For many living in North America, the cranberry is associated with winter holiday feasts such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when it's made into a sauce to be served alongside turkey, stuffing and gravy. Frequently, though, cranberries come in can form - literally. Many cooks buy cranberries as a sauce that, when extracted from the can, maintains its shape due to the high pectin content of the fruit.
Much of the appeal of the cranberry is its appearance - it's pretty, round, glossy and bright pink. It's certainly not eaten for its flavour, at least in its raw state, because cranberry is exceedingly tart and astringent, with just a bit of sweetness. The fruit is made into refreshingly tart cranberry juice (heavily sweetened), dried cranberries (which are delicious) and jelly and sauce. You can buy frozen cranberries, which are as good as the fresh variety for cooked dishes.
Home-made cranberry sauce is much better than the canned stuff. Simmer the cranberries (fresh or frozen) with enough water to cover them and add sugar to taste. The berries will burst as they cook. Stir in fresh orange juice, a splash of fresh lemon juice, a few wide strips of orange zest, a little salt and spices, such as a cinnamon stick, whole cloves and black peppercorns. Simmer until the berries are very soft and the consistency is a little watery - the sauce thickens as it cools. The sauce is especially delicious served with thick slices of ham, or use it as a filling for jam tarts.