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Outside of Wisconsin, where the cranberry is the official state fruit, it doesn’t get much respect in the United States. Every year a weird form of the fruit is jiggled out of a can and set on the Thanksgiving table. With the can markings still intact, most of it finds its way into the trash at the end of a meal.

Native Americans held the cranberry in much higher regard. It was one of the ingredients in an energy bar-like food called pemmican, which helped to sustain them over the winter months. They also used cranberries in the form of a poultice to draw out poisons. While British sailors loaded sacks of limes onto their ships, North American whalers substituted cranberries. High in vitamin C, they were a locally sourced insurance to ward off scurvy.

Superfood is a label used loosely by marketers, but cranberries indeed deserve the title. Like blueberries, they are high in antioxidants. They also are a good protection against urinary tract infections.

Mouth-puckeringly tart in their natural state, cranberries scream out for added sweetness. Cranberry nut bread is a great way to use up those extra bags of cranberries you got on sale after Thanksgiving. The bright crimson bursts of fruit make it a festive bread tailor-made for the holidays.

Because it is a quick bread, it comes together with little fuss. I like to bake it in mini loaf pans to give as gifts for the holidays. Like most quick breads, it will cut much easier if you let it rest for an hour or so before slicing.

Cranberry Nut Bread

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons shortening

3/4 cup orange juice

1 egg, well beaten

1 tablespoon orange zest

11/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans.

Chop the cranberries and nuts and zest the orange. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in the shortening. Stir in the orange juice, egg and orange zest, mixing just to moisten. Fold in the cranberries and nuts.

Bake for 55 minutes for the large loaf or 35 minutes for the mini loaves, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely before slicing.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.

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