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If you are anything like me, you have several packages of fresh cranberries hanging out in your refrigerator. I use lots of cranberries during the holidays because I like their tart goodness in so many dishes. As a result, I tend to buy a few more bags than I can use over the holidays. I also can’t resist a bargain if the bags are marked down a bit after Christmas to move them off the grocers’ shelves.

That isn’t a problem because those bags can be popped in the freezer with no further ado and used all winter and spring in dishes both sweet and savory.

I often make fresh cranberry sauce to serve as a side with any poultry dish as long as I have any berries in my refrigerator or freezer. It is the simplest of sauces and I can’t see why the Thanksgiving turkey should be the only bird to have cranberries on the side. That same cranberry sauce is also great with pork.

Cranberries not only wake up your taste buds, they also provide a serious nutritional boost to your winter meals. Cranberries are a significant source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, vitamin K, vitamin E, phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavonoids and triterpenoids.

The proanthocyanidins are important because they give the cranberry one of its most interesting benefits. These substances provide protection against helicobacter pylori which is one of the causes of stomach ulcers. The proanthocyanidins prevent that bacterium from clinging to the stomach lining.

The ability to prevent bacteria from adhering to a surface is thought to help prevent bladder infections as well.

My favorite cranberry sauce is made with wine in place of water and I think it makes the flavor pop. I have used burgundy and merlot successfully. It is delicious and if you are looking for something a bit different than the recipe on the bag, this might be it.

The cranberry tea is wonderfully soothing if you are under the weather. Several years ago, I substituted Splenda for half of the sugar and sipped my way through a very sore throat and upset stomach. I also combined it with ginger ale over ice and it was a delicious way to up my fluid consumption and get a bit of vitamin C is my system. This is also delicious mixed with a bit of gin for a cranberry cocktail.

My favorite cranberry dessert is the pot pie. This version comes from Cook’s Illustrated and it is fast and easy and suitable for morning coffees or after any meal. The steamed topping is not too sweet, but never the less delicious!

Cranberries Burgundy or Merlot

1 package (12 ounces) cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup Burgundy or Merlot

^pBring sugar and burgundy to a boil. Add cranberries and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberry skins pop. Cool slightly’ serve warm or chill 2 hours. Sauce will keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Recipe Note: The original recipe called for another one-half cup sugar but I think 1 cup is plenty. If this is too tart for your taste, feel free to add more!

Hot and Fruity Cranberry Tea

3 1/2 quarts water

2 bags (12 ounces each) cranberries

2 cups white sugar

Juice of 2 oranges

Juice of 2 lemons

12 whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

^pCombine water and cranberries in big pot. Heat until boiling, then turn heat down and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and let steep for an hour. Strain and serve.

Cranberry Pot Pie

Filling

1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries (4 cups), thawed if necessary

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

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1 1/2 cups water

Topping

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into one-half inch pieces and chilled

1/2 cup buttermilk

^pFor the filling: Combine all the ingredients in a 12-inch skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries break down and the mixture begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. For the topping: Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor.

Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in the buttermilk until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and roll it into a 12-inch round.

Place the dough over the thickened filling.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the dough is puffed and doubled in size, about 15 minutes. To serve, cut the dough top into eight wedges. Transfer each wedge to a serving bowl and spoon the filling over the top. Serve hot or warm, but this is best eaten on the day it is made.

Quote of the Week: And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been. —Rainer Maria Rilke

Ellen Lund

of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.

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