Wampanoag Language Note: Wild Cranberries are called sasumuneash in Wampanoag.

Pilgrim language note: The name cranberry is derived from "craneberry",first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called "bearberries" as bears were often seen feeding on them.


The Wampanoag celebrate Cranberry Day on the second Tuesday in October, and it is an excused absence for Wampanoag children enrolled in Island schools. The following information about Cranberry Day is from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

About Cranberry Day

The tradition of giving thanks to the Creator for a good harvest is an ancient one, both for the Wampanoag, as well as for most people who are not Native American. As you read the questions and answers about our celebration called Cranberry Day, compare it to the U.S. national Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in November. Cranberry Day is the most important and meaningful holiday of the year for us.

What is Cranberry Day?

Our people have always had a cranberry harvest celebration. Cranberry Day is one of the many thanksgiving celebrations that happen throughout the year. Our ancestors have always taken time to go to the bogs and harvest the cranberries together; that is why Wampanoag children have the day off from school. During the morning and throughout the day only tribal families come to bogs to harvest. After everyone has had time to harvest, all the families get together and have a community lunch. Some of the elders tell about cranberry days from their past before we eat. Then, while we eat, some of the men and boys drum and sing. Although the day’s activities are for our tribal families alone, we invite our neighbors to come to a pot luck dinner during the night. Some families cook foods using the cranberries, so everyone can get a taste of the harvest.

Why is Cranberry Day so important to the Wampanoag?

Cranberry Day is an important holiday for the Wampanoag tribe because it gives us a chance to give thanks to the Creator for this fruit that has always helped our people survive. The cranberries are stored and used throughout the winter to help vary our diet. In the old days, fishermen who went out to sea for a long time would take cranberries with them, knowing that the vitamin C in cranberries would prevent sickness. In the old days, some of the harvest was sold on the mainland and the money was used to purchase items that weren’t grown on the island, like molasses and sugar. We have continued to celebrate the Cranberry harvest, remembering the different ways the cranberry has helped us. That is why Cranberry Day is an official Tribal holiday.

What did the cranberry harvest celebrations at night include?

Dancing, eating good food, singing and socializing with friends new and old.

What food was served at Cranberry Day celebrations (besides cranberries)?

Chowder, quahogs and venison! The meals that are eaten during the celebrations are called potluck. Every family or individual makes different dishes to share and you never know what someone might bring. At celebrations like Cranberry Day, everyone looks forward to different families’ making their own personal specialty, which is often a community favorite.

What did the tribe do with all of its cranberries?

Gladys Widdiss, a Tribal elder, recalls cranberry days of her youth.

“We picked for two or three days, enough for what we figured we needed through the winter and more. While waiting for our elders to finish picking in the afternoon, we would race cranberries down the dunes. We would make a trough from the top of the dunes to the bottom; sometimes snake like, some times straight, and set the cranberries in a line at the top; push them to start, and see whose reached the bottom first.”

Helen Manning, a Tribal elder, remembers arriving at the bogs in an ox cart and filling up the carts with the cranberries they picked to store them for the remainder of the year. She remembers that a friend’s parent, another member of the Tribe, had a room in their house just for storing the cranberries that had been picked during the three-day festival. Not having central heating throughout the house kept the rooms cool, and the cranberries lasted through the year. Helen remembers the story, “that my father, as a young boy, used to go into the room and enjoy hearing the popping sound as he stepped on the cranberries”. Helen said the cranberries were used for very simple recipes. Her mother used them to make cranberry dumplings, cranberry sauce and cranberry cobbler. Helen said everyone had a cow in those days, so the cobbler would be served with fresh cream.

How is Cranberry Day celebrated today?

Instead of a three-day harvest festival, the Wampanoag of today hold a one-day holiday. Children are excused from school and together, tribal members of all ages harvest cranberries. At lunch, everyone sits around an open fire while the elders share stories of their past with the children. Elders also share tribal stories, such as the legend of Moshup (hard link to Helen Manning’s legend of Moshup text). In the evening, there is dancing and singing. The tribe gives thanks to the Creator for the harvest, as we have done for thousands of years.

The Wampanoag tribe tradition of Cranberry Day is a celebration of the ripening of the last wild cranberry of the year. For the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Cranberry Day is more about culture and heritage than the pragmatic crop-gathering aspects of 100 years ago.

"We would get enough cranberries to last the winter," said Beverly Wright, Councilwoman for the Wampanoag Gay Head (Aquinnah) Nation in an interview for Martha’s Vineyard magazine. "When I am out here I think how important these bogs were to our ancestors," said Tobias Vanderhoop, Gay Head (Aquinnah) Nation. "This is the harvest that comes at the midway point in our native year. Our New Year is in the spring."



The following recipes combine the best of Native and Pilgrim ingredients and methods suited for our contemporary times.

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

4 cups cranberries, whole, fresh, or frozen and thawed


3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 cup oatmeal flakes

6 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream as a topping

In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and spices and toss with cranberries. Place fruit in a well-buttered tart pan or 8-inch baking dish and set aside.

To make streusel, blend together the dry ingredients in a bowl and either cut in butter with a knife or pastry blender or blend in a food processor with a few quick turns of the blade. Add the pecans and mix or process until just blended.

Top the fruit with the streusel and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Serve warm and top with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 6-8.


Photo by Andrew Pockrose

This Wampanoag recipe, which makes a warm and soothing breakfast, dates back hundreds of years (with a few nods to modern tastes). This is a version from Darius Coombs and Eleanor Jackson of Plimoth Plantation.

2 handfuls of corn meal

Water (enough to cover corn meal)

Cranberries (dried, fresh or frozen, as much as you want)

Maple syrup, chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, sunflower seeds (optional)

Put the cornmeal in a pot, cover with water and simmer until the porridge is thick and creamy. If you're using fresh or frozen berries, put them in at the start. If you're using dried, add them at the end.

Add maple syrup, nuts and seeds to taste.

Serves 2


Pilgrim Cranberry tart


2 cups all purpose flour

6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons sugar

6 tablespoon cold water


Mix flour with salt and sugar. Work butter in until it’s crumbly. Add water and mix and mash until it holds together. Add a little more it it’s not holding together, but not too much. When it forms into a great big ball, divide into two parts, Shape into 2 disks, cover with plastic wrap or put into a plastic bag so it doesn’t dry out and let it sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes and up to overnight. This makes enough for TWO pastry shells or a top AND bottom crust for a pie. If you’re making one tart, you can freeze the other half of the pastry for up to two months.  Let thaw overnight in the fridge before using.



12 oz Cranberries (1 bag) – pick out sticks and leaves

¾ Cup sugar

1 or 2 Tablespoons water

Put water, sugar and picked over cranberries in saucepan. Put them on medium high heat. Stir frequently. When the berries are mostly popped and the sauce is thick remove from heat. Let cool.


Roll out half the pastry to line a 9” pie pan. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and bake in a 375 oven for 7-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly.

Scraped cranberry into baked pie shell and smooth over the top. Bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes or until firm. Cool completely before serving. Makes on 9” tart.

Source: http://blogs.plimoth.org



Butternut Squash With Cranberries

2 pounds butternut squash

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons corn oil

1-1/2 cups cranberries

1/2 cup cranberry juice

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

Peel butternut squash. Halve squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice squash 1/2-inch slices.

In a skillet cook squash and cloves in corn oil, over medium heat for 10 minutes or until nearly tender. Stir occasionally. Add cranberries and juice. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from heat. Gently stir in maple syrup and walnuts or hazelnuts.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings



Cranberry Syrup

1 c. cranberries

1 c. water

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. pure maple syrup

To prepare Cranberry Syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, water and sugar and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-high and boil 10 minutes. Puree in a food processor until smooth and strain through a sieve into a small bowl, then stir in the maple syrup.

Serve over waffles, pancakes, ice cream, etc. See Sweet Potato Waffles recipe.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


Cranberry Doughnuts

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

oil for deep-fat frying

additional sugar

In a bowl, beat egg; add sugar and butter. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; add to sugar mixture alternately with milk. Stir in cranberries.

Heat oil in an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer to 375°. Drop tablespoonfuls of batter into oil. Fry doughnuts a few at a time, turning with a slotted spoon until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels; roll in sugar while still warm.

Yield: 9 servings

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


Cranberry Fritters I

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup plus

1 tablespoon milk

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fresh cranberries

3/4 cup granulated sugar

confectioners' sugar (optional)

oil (for deep frying)

Wash cranberries and dry on paper towels. Sift dry ingredients together and mix in milk gradually to form a stiff dough. With well-floured hands, pinch off 1 teaspoon of dough and make an indentation. Sprinkle a little brown sugar in the indentation and place a cranberry in the center. Roll dough around the berry. balls should be about the size of a large marble.

Heat oil in a deep, heavy kettle until the temperature reaches 375 degrees F.

Drop fritter balls into the hot fat and fry, turning, until they are deep golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. If desired, shake confectioners' sugar over the fritters just before serving.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


Cranberry Fritters II

3/4 cup fresh cranberries

11/2 cups unbleached flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

oil (for deep frying)

confectioners' sugar (optional)

Wash cranberries and dry on paper towels. Sift dry ingredients together and mix in milk gradually to form a stiff dough. With well-floured hands, pinch off 1 teaspoon of dough and make an indentation. Sprinkle a little brown sugar in the indentation and place a cranberry in the center. Roll dough around the berry. Balls should be about the size of a large marble.

Heat oil in a deep, heavy kettle until the temperature reaches 375 degrees F. Drop fritter balls into the hot fat and fry, turning, until they are deep golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. If desired, shake confectioners sugar over the fritters just before serving.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


 Deep-Fried Cranberry Sauce Fritters

1 can jelly cranberry sauce, sliced in 1/; 2-in thick rounds

Oil, for frying

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup water

Lay the cranberry sauce rounds out in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and freeze for 4 hours or until solid.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large Dutch oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large shallow bowl stir together 1 cup of the flour, with the sugar, salt and baking powder. Pour in the water and stir together until smooth. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes.

Dip the frozen cranberry sauce rounds in the batter and gently place in the oil.

Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com



Pecan Cranberry Loaf

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c brown splenda or 1 cup regular brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp each baking soda and salt

2 eggs

1 1/2 c buttermilk

1/2 c butter

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 c dried cranberries

1/2 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan and do it very well. In a large bowl, combine flour, Splenda or brown sugar, baking powder and soda and salt. Make a well in the center add eggs, milk and margarine and vanilla. Combine. Sprinkle in cranberries and pecans, stir just to combine. Bake for 65 to 75 min. or until centre come out clean when picked.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


Cranberry Pudding

1 1/3 c. flour

1/2 c. molasses

1/2 lb. of 2 c. cranberries, washed & chopped

2 tsp. baking soda


1 c. sugar

1/2 c. butter

1/2 tsp. flour

1 tbsp. coffee cream

1 tbsp. vanilla

Sift together dry ingredients. Add molasses and berries; mix well. Steam in double boiler for 2 hours, covered. Refrigerate when cooled and reheat to serve with Vanilla Sauce.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


Pecan Cranberry Squash

4 cups mashed cooked butternut squash

4 tablespoons butter, softened, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 can (14 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce

1/2 cup pecans chopped

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

In a large bowl, combine the squash, 2 tablespoons butter, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish.

Stir cranberry sauce until softened; spoon over squash.

Combine the pecans, brown sugar and remaining butter; sprinkle over cranberry sauce.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly

Yield: 8 servings.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


Cranberry-Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup butter; softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups solid pack pumpkin puree; slightly more than 1 can

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cup fresh cranberries; I use a whole bag

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoon orange zest; 1 whole orange

1 cup chopped walnuts


granulated sugar; mixed with cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper. (Easier cleanup with the parchment paper!)

Cut cranberries in half. Zest orange and chop walnuts.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, egg and pumpkin.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir into mixture until well blended. Stir the cranberries into mixture along with the orange zest and walnuts. If mixture is too soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets. I use a tablespoon measuring spoon that is half-spherical - it makes a nicely rounded cookie. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on sheet slightly before moving to rack.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com


 Cranberry Drop Cookies

1/4 cup margarine

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons milk

3/4 cup chopped cranberries

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Grease two large cookie sheets.

Cream margarine and sugar in a large mixing bowl with a mixer at medium speed. Beat in milk egg , vanilla and orange peel.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the creamed

mixture. Carefully fold in cranberries.

Drop cookie batter, by the rounded teaspoonfuls, onto the cookie sheets. Space cookies about

two inches apart.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Source: http://www.gardenersnet.com


 Candied Cranberries

See recipe on Corn Page for Cornmeal Pound Cake with Candied Cranberries

1 cup cranberry juice

1 cup sugar

1 cup cranberries, picked over

Pour juice into a heavy pan and stir in sugar. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals that cling to the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water. Boil the mixture, gently swirling pan, until temperature on a candy thermometer registers

250. Add cranberries, remove pan from heat and let the mixture cool.

Source: http://nativefood.blogspot.com