Down East 2013 ©
Photo by Jennifer Baum
It’s that time of year again when turkeys, stuffing, and of course cranberries become paramount in all food coverage. DOWN EAST covered the red berries  in the December issue , and this week the NYTimes went behind the scenes at a Massachusetts bog  (the state produces 25% of the nearly 360 billion cranberries harvested this year in the U.S.). Maine isn’t a top producer, but it does have a lot of cranberry farms. I spoke with John Harker, the Agricultural Resource Management Coordinator for the state of Maine and a cranberry grower himself, about Maine’s other berry:
“We have somewhere around thirty-two farms, and we probably do somewhere around 640,000 pounds of cranberries per year. The farms are pretty much Down East, in Washington county. When we first started the development work here, a gentleman came up from Massachusetts, and he developed a cranberry bed Down East. At that time the area was the perfect place: it had acidic soils, sandy soils, and good water resources. A bunch of people got interested and folks encouraged and worked with farmers there that wanted to grow cranberries. Dean Bradshaw of Bradshaw’s Cranberry Farm  was instrumental in helping people get started. Cherryfield Foods  and Jasper Wyman & Sons  became very interested as a side enterprise to their blueberry operations. Now Cherryfield Foods has the majority of cranberry acres in the state, 120, on their property.
In the landscape, blueberries are just a little bit higher up in the dry areas. Down East, even in the wild blueberry beds, you can find cranberries. The cranberry is actually a sister to blueberries, they are the same genus [Vaccinium].
Maine is in a great position, much like for the Macintosh apple, that we have the right climate to produce high color in the cranberries. We have different varieties than Massachusetts. We have Ben Lear, it’s an old native Wisconsin variety, a very dark purplish berry that’s very large and somewhat sweeter. And we grow Stevens, a hybrid for processing. They are larger and have a nice color and the plant very productive. Cranberries sell on the basis of color. People like the deep color for making sauces, and in the juice market producers pay a premium for higher colored berries because they want to make a dark colored juice. Plus there’s a Canadian company that is buying cranberries from Maine for medicinal uses.”
If you're looking to get creative with some local cranberries, try these recipes from DOWN EAST  books.
Apple Cranberry-Raisin Pie
5 large apples, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp margarine
1 cup cranberries
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp lemon peel, or dash of lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins, diced
Toss together all ingredients to coat well. Pour into unbaked 9-inch pie shell and cover with top crust. Cut vents in top crust. Bake 10 minutes at 450°, then reduce heat to 350° and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer.
Page 135 What’s Cooking at Moody’s Diner, by Nancy Moody Genthner (Click here to buy the book) 
King and Bartlett’s Cranberry-Butterscotch Bars
1-1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup rum (or water)
1 cup chopped cranberries
1 pound dark brown sugar
1 stick butter
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup toasted walnuts
Boil the raisins and rum (water) together for 5 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Let cool. Add 2 T sugar to the chopped cranberries and let sit until ready to use. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the remaining sugar. Cook until bubbly. Let cool 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Fold in the cranberries, walnuts, and raisins. Spread in a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 35 to 45 minutes.
Page 187 The Maine Sporting Camp Cookbook, by Alice Arlen (Click here to buy the book)