You’ve climbed every mountain, forded every stream, retired your blue-streaked jeans and hip boots, and have said goodbye to a summer of mosquitoes. But as autumn arrives, what have you forgotten? You checked your moose-hunting rifle and repaired your ski bindings. You put the garden to sleep. As you check the list, you realize you’re about to make the same mistake you did the previous Christmas, when your family stared at you in utter disbelief.

 “Mom. You really didn’t forget the cranberry bread.”

A grand silence. Just four months prior to that dinner, as the daylight minutes inexorably tick-tocked away and the evening skies darkened, they’d all picked lowbush cranberries from the new secret spot in the woods. Soft moss cushioned old kneecaps there, and spruces served as scratchy chair backs. Canada jays waited for lunchtime.

Some family members made admirable pickers. Others raised excuses along with binoculars, manfully announcing, “Gotta look out for bears, Mom.” The whiner: “You can’t eat these like blueberries. Who brought the candy bars?” The squealer: “I spillllled mine!” The creaker and groaner: “I just can’t squat any longer.” 

Maybe the New Englander cranberry boggers raking up millions of those big fat grocery store berries had it easier, but surely ours were better. But I would leave the Craisins to them. I think ours might dry up like BBs.

Fast forward. At the Christmas meal, I had no excuses to make and, abashed, promised to dig around in the freezer and find the berries. I would bake a triple batch for bread pans and odd flat casserole dishes for a New Year’s treat. I would slice some, toast it in a frying pan, and butter it liberally. A feast for the gods from Mother Earth. I would set some berries aside for relish, cranberry apple pie, cranberry liqueur, and other delights.

So, in the spirit of the holiday, and under the soporific effect of turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, salad, etc. etc., even a darned blueberry pie, I was not chastised, but forgiven. Thank you. And I won’t make the same mistake again. 

Cranberry bread directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 1 loaf pan. 

Mix in large bowl and set aside:

2 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

3 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp orange zest

Mix in small bowl and add to dry mixture:

2 eggs, beaten

3 Tbsp oil

¾ cup orange juice

½ cup milk

Mix dry and wet ingredients just until blended. Then gently stir in:

1 cup cranberries

1 cup chopped nuts

Pour into loaf pan and bake until done, about 1 hour. This is a dense bread, so test for doneness with a toothpick and adjust baking time as needed.


Marydith W. Beeman moved to Alaska from the East Coast before statehood, married a mountain man, and has been a dedicated berry picker since.

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