter and sugar/oil, and bake until golden. You might also try a coconut crust like the one I used on my pumpkin chocolate cheesecake without the bran, and with or without the chocolate.


  1. I cannot WAIT to try this :>) and the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake as well for that matter. thanks!!!

  2. Oh good! I think you will love them both, but this one is REALLY my favorite.

  3. That looks absolutely DELICIOUS!! Yummmm.... **headed to the fridge**

  4. Oh my... how do I continue on my diet and continue reading your blog???? I love your reflections on cranberries and the recipes. I'm ashamed to say I just threw away a bag, unopened, of cranberries left over from the holidays. Maybe I should rethink the idea that cranberries are for Christmas.Love to you and N.

  5. I have a serious hankering for pie now. This looks so tasty!

  6. The photos of your pie are amazing! Beautiful way to inspire us to eat real food in bright colors.


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