Although cranberries are harvested during the Autumn months, there are many ways to preserve and use them year-round. These bright red berries are festive and loaded with flavor.
If you’ve got more fresh cranberries than you can use before they go bad, dry them to prolong their shelf-life. Keep them in the pantry as a snack, to use in baking, salads, and stuffing. Save on food waste and money by following this guide to dry your own cranberries at home.
Types of Cranberries
When thinking about cranberries you may picture sweet pies, juice, or sauces. Fresh cranberries are, however, hard, sour, and bitter and require some processing before they turn into the sweet pops of flavor we know. There are many types of cranberries, although the most common type is the American cranberry. The berries are red, and sometimes white in color.
Commercially prepared cranberry products include cranberry juice, compote, jelly, sauce, sweetened and unsweetened dried cranberries, and pie filling. The juice is also popularly used in cocktails.
Can Cranberries be Dried?
Drying cranberries is a great way to preserve them. Drying the berries naturally in the sun can be tricky due to bugs, humidity, dew, birds, and dust. The best way to dry them is using the oven or a food dehydrator if you have one.
The better the quality of the cranberries before drying, the better they will be once dehydrated. Before starting the drying process sort through the berries and remove any damaged ones or cranberries that are starting to go off.
Here’s how to make dried cranberries:
How to Dry Cranberries in The Oven
Step 1: Clean
Give the cranberries a light rinse under cold water to get any dirt off.
Step 2: Blanch
Boil the kettle or some hot water on the stove. Place the cranberries in a glass bowl or saucepan and pour the hot water over to cover them. You do not want to add the cranberries to the water while it is boiling since this will cook them instead of just blanching them.
The cranberry skins will start to crack open. Do not leave the berries in the hot water any longer than 10 minutes. As soon as the skins are burst remove them to avoid cooking them and accidentally turning them into a sauce. If there are a few berries that haven’t popped, you can attend to this in the next step.
Once most of the skins are burst, drain the berries and place them on kitchen towels or paper towels. Dry the berries from any excess moisture.
Step 3: Preheat Oven
Preheat the oven to 140°F (60°C). It is necessary to use a low temperature otherwise the berries will cook instead of drying out. When cooked, they will become juicy, soft, and caramelized and won’t last more than a week. If your oven doesn’t heat to such a low temperature, set it at its lowest temperature and keep the door propped open just slightly.
Step 4: Prepare and Sweeten
Pierce the skin of any berries that have not cracked with a sharp knife. If you would like to sweeten the berries (optional), toss them in 1 to 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. The amount of sugar you use will depend on the quantity and how sweet you want the berries.
Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towel and then a layer of parchment paper on top. You can either spread the berries out directly on the parchment paper in a single layer or place a cooling rack on the lined baking sheet and spread the berries out on the rack.
The advantage of using a cooling rack is that there is more even air ventilation around the top and bottom of the berries.
Step 5: Bake
Place the cranberries in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 hours. The time you leave them in will depend on the strength of the oven as well as how chewy you want them. Rotate the baking sheet every couple of hours and keep an eye on the berries to ensure they don’t burn.
Step 6: Cool
Once the berries seem dry take them out of the oven to cool for 30 minutes. You won’t be able to tell if they are completely dehydrated until they are cooled down. Tear open one of the cooled berries. They should be shriveled and dry without any juices when split open.
Step 7: Store
Pack the cooled cranberries in airtight containers or good quality resealable bags. The homemade dried cranberries are best kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
How to Dry Cranberries in a Food Dehydrator
Prepare the cranberries in the same way as you would for oven drying by cleaning, blanching, drying, and sugar-coating them. Lay them out on the dehydrator rack in a single layer. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the dehydrator to catch any dripping juices. Set the dehydrator to the fruit setting or 130°F.
If the cranberries look dried out after eight hours remove them from the dehydrator and let them cool. Once cooled, break open a berry and squeeze it gently. If any moisture droplets appear, place them back in the dehydrator for 2 to 3 hours. If they are completely dry without moisture, pack the cooled berries in airtight containers or good quality resealable bags.
Note: Always check the manufacturer’s manual for specific guidelines for your device.
How to Use Dried Cranberries
Dried cranberries make a great snack on their own or mixed with nuts and dried fruit. They can be very sour if no sugar is added during the dehydration process. Cranberries can be added to batters for cakes, muffins, cookies, or scones.
When simmered in water or juice they will plump up, making them ideal for sauces with savory dishes or to pour over ice cream, yogurt, and dessert.
Since fresh cranberries don’t have a very long shelf-life, drying them is a great way to preserve them long-term. Make sure the cranberries are fully dried and completely cooled down before packing. Any excess moisture will result in mold growing quickly and spoiling your efforts.
Add dried cranberries to lunch boxes, cookie batters, or cook them into sauces for a little taste of the holidays all year round.
Up next: How to Dry Figs
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