They grow together with bilberries in our mountains – the tiny, bright red berries of acidic, bitter-sweet flavour. At least that’s what Slovak cranberries taste like. We don’t grow cultivated species as it is common in America or Canada. Our cranberries are not associated with Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners. In fact, they are very difficult to get in Slovakia, as they only grow in high altitudes.
When my uncle went bilberry picking last week, he also brought back two buckets of cranberries, and was happy to share one with me. It was a precious gift worth a three-hour climb up to the picking site, and another long walk downhill with all the produce. I paid him in kind with a packet of flavourful plums and a homemade plum pie.
As it was a mix of ripe and underripe fruits, I thought my cranberries were perfect for a compote. The recipe below yielded 3 jars of appetizing cranberry compote.
- 1 kg fresh cranberries
- 200 ml water
- 350 g sugar
- cinnamon stick
- Wash the cranberries and let them dry off. Pour the water in a cooking pot and add the sugar. Let dissolve over a low heat.
- Add the cranberries and the cinnamon stick. Stir well and cook over a low heat for 7 – 10 minutes, or until the berries have cracked and released juices. At this point the mixture will thicken, so remember to stir it well to prevent scorching.
- Take away from the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick and ladle the compote into clean jars. Screw on the lids while the compote is still hot. Let cool down slowly.
- Test the seal by turning the jars upside down. If the lids have sealed well, there is no leakage of the jar contents.
- Store in a cool dark place. Once opened, refrigerate and use the contents of the jar within two weeks.
Cranberries are seen as number one natural cure for bladder inflammation in Slovakia. They are also thought to prevent tooth decay. As wild cranberries are so hard to obtain in my country, we hold them in great esteem.