Tuesday, October 4, 2022


Highbush Cranberries (actually a viburnum) provide winter color in the landscape. The berries look like bright red jelly-beans.

In chemistry, combining an acid with an alcohol results in an "ester".

The esters of many organic acid/alcohols are extremely fragrant.

Fragrances are extremely non-linear. For example, butyric acid is named after butter because in very low concentrations it is the main component of what humans perceive as "buttery" smell. At significantly higher concentrations, it smells like dog-feces.

Butyric acid is produced by many biological processes. For example, a cow's rumen is a vast, fermentation vat and the bacteria convert cellulose into short fatty acids like acetic acid, propionic acid and...butyric acid. Rumenants are funny animals because much of there metabolism is driven by short-fatty-acids rather than glucose.

Those same bacteria live in a dog's lower bowel and the output is tipped toward butyric acid and not the other SFAs.

One ester of butyric acid is with common ethyl-alcohol, the alcohol found in vodka. That ester has a fruity, pineapple-like smell which is a far cry from the smell of dog-feces or butter.

Highbush Cranberries

Highbush cranberries are a beautiful ornamental that produce prodigious quantities of jewel-like, translucent red fruit. Fruit that smells like dog feces after it has frozen.

Part of me wonders if the fruit would be more palatable if it were pickled in ethyl-alcohol after freezing.

The other part of me quails in fear of my trying it in Mrs ERJ's kitchen.


  1. Could you sprinkle a handful of berries in some vodka? I mean, a cheap fifth won't cost but 10 bucks, can double as carburetor cleaner if its nasty.

  2. YaKnow, a hot plate isn't expensive. Might not be able to fire up the twenty quart canning cooker, but a small pressure cooker would come up to pressure. That's me, never having canned anything, so, you know exactly what it's worth.
    I liked chemistry in college, and enjoyed that article. Thanks.

    1. Or a crock pot, if pressure isn't needed. I make elderberry syrup from wild elderberries, which are pretty strong smelling during the slow simmer stage. So I do it in a crock pot on the porch, covered with a large box to shelter it from any breeze.

  3. About 25 years ago I panted some Highbush Cranberries as a hedge in the yard. I tore it out about 5 years ago and I still have those things growing up in my woods edges and fields. Truly an obnoxious, invasive species I really wish I had never planted. ---ken

  4. Interesting post, no good answers on the cranberries here...

  5. Good grief! Pack a gallon jar with mashed cranberries and 2.5 cups sugar, fill remaining space with ever clear & cap securely. Sit in a cool dark place for 6-12 months. Strain through cheesecloth and enjoy the elixir of the gods.
    (Best sipped in front of a fire on a cold winter night)

  6. Many moons ago when I worked in chemical research, there was a rather obnoxious PHd chemical engineer who was extremely difficult to work with. He had pissed off his engineering tech so bad the technician put a single drop of butyric acid on the back of Herr Doktor's lab coat. Everywhere the PHd went the scent followed him to the point the safety director decide we must have had a spill and was going to evacuate the lab facility.
    Someone mentioned maybe they should check Herr Doktor's clothing? The chemical engineer was showered and changed into borrowed clothes and the all ended with the minimum of incident report paperwork blaming him for sloppy lab practices.

  7. We have these high bush growing in the boggy area above the house. We look forward to the tart fall berries. we juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays, to be used later in tea or smoothies. They don't taste like dog crap, as far as I can tell, but I wouldn't know for sure. Have come to love the tart juice. You can smell them when walking through the outback, once you know the particular aroma. Once you get past the smell, you got it licked.

    1. Let me propose that you are talking about the third species of "Highbush Cranberries"?

      The European species/landrace V. opulus is considered the worst tasting of the bunch. The American species/landrace V trilobum is intermediate. The third species often called Highbush Cranberry is V. edule and is considered quite tasty.

      A short write-up on V. edule can be found here https://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=16 or you can do your own internet search.


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