Sassemanesh Adds Zest to the Holiday Season

November 17, 2021

Christine Patrick

There’s nothing quite like those tart little sassemanesh berries to add zest to meals at Thanksgiving.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of sassemanesh berries? Well, maybe you know them better as cranberries. Sassemanesh is one of the names given to the fruit by some eastern Native American tribes. The Algonquin called them atoqua, and they were a favorite here long before the Pilgrims arrived. Atoqua was crushed and combined with dried deer meat and melted fat to make pemmican, an early convenience food. European settlers thought the plant’s flower buds resembled the head, bill, and neck of a crane and called them craneberry, which eventually evolved into cranberry.Americans are most familiar with cranberries in a jellied or whole berry sauce on the side with turkey and dressing. If you stop with that, you’re cheating your taste buds the rest of the year. Buy a few extra packs of fresh cranberries while they’re in season, put them in a freezer bag, and then freeze the berries for use later. They will keep for up to a year, but once you try a few new recipes, they won’t last that long. Cranberries and apples are a perfect marriage cooked together in equal parts and sweetened to suit your taste. Try baking acorn squash with cranberry stuffing. Or, you could just cook cranberries in naturally sweet fresh fruit juice and serve them with whipped cream or ice cream. Cranberries make a terrific glaze for baked ham, too. Simmer fresh cranberries in water, then add brown sugar and ground cloves. They also add color and flavor when added to muffins, cookies, breads, and cakes.Making your own cranberry sauce is easy. All it takes is one cup each of water and sugar, plus three cups of fresh cranberries. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil before adding the fresh cranberries. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the skins pop. Cool the mixture completely at room temperature, then refrigerate until firm. For variety, use fresh orange juice instead of water and stir in grated fresh lemon or orange zest for a tangy dish. Regardless of how you choose to use your fresh cranberries, your family will undoubtedly enjoy the flavor of sassemanesh this holiday season.

Fresh Cranberry-Orange Relish

  • 1 medium orange
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • ¼ to 1 cup sugar

Slice unpeeled orange into eights, remove seeds. Place half the cranberries and half the orange slices into the food processor container. Process until mixture is evenly chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining cranberries and orange slices. Stir in sugar. Makes about three cups.

Cranberry Nut Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 ½ cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening, and egg. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Turn into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, greased on the bottom only. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack 15 minutes before removing loaf from the pan.

Cranberry-Apple Casserole

  • 3 cups diced red and green apple, unpeeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups raw cranberries
  • ¼ cup apple cider


  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped nuts

Mix apples, sugar, cranberries, and cider together. Put in a casserole dish. Mix topping and spread over top, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Cranberry Nut Pie

  • 1 ¼ cups fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate and layer cranberries on the bottom. Sprinkle with brown sugar and nuts. In a bowl, beat egg until thick; gradually add sugar, beating until thoroughly blended. Stir in flour and melted butter; blend well. Place mixture over cranberries. Bake 45 minutes.

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