Pickl-It Cranberry Granola Gems

 

Image Cranberry Drawing

My Scandinavian ancestors enjoyed lingonberries - small, tart berries also known as low-bush cranberries.  

I was surprised to learn that low-bush cranberries, once a thick ground-covering here in New England, are prolific throughout Alaska. Maybe it is time to move...

We have hundreds of acres of wild-blueberry bogs within a short distance of our house, from which we have foraged hundreds of pounds of berries. We're always on the lookout for wild-cranberries, which should be in the same location.  

Image Cranberry GranolaBlueberries and cranberries are close cousins and are in fact not berries at all; they belong instead to a class of fruits known as epigynous or false berries. Unlike a true berry, the fruit grows from beneath the rest of the flower parts and as the fruit ripens the flower stays attached and ripens as well. 

The cranberries developed an acidity level five times higher than blueberries because it came to rely on water for seed dispersal. Cranberries did not need to produce large amounts of sugar that their blue-colored relatives required to entice consumption by animals in order to spread their seeds. "The Benefits of Being Bitter - How The Cranberry's Evolution Made It a Thanksgiving Staple"

Native Americans ate the cranberries raw. Raw! They also used them as a natural preservative, given the naturally high benzoic acid level, in pemmican - a protein-rich nutrition bar of dried meat.

"...after contact with the colonists who used sugar and maple syrup, the Native Americans would learn from the colonists and adapt their sweetening methods to cranberries."  - Cranberry Facts

 

Lacto-Fermentation is Beneficial to Cranberries (Or Lingonberries)

If it seems odd to ferment an already-sour berry, like cranberries or lingonberries, lacto-fermentation is a method that retains the cranberry's natural pH of 2.8.

Cooking cranberries with sugar, making them into a jam-like gooey sauce, increases their pH to 4.1 and above, causing the loss of antifungal properties.  Battling fungal issues? Lacto-ferment cranberries in the Pickl-It!

"Cranberry juice would exert an even more significant antifungal action if the pH were left at its native value of 2.8; not adjusted to 5.6. This would probably be due to pH and a larger amount of free benzoic acid. Further investigation suggested that benzoic acid loses some of its antifungal properties in cranberry juice at pH 5.6."  Antifungal Properties of Cranberry Juice

Image Cranberry GranolaRaw Cranberries + Favorite Grain Flake

Unlike other Christmas seasons, when I spent days - even weeks -  creating batches of sugary-cookies which have no redeeming value, this recipe is one of our new Christmas traditions, easily-created by adding already-fermented, Pickl-It Cranberry Relish.

We've never given up on grains because they're an important source of nutrients like vitamin B complex, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and most important, selenium with its anti-cancer benefits.

"The richest sources of selenium are cereals, grains, and Brazil nuts. Vegetables and fruits also provide small amounts of selenium." - How Selenium Protects Against Cancer 

Of all the "healthy" factory-food products we cleared out of our kitchen cabinets - crackers, cereals, breads and pasta - my children missed granola the most.  This recipe is a healthy version, containing 100% lacto-fermented ingredients that are blood-sugar and gut-friendly, unlike the health-food store version.

Barley, rice and oatmeal flakes all work well in this recipe.  We prefer the rolled oats which are easy to roll-your-own - (nice example here). Oats, like any other grain, risk turning rancid because of the fat content, so freshness is important.

Several customers prefer barley flakes which they describe as "tougher, and more hardy than oatmeal or rice flakes".

Rice flakes, more difficult to find, turn a bit mushy if left to ferment beyond 24-hours.  The resulting granola is more of a solid mass, without the definition between flake and fruit, like the other two grain choices.

Image Cranberry Granola

We have experimented using leftover cooked oatmeal, but the final granola texture was more like a power-bar - a solid, crunch-mass.

The color wasn't as clear and bright as the old-fashioned rolled oats, but instead, muddy-gray.

All of our granola recipes follow E. Indian methods of grain-fermentation with yogurt, so the high-acid of the berries, plus the yogurt, finish the cooking process, much like citrus acid is a type of "cooking" with raw fish, changing the protein-structure.

One last note - don't forget to add the fat, like I did on the last batch which I threw together a little too quickly.  

Fat is crucial for the all-important "mouth-feel" and helps separate the grains so they don't clump while fermenting or dehydrating.  

If this is your first time making Pickl-It lacto-fermented granolas, it might be helpful to read through the instructions posted at our Pickl-It Turkish Fig Coconut Oatmeal Granola.

The technique is the same, although I find it easier to mix the granola in a large glass mixing bowl and THEN dump it into the Pickl-It.  If you want a bicep workout, or want to save the work of having to wash another dish, feel free to mix the granola in the Pickl-It.

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Pickl-It Cranberry Granola Gems

Image Granola

4 cups old-fashioned organic rolled oatmeal (or barley flakes, or rice flakes or gluten-free buckwheat flakes)

3 cups Pickl-It Cranberry Orange Apple Relish 

1 1/2-teaspoons (tsp) sea salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional; taste your Pickl-It Cranberry Orange Apple Relish; if cinnamon is strong enough, don't add)

1/4-tsp ground clove (optional; taste your Pickl-It Cranberry Orange Apple Relish; if clove flavor is strong enough, don't add)

1 1/4-cup whole-fat grass-fed raw-milk yogurt (or substitute kefir or cultured buttermilk)

1/4-cup raw (preferably fermented) honey, maple syrup, or rapadura sugar

1 cup hot water (about 140-degrees)

1/2-cup room-temperature butter

1/4-cup coconut oil

Directions: 

1.  In a large mixing bowl, gently fold flake-of-choice with Pickl-It Cranberry Orange Apple Relish; set aside.

2.  In an 8-cup bowl, mix together hot water with butter and coconut oil; when melted, add optional spices (if using) and yogurt.

3.  Combine oatmeal (or barley or rice) and cranberry relish mixture with the yogurt/water mixture.  Gently fold together.

4.  Using a small cookie dasher, scoop small 1-inch diameter balls of granola onto dehydrator sheets.   Dry at 145F for 1-hour.  Lower dehydrator temperature to 125F for 1 hour.  

5.  Break granola balls in half.  Lower dehydrator temperature to 95F and continue to dehydrate until granola is thoroughly dry.

6.  Store in a wire-bail airtight jar.  Use within 3-weeks.  Freeze leftovers.

Note: This is sour. If you need it sweeter, add maple syrup, or raw honey when using it on fresh fruit with yogurt.

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To Learn More Graphic

 

 

 

History of Cranberries 

Medicinal Uses of Cranberries - University of Maryland

Bow Down to the Power of Cranberries - NPR

Food from Finland - Bilberries & Lingonberries

Field Guide to Edible Plants