Michigan Cranberries in Cranberry Apple Pork Loin Roast

I started an exuberant post on Michigan cranberries during the holiday season, when cranberries are on everyone’s mind, “New for Locavorious this winter – cranberries grown in Michigan!” and “Cranberries – not just for Thanksgiving!” but somehow it’s February already. Bleak, cold, grey Michigan February. Who’s feeling exuberant today? Hmm….that’s exactly why you need to pull those red beauties out of the freezer and brighten up the kitchen and flavor up some home cooking.

American cranberries are native to Michigan and to a large swath of North America. Long thought of as a New England crop, good old Midwestern Wisconsin actually leads the country in cranberry production, with it’s 18,000+ acres accounting for about half of the nation’s crop. Currently only a handful of Michigan farms grow our ~ 250 acres of cranberries, yet Michigan apparently has a great climate, sandy, acidic soils and plenty of water to grow these red beauties.

I was so excited to find out that we grow cranberries in Michigan that I did not hesitate to break our Locavorious < 100 mile rule. I found 3 cranberry growers – Centennial Cranberry Farm -  check out their website and read about their historic farm, DeGrandchamp Farms, and Blueberry Heritage Farm . Locavorious got all of our cranberries this year from Blueberry Heritage Farm since they are located closest to Ann Arbor, in Holland Michigan.

Cranberries are a wonderful versatile fruit that I hope everyone appreciates having in their freezer this winter. You can add them to fruit and/or nut bread and muffins, you can add them to baked grains or pilafs; they work well in desserts and floated in cocktails, and of course – you can make cranberry relish or sauce in a snap. Cranberries are also a wonderful flavor for savory sauces for meats. A cranberry barbeque sauce works with chicken or ribs, or try whipping up a cranberry-port sauce for duck, turkey or chicken.

Here’s a recipe from our friends at the Long Winter Kitchen; Mary Wessel-Walker writes that she prepared this dish with a number of different pork cuts from Old Pine Farm, and that it earned rave reviews.

Cranberry Apple Pork Loin Roast

Ingredients:

3 to 4 lb boneless pork loin roast or a number of different pork cuts

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 oz whole frozen cranberries

¾ – 1 ¼ c brown sugar, depending upon your sweet tooth

1/2 c apple juice

2 apples, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 T fennel seed

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: Place roast in slow cooker; rub all over with the minced garlic, salt, pepper, and fennel. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours. Pork should be about 160° when fully cooked. Serve with rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

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