James Webb knew his cranberries. He was the foremost expert on cranberry cultivation in late nineteenth century New England. His 1886 manual on the subject, Cape Cod Cranberries, garnered him respect and renown among his fellow agriculturists. “Having had many years practical experience as a grower of cranberries,” he writes in the book’s preface,
and being familiar with the various difficulties which beset the path of those unskilled in their culture, I have been induced, at the instance of friends, to publish this book, containing the results of my experience, in the hope that it will serve as a guide to prevent others from falling into such pit-falls and errors as have many times in the past caused discouragment and failure.
From selecting the best type of bog house, to gathering and shipping the cranberry crop, Webb instructs the reader in the finer points of cranberry cultivation.
But you need not grow your own cranberries to enjoy their many charms. The 1857 kitchen tome Mrs. Hale’s New Cook Book: A Practical System for Private Families in Town; With Directions for Carving, and Arranging the Table for Parties, Etc. (Also, Preparations of Food for Invalids and for Children) presents a straightforward recipe for cranberry sauce that can be used with homegrown berries, or with those plucked from the produce department.
Cranberry Sauce. — This sauce is very simply made. A quart of cranberries are washed and stewed with sufficient water to cover them; when they burst mix with them a pound of brown sugar and stir them well. Before you remove them from the fire, all the berries should have burst. When cold they will be jellied, and if thrown into a form while warm, will turn out whole.
To Stew Cranberries. — To a pound of Cranberries allow a pound of sugar; dissolve the sugar in a very little water, boil it for ten minutes, and skim it well. Have the cranberries well washed, put them with the sugar and boil them slowly till they are quite soft, and of a fine color.