Think beyond Thanksgiving cranberry sauce when it comes to this ruby red powerhouse fruit. Packed with nutrients, cranberries add color and flavor zing to both savory and sweet dishes such as this super easy Crustless Cranberry Pie recipe from Great Expectations, a cozy local eatery in central Wisconsin that celebrates these berries on their menu during the fall cranberry harvest and throughout the year.
“One of the biggest comments I hear from folks is ‘I don’t like cranberries,’ but we’re on a mission to change that here,” laughs Amy Scheide co-owner of Great Expectations with her husband, Ryan. “The vast majority of cranberries grown around here go into processed foods like sauce and juice and people unfortunately don’t know what a real, fresh cranberry even tastes like.”
Scheide creatively experiments with cranberries throughout the menu, from a cranberry vinaigrette salad dressing to adding cranberries to everything from chicken salad to bread pudding. With a strong commitment to supporting area farms and food artisans, Great Expectations sources seasonal ingredients far beyond cranberries. There are cocktails made with Door County Tart Cherry Shrub by Siren Shrub and their Unforgettable Grilled Cheese featuring grilled, locally-raised butternut squash and a cranberry-pepper jam and, of course, Wisconsin cheddar. Stay tuned for that unique combination recipe from Great Expectations in a future post.
“History and research have proven the health benefits of cranberries,” shares Fawn Gottschalk, a fifth-generation family farmer at Gottschalk Cranberry Marsh outside Wisconsin Rapids, who joined photographer John Ivanko and I for lunch at Great Expectations after a tour of her farm. “From promoting urinary tract to cardiovascular health, it’s a super fruit high in fiber, vitamin C and the highest of all fruits in antioxidants.” Interestingly, cranberries are one of only three fruits indigenous to the United States, the others being blueberries and concord grapes.
We love these native cranberries here in Wisconsin. Our state produces over 60 percent of the nation’s crop, securing Wisconsin as the number one cranberry producer in the United States for the 24th consecutive year. The cranberry harvest runs from mid-September through mid-October, where you can see these bright red marshes – called bogs on the east and west coasts. The long-vined cranberries grow in soft acidic soil, usually near wetlands. The harvest process involves flooding the marsh with water and “combing” the vines with special harvesting equipment to loosen the fruit, which then floats to the surface. The cranberries floating on the surface create an amazing pool of color.
“I love cranberries in any form but eating them here is my favorite option,” adds Gottschalk, enjoying a break from the busy harvest for a cranberry-infused lunch at Great Expectations. “It’s an honor to know our growers and be able to showcase their hard work,” sums up Scheide. “We are blessed to have such a wonderful farming community here in central Wisconsin that are both our suppliers and also dear friends.”
The Crustless Cranberry Pie, a favorite on the Great Expectations menu year-round, is super easy to make at home and just takes one mixing bowl. The crust naturally caramelizes and this also makes a nice morning coffeecake or to-go snack. Scheide bakes this in her divided cast iron pan that makes uniform “slices,” but a regular pie pan will work just fine. She recommends hand-stirring; no need for a mixer. And for those increasingly cool fall days, serve it warm with a drizzle of caramel and homemade maple whipped heavy cream!
For those food product entrepreneurs who have embraced your state’s cottage food law and who are baking and selling from their homestead kitchens, this Crustless Cranberry Pie might be worth trying out. Thanks to the successful home-baking lawsuit in Wisconsin, we can finally sell such non-hazardous baked goods legally from our home kitchen. A Wisconsin win-win: Supporting the community economy with baked goods and celebrating seasonal, local ingredients.
Crustless Cranberry Pie
Courtesy of Amy Scheide, Great Expectations, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Yield: 8 slices
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup flour
• Pinch of salt in a bowl
• 1 ½ cup fresh cranberries
• 3/4 cup chopped pecans
• ½ cup butter, melted
• 2 tsp almond extract
• 2 eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray your cast iron skillet or pie pan.
2. Combine sugar and flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
3. Add fresh cranberries and coat with mixture.
4. Stir in chopped pecans and then melted butter and almond extract.
5. Whisk the eggs and pour over mixture and stir.
6. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam and millions of ladybugs.
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