|Cindy Rhodes prepares cranberry chicken Parm at home in Wareham, where she and her husband own Edgewood Bogs. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)|
She makes cranberries a fruit for all seasons
WAREHAM — To get to Cindy Rhodes’s house, you have to take Cranberry Highway. Then, when you turn in to her driveway, you skirt six acres of cranberry bogs to get to the bright, airy home she and her husband, Matt, built on the bogs’ edge in 1988.
Little wonder, then, that the couple’s business is cranberries. The Rhodeses are owners of Edgewood Bogs, a 70-year-old family business they bought from Matt’s cousin in 2005. There are six acres next to the house; the bulk of the cranberries sit on 240 acres in nearby Carver. Cindy and Matt’s three sons, ages 22, 20, and 17, all work in the bogs part time, and expect to take over the business one day.
It isn’t exactly all cranberries, all the time, in this household. Ironically, Cindy Rhodes has always faced the same problem that’s long plagued anyone who wants the tart red fruit out of season: Cranberries are not easy to find. For some reason, frozen cranberries, unlike other types of berries, have never been plentiful. You can sometimes find them in small quantities at specialty stores, but they tend to be sweetened, chopped, expensive, or some combination thereof. Of course, prescient cooks can always throw a couple of bags into the freezer in the fall, but not everyone thinks that far ahead, and if you go through a lot of cranberries, those could be gone by March or so.
So Rhodes, a kitchen experimenter who likes to cook with cranberries — the phrase “Oh, no, not cranberries again’’ is occasionally heard at the dinner table — became a woman with a mission. This winter, she and Matt hope to launch Cape Cod Select, a new retail brand of frozen cranberries; they’re on track to have the product in stores by January. (At least one large retail chain is looking like a good bet.) They’ve got all the pieces in place: packaging, marketing materials, processor, distributor. Now, it’s just a matter of bringing in the berries, freezing them, and packing them up.
The annual harvest started a week earlier than usual on a cool, sunny weekday. That same day, Rhodes was preparing a batch of a recent creation she’s dubbed cranberry chicken Parm. It’s much like the more conventional chicken Parm, but it features a homemade cranberry sauce in place of the usual tomato. Rhodes says it was a hit with Matt and the boys; even the son she describes as “picky’’ gobbled it down.
She starts with frozen cranberries, using her own brand. “You use them right out of the bag,’’ she says, “no chopping, no washing.’’ She adds the juice and pulp of an orange, Marsala wine, a little brown sugar, and cinnamon. That spice, she contends, is the best match for cranberries, and she uses it a lot.
Rhodes says that one of the reasons she and Matt could launch the frozen line right now is because of increased interest in cranberries’ health benefits; they’re thought to provide protection from heart disease, cancer, urinary tract infections, and more. “Ten years ago, it wouldn’t have worked. The market wasn’t there.’’
Her chicken dish demonstrates the versatility of the nutritious fruits. The tangy-sweet sauce is a natural match for poultry and Parmesan adds a pleasing salty counterpoint. She serves it with steamed vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, or green beans, rather than a starch, so it becomes a light but satisfying meal. And, if Rhodes has her way, it’s a dish that can be served any season.
“Cranberries are forgotten after January,’’ she says.
Not in this house.
Jane Dornbusch can be reached at email@example.com.