What I love about this recipe is that it is so indicative of place and time. Cranberries are indigenous to North America, and were originally used by Aboriginals as food, medicine, and dye. When settlers from Europe arrived, they too began to utilize cranberries. There are very early references to using cranberries in recipes for sauces, jellies, and tarts.
The inclusion of this recipe in an American cookbook indicates that settlers were recognizing and utilizing native foods in their cooking. Additionally, According to Catharine Parr Strickland Traill, "necessity, no doubt, has taught the old settlers, both in the States and Canada, to adopt certain leaves, roots and berries, as a substitute for the genuine article; and habit has reconciled them to the flavour."
Today we commonly associate cranberries with the holiday season, a tradition which began long ago. It is possible that cranberries were eaten by early English settlers in Massachussets and were used in Thanksgiving feasts. In 1853, Canadian author Traill, wrote of using cranberries as a festive decoration.
The Verdict:Actually, this turned out better than I thought! Firstly, the cranberries were like impossible to mash. Those things are tough! I think some sort of pestle-like object would work better than my wirey potato masher. Secondly, I was really worried that just pouring hot water over the somewhat mashed berries wouldn't extract very much flavour. But it did! And my water wasn't even as hot as it could be, so I'm really pleased with that. I let it steep for a while (while I finished up the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special! Whee!), maybe 20 minutes? As you can see, the end result was a gorgeous color. I sweetened my tea with honey and added a little nutmeg, but to be honest I liked it better without the nutmeg. Little Y saw it and asked to try some "Jell-O juice" (hahaha) so I let her have a sip and she really liked it! Cranberry isn't my favourite, because its so sour, but I might make this again. Plus if you can employ child labour to mash the berries, its definitely worth the time ;)
Modernized Recipe:(Adapted from Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book)
The original recipe is easy to follow. Steep the mashed berries in the hot water until it turns a vibrant red-pink color. I think I used maybe 1/2 cup berries to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly.
"Cranberry." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Nov. 2013. Accessed 24 Nov. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cranberry>.
Traill, Catharine Parr Strickland. The Female Emigrant’s Guide, And Hints on Canadian Housekeeping. Toronto, Canada West: Maclear and Company, 1855.