On the harvest that wasn’t (Cranberry Quick Bread)

Cranberry Quick Bread-3

I dutifully spread spent coffee grounds in the five pots outside my backdoor all summer. The grounds, I’d read, would aid with the plant’s growth by releasing nitrogen and other minerals into the soil. My few plants — four sungold tomatoes, a pepper plant and a cucumber plant, along with a few herbs — would certainly benefit from the nutritional help, I thought.

Each day, my children and I watched expectedly — hoping, by some magic or miracle, the plants would suddenly sprout thick stems and lush leaves. My daughter watered the plants with regularity. But the growth was slow. “A few more coffee grounds will help,” I’d think, dumping more grounds into the pots.

A few fruits formed and there was excitement each time we saw them, but despite some height to most of the plants, the stems remained thin and the leaves sparse. Many of the fruits didn’t mature or ripen. This wasn’t the lush backporch garden I’d hoped for. It wasn’t even close.

In the end, we harvested just five or six sungold tomatoes and one tiny pepper, which ended up having a spider living inside. The single misshapen cucumber didn’t grow large enough to eat. And the herbs — well, we got a little more use out of those.

I’d certainly had mixed results with gardening over the years — some years more disappointing than others. But the past two years of attempting small scale container gardening has really stood out as some of the worst gardening years I’ve had. I’ve seen others have great success growing in containers. But mine just don’t seem to be working.

The question now is what might need to change to ensure container gardening success next year. Perhaps the soil needs better loosening? Perhaps it’s been depleted of nutrients — or never had enough to begin with — and needs treatment to help? Maybe there’s an organic fertilizer I should be using?

Sunlight and water may be the building blocks of growing success, but it’s so much more nuanced than that, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, we just celebrated Harvest Festival weekend, and what a Harvest Fest it was. Cheese makers, wood workers, sausage makers … there were so many different tidbits to sample. I came away with a few purchases including some pastas to enjoy on cold winter nights and a lovely, bright cranberry vinegar that will be wonderful doused on salads. Bangor also held its last outdoor Sunday farmers market for the season. In two weeks time, the winter market will open every other Sunday at the Sea Dog in Bangor.

Now, as we settle in for Thanksgiving this week, cranberries are plentiful. In case you have a spare cup — or are apt to purchase more — this quick bread recipe is a delightful way to enjoy those complicated fruits. Whole, fresh cranberries are baked into this loaf giving it a delightful sweet-tart flavor.

Cranberry Quick Bread

It’s simple as can be to make as well. If for some reason you don’t want to use a stand mixer, it can be done by hand as well — just allow extra time for mixing.

Cranberry Quick Bread-4

Cranberry Quick Bread
Author: 
Serves: Yields 1 loaf
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large egg
  • 1⅓ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and well-drained
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8.5-inch loaf pan with cooking oil spray, or grease with butter. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg for about 1 minute until frothy. Add the buttermilk and oil, one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract to the mixer and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated.
  3. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cranberries and stir gently to incorporate.
  4. Pour the batter in to the prepared loaf pan. Tap gently to even out.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown. A butter knife inserted into the center of the pan should come out cleanly.
  6. Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting to release (you may want to run a knife around the edges first to ensure an easy release). Cool completely before slicing.

 

Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News, and resident cook. She writes a cooking column, Maine Course, and is also author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains." Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, Glamour.com and more.