For all their popularity as antioxidant superfood, blueberries are "kind of dull" on Lisa Sandrock's palate

For all their popularity as antioxidant superfood, blueberries are "kind of dull" on Lisa Sandrock's palate

"I prefer something that has a little more zing to it," says the Medford resident and Master Food Preserver. "I think cranberries liven things up."

Also rich in antioxidants and another of the three fruits considered native to North America, cranberries are a fall crop that can be enjoyed all year, says Sandrock, who plans to teach preservation methods next week for the food that Native Americans dubbed "bitter berry."

While sugar tends to overpower commercially made cranberry products, homemade condiments with fewer sweeteners are the focus of Sandrock's class Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. She and fellow Master Food Preserver Joanne Lescher have assembled a lineup of butters, chutneys, preserves, juice, ketchup, vinegar and sauces in time for the holidays.

"It can add a nice, festive flair," says Lescher. "It can be a surprise later in the winter."

Half-pint jars of cranberry ketchup were Lescher's colorful Christmas gifts last year for family and friends. She also intends to share a recipe for cranberry compote with dried fruits and nuts that was "a big hit" at last year's Thanksgiving feast.

"We'd like to see people learn to do other things ... rather than buy that canned cranberry sauce," says Lescher.

"It takes maybe 10 minutes to make it fresh," says Sandrock.

Unlike so many other fruits, cranberries require no peeling, pitting, slicing, dicing or separating from their seeds. Freezing extremely well, bags of fresh cranberries can be stockpiled in fall to cook any time.

"They're so easy to work with," says Lescher.

Status as an Oregon specialty also recommends cranberries. Approximately 180 farmers in Coos and Curry counties cultivate some 2,800 acres, constituting the country's fourth-largest crop by state. The "wet harvest" of cranberries is an autumn spectacle along Highway 101. Loosened from their vines when farmers flood their bogs, the ripe berries float to form a ruby carpet on the water's surface.

"They are a local, Oregon product," says Sandrock, adding that she purchased Oregon berries last year at Medford's Food 4 Less. "This is part of the Oregon economy."

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email