Editor's Column: The real thing in cranberry juice

I would like to thank Ocean Spray for the large box that arrived at my office Friday. It was quite exciting to dig through the packing peanuts and uncover a bottle of “Pure Cranberry,” Ocean Spray’s “100 percent unsweetened cranberry juice.” Sent all the way from Kingston, Maine, no doubt as proof positive that I was wrong in a recent column when I suggested all cranberry juice on the grocery shelves was phony — a concoction of corn syrup and other juices with a squeeze of cranberry juice, maxing out at just 27 percent of the real thing.

Now, thanks to Ocean Spray, I have a 32 ounce bottle of the real thing to bring home to my wife, who had sent me on a futile journey to fetch her some real cranberry juice. She needed it for medicinal purposes, though I was wise enough not to ask exactly what was wrong.

Naturally I had to try Pure Cranberry before bringing it home, and I was totally satisfied that it’s a medicinal product. It tastes 100 percent sour and gritty, just the kind of thing Mom would stock for emergency medical uses. We didn’t have Pure Cranberry when I was a kid, but we had Castor Oil and Cod Liver Oil, both of which were used as deterrents to illness.

Any claim of an upset stomach or fever would call for a dose of one or the other, so we hardly ever missed school. We could make the supply of Castor Oil disappear in the spring by oiling our baseball mitts with it. It made the leather soft and supple, same as our stomach lining. The Cod Liver Oil was tried once as a mitt lubricant, but the smell was so bad we found ourself warming one end of the bench, exiled from the other players. Even after years of use, that old mitt never lost its faint smell of processed fish guts. I like to think it’s being used today by a Tampa Bay Devil Ray or Florida Marlin.

Initially I thought Ocean Spray’s asking price or $5.99 a quart for Pure Cranberry was a bit high, but that was before I recognized its medicinal qualities. The jar, in fact, boasts of this use, saying it’s backed by the National Kidney Foundation, which is a partner with Ocean Spray in “promoting urinary tract health.” That was my first hint of what women use this stuff for, and I suspect that Cod Liver Oil would probably work as well. I don’t know what Cod Liver Oil costs, or even if they still make it considering the worldwide decline in cod populations (it’s hard to live without a liver), but $5.99 a quart for any medicine is cheap. Compare that to $4 for four ounces of kids’ cough syrup that doesn’t even work and Ocean Spray is a good deal.

If I was a mom in the 21st Century, I’d keep a quart of Ocean Spray Pure Cranberry in the medicine cabinet at all times. Threaten to give any kid pretending to be sick a hefty dose of it, and school absenteeism will plummet. But don’t be surprised if your kid’s mitt turns deep red in color.

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