Cranberries are a slightly tart fruit that you may associate with fall. One-half cup raw cranberries contains about 20 calories, 2 g of dietary fiber and 10 percent of your vitamin C requirement for the day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cranberries are a versatile fruit that you can eat raw, dried or use in baked goods. Drying cranberries is a good way to preserve the fruit for consumption long after the cranberry growing season is over.
Select the freshest cranberries possible. Washington State University Extension recommends choosing cranberries that are bright red or "yellowish-red." Squeeze the cranberries slightly to make certain they are firm and not wrinkled. A wrinkled, soft cranberry indicates it is not fresh. Store the cranberries in the refrigerator until you are ready to dry them.
Wash the cranberries thoroughly and gently to avoid damaging the fruit. Use one 12 oz. bag of cranberries to 2 quarts of water. Put a large pot on the stove, and bring the water to a boil. Put the washed cranberries in a bowl, and pour the boiling water over the cranberries. Put the bowl in a safe place, and let the cranberries sit. When the skins pops, generally in a few minutes, the berries are ready.
Drain the water and sprinkle the berries with sugar or drizzle with corn syrup. If you do not want sweetened cranberries, omit this step. Spread the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and put them in the freezer for two hours. Washington State University says that the freezing process helps the berries dry faster.
Set up your dehydrator according to the manufacturer's instructions. Lay the berries in a single layer on your dehydrator's sheet and allow to process. Taste the cranberries after 10 hours. Look for a berry that is chewy and dry like a raisin.
Use your oven to dry the cranberries, if you do not have a dehydrator, says Deanna DeLong, author of the book, "How to Dry Foods." Follow the same procedure, but place the drained berries on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Turn on your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then turn it off. Put your cranberries in the oven and allow them to dry overnight or until dry.
Store your newly dried cranberries in the freezer or refrigerator, recommends DeLong. Cranberries best retain their freshness and nutrients when stored in the freezer, and away from light. Put the cranberries in a freezer-safe container to avoid freezer burn. Allow dried cranberries to come to room temperature before incorporating into baked goods.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruit of the Month: Cranberries
- Washington State University Extension: Cranberries - The Holiday Fruit
- "How to Dry Foods"; Deanna DeLong; 1992