Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making a cranberry tree

Many years ago, my mother and I enjoyed
a holiday tour of the Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Alexander Ramsey was Minnesota's first governor, originally governing the territory, and then the state of Minnesota when it joined the Union.

One of the nation's best preserved Victorian-era homes, the Ramsey House offers a glimpse into life in the 1870s. Anna Ramsey, wife of the governor, greets you in costume, as do the guides dressed as her servants.

As you pass through the home's kitchen, the smells of cinnamon and clove fill the air as fresh cookies, made from recipes of the 1800s, are offered.

But what caught our eye was the cran-
berry tree decoration on the dining room table.

Typical of the holiday decorations of the day, it was elegant in its simplicity.

Mom and I studied it carefully and then went home to make one!

Here's how:

You'll need about 2 pounds of fresh or thawed cranberries, whole cloves, round (not flat) toothpicks broken in half, and a green Styrofoam cone.

Beginning at the bottom of the cone, push the sharp end of the toothpick about half-way through the stem end of the cranberry. Then remove the toothpick and put the thicker end
of the toothpick into the hole you just made. Then push it into the Styrofoam cone.

Do this around the whole base; then continue to do the same on the next row up and so on until you reach the top. Use the larger cranberries for the bottom of the cone and smaller ones as you work your way up. Place a large cranberry at the top of the cone.

In between rows, where you see any blank spots, put the stem end of a whole clove into the cone. You get the added advantage of a most wonderful smell.

I found that when finished, the cranberry tree needs to be kept in a cool place. I put mine on our enclosed front porch until ready to use, then brought it out to decorate the table when entertaining. I displayed it on a clear, glass plate with small boughs of fresh greens around it.

Although I didn't try this, you can put a bit of egg wash (egg white beaten until frothy), using a pastry brush, over the tips of the cranberries, and sprinkle sugar on it while the egg wash is still wet.

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season and will enjoy a bit of Christmas-past with this simple, homemade decoration.

Happy Holidays!