As fresh cranberries arrive in grocery stores, learn to create dried and sweetened berries in your own kitchen.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

The next time you get these tart berries in your kitchen, consider prepping and preserving them from their fresh state so they'll last much longer. Dehydrating, and lightly sweetening cranberries, is a terrific way to preserve them for up to eight months.

Each fall, Wisconsin cranberry growers flood fields where the tart berries grow. Pulling on tall waders to walk among thousands of floating cranberries was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me several years ago. That's when I learned Wisconsin produces more than 60 percent of the nation's annual cranberry crop.

I gave dehydrating a try recently. But, because the fresh fruit wasn't yet available in local grocery stores, Wisconsin-based Wetherby Cranberry Co. sent me four one-pound bags. I borrowed a small dehydrator from a local culinary school and prepared my oven to make four different batches. Read on to learn how to dry cranberries step-by-step using either a dehydrator or an oven.

Dried cranberries with wooden scoop
Credit: DustyPixel/Getty Images

How to Dry Cranberries Step-by-Step

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces fresh cranberries: Choose the freshest fruit available — typically bright red or yellow-tinged, firm, and wrinkle-free. (As long as the cranberries are not mushy, a little 'give' in the flesh is okay.)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, corn syrup, or sugar to coat the berries: When adding sugar, use traditional granulated style rather than organic granulated sugar, whose granules are too coarse and may clump together on the fruit surface (that happened to me). In my kitchen, maple syrup created a glossy 'finish' on the dried cranberries that I especially liked compared with the sugar-coated berries.
  • 2 quarts water

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the berries thoroughly and put them aside in a large bowl.
  2. Measure out 1/4 cup of maple syrup, corn syrup, or sugar to coat the berries but don't add it yet.
  3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil and pour this over the cranberries. Then listen for a popping sound as the skin splits open on individual berries. After 4 to 5 minutes, or when the popping stops, drain the berries.
  4. Pour your chosen sweetener over the berries and stir thoroughly. Sugar draws water from the fruit, enhancing dehydration, while adding sweetness as well.
  5. Now it's time to dehydrate the berries one of two ways:

How to Dehydrate Cranberries Using a Dehydrator

When using the dehydrator, I spread cranberries across two of the racks and heated them at 115 degrees F (46 degrees C) for about 15 hours, then turned off the machine and left the berries inside overnight.

Some of them became slightly chewy, approaching a raisin, but others remained somewhat soft. Be sure to check the suggested temperature for drying fruit with your dehydrator and add time as needed to achieve your desired texture.

How to Dehydrate Cranberries in the Oven

To dehydrate cranberries in the oven, turn it on for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Check your oven temperature before proceeding, to assure maximum drying of the fruit.

Spread cranberries on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven. Turn off the oven and leave the berries inside overnight. Check them for texture and leave them in the oven for additional time, as needed. Again, the ultimate goal is for dried cranberries to have a texture that resembles raisins.

How to Store Dried Cranberries

After the dehydrated cranberries cool completely, freezer storage works best. Loosely pack them in jars or in plastic bags, date them, and stash them away for future use. Quarter- to half-cup portions are convenient. Now you won't need to make a grocery run before enjoying sweet, tart cranberries.

How to Use Dried Cranberries

Cranberries are a great addition to granola or oatmeal. You can also incorporate them into your own trail mix, alongside sunflower seeds, nuts, and other dried fruits. Blend softer dried cranberries into smoothies, with yogurt and flax seeds.

For fresh sweet-tart flavor, stir dehydrated cranberries into baked goods such as sweet breads or muffins. You can even substitute them for raisins in your favorite cookie recipe for a delicious change; you'll never miss the raisins!

Related: