I always thought Ocean Spray was another one of those mega corporations, or under some umbrella with 400 other brands. It’s not! It’s a grower-owned cooperative of about 600 cranberry farms, most of which have been growing and harvesting cranberries for several generations.

cranberry branch

I was invited to their “Big Apple Bog” yesterday,  where they set up a 1500 square foot cranberry bog in Rockefeller Center, to help illustrate the unique way cranberries are harvested. Lisa May (from Richmond, British Colombia) and Cristina Tassone (from Washington Township, NJ, pictured below), showed me how the cranberries grow in a thick brush of vines, wound and tangled. Picking it by hand would be pretty difficult but cranberries release from the vines readily and float in water due to their air pockets. So when it’s time to harvest, the farmers flood the bogs and use a machine to rake the plants. The cranberries float to the top. Genius! (BTW, the bog in Rockefeller Center is there till tomorrow 4pm).

Cristina Tassone

Todd and Lisa May are brother and sister, and third generation cranberry farmers. I asked them when they started farming and they couldn’t remember, having grown up playing in it. They wouldn’t admit to any bog fights but I know if I got my brother in a bog…you know, back when we were kids. I’m a mature adult now…Sandwiched in the middle is their mom, Lila. They were all truly amazing to talk to and I’m even more in love with cranberries now.

The May Family

As part of the 80th anniversary celebration, they asked Duff Goldman (of Ace of Cakes) to make them a cranberry cake. Finishing touches were done inside the bog.

finishing the cake

I thought it was hilarious that the camera crew was standing in the bog. I actually really wanted to get in (and now regret that I didn’t) because Duff was playing in it like a big kid. It looked really fun.

sound guy standing in the bog

Obviously, the cake was amazing! I love the way the cranberries are varying shades of red.

Cranberry Cake Detail 5

Here’s the cranberries going up into the truck.

Cranberry Cake Detail 2

Here’s the front of that truck and another angle. You can see more about the making of this cake on Ace of Cakes, airing Thursday, October 29th at 10pm ET/PT.

Cranberry Cake Detail 6Cranberry Cake Detail 7

The really impressive part is that the cake was delicious, layers of moist buttery cake, some with plumped dried cranberries. I had always assumed the taste was just an afterthought for these glorious cakes. I got to talk to Duff a bit and he’s surprisingly, still very hands-on, experimenting with new flavors like this one.

Charm City Cakes Cranberry Cake 2

Aside from LOVING sugar (I think he was hopping up and down as he professed this love), he eats a lot of sushi, and loves sports. With the ridiculous quantity they are doing, he thinks he makes it to about 25% of deliveries. So how do you get Duff to deliver your cake? It’s just luck but he hinted that if your delivery coincides with a day and city that has a certain sports game going on, it’s likely he’ll be there to drop off your cake. Seriously, I really enjoyed talking to him. He’s just a fun guy.

Duff & Jessica

Later in the evening, the party continued at 620 Loft & Garden, with cocktails on one of the most beautiful roof decks in Manhattan.

cranberry pit 2

Every year, Ocean Spray holds a cranberry recipe contest, and the finalist’s recipes were served as hors d’oevres.

crispy cranberry and cream cheese triangles

Tyler Florence and the guys from the Ocean Spray commercials announced the winners.

Patrice wins consumer category 2

We had a few minutes to talk to Tyler Florence, another cool guy, who has a lot going on. He has a store in Mill Valley, California ( two more opening soon), more restaurants in the works, and plans for another book. Still, he says he’s trying to slow things down a bit and travel less. He has a house now, with a creek, and it’s time to watch his kids grow. Behind that TV smile, he seemed real.

Jessica and Tyler Florence

What a day of learning for me! I am now a bigger fan of cranberries than ever, and bigger fans of Duff and Tyler as well. If you’re like me, and now feel the need to cook with cranberries, I’ve got a couple of suggestions:

Banana Crumb Muffins with Cranberries

Dramatic Brussels Sprouts

Fresh Apple Cake

Upside Down Cranberry Pumpkin Cake

posted by jessica at 04:28 PM Filed under Celebrities, Events, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.