Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients known as proanthocyanins. Drying cranberries at home may be the first thing that comes to the mind of someone who appreciates the goodness of these berries. It is impossible to enjoy fresh cranberries all-year-round, and store-bought dried cranberries may be loaded with sugar.
According to medical research, the anthocyanins in cranberries have anti-inflammatory properties. They can help treat gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections. They also contain anti-inflammatory agents. They are a good addition to your dishes, desserts, trail mix, salads, and others. You can also enjoy them as they are.
READ ALSO: Health Benefits of Dried Cranberries
Drying cranberries is a convenient and practical way to make sure that you will always have them. Drying cranberries at home and doing it yourself can save you money, and you are the one supervising the preparation.
How to Dry Cranberries at Home
There are two proven ways of drying cranberries at home:
- Using an oven
- Using a dehydrator
Prepping the cranberries prior to drying
Always buy the freshest cranberries that you can find. Take note that the spoilage process of the berries starts from the day they were picked. You can do the following:
- Wash the cranberries in running water and put them in a big bowl.
- Boil some water in a pot. Make sure that the heated water is enough to cover the cranberries in the bowl. To cover a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, you need to heat about two quarts of water. This was according to the Washington State University Extension Service.
- Pour the heated water in the bowl of cranberries. You don’t need to cook the cranberries. The procedure aims is to rupture the skin of the berries to hasten dehydration.
- You may need to wait for a while until the skin begins to rupture. It usually takes five to ten minutes for the skin to break.
- Drain the berries. You may proceed with macerating, a process done with fruits similar to marinating meat or vegetable. When macerating the cranberries, you can use 1 part sugar and 2 parts water to make the syrup.
The sugar is responsible for drawing out the water from the fruit and promotes preservation. For a 12-ounce package of cranberries, it is recommended to use 1/4 cup syrup to macerate them.
You may also employ the process known as “checking” when making preparations prior to drying cranberries. You can do this by putting the fresh cranberries in a colander and blanching them. Blanching usually takes 30 seconds to one minute of dipping in boiling water.
When checking the cranberries, you need to be careful not to let the skins split. When they do, it means they are over-blanched. You don’t need to worry about anything because you can still dry the cranberries. Next time, you only need to shorten the time to blanch them. Drain the berries after blanching.
Drying cranberries using the oven
Here is the list of steps in drying cranberries using your oven:
- Preheat your oven to 150˚F (or the lowest setting).
- Put a rack on a baking sheet and spread two layers of paper towels on top.
- Spread a sheet of parchment paper on top of the paper towels.
- Spread the prepped cranberries on top of the parchment paper.
Make sure that the cranberries are spread evenly in a single layer. You may need additional racks, baking sheets, towels, and parchment linings for all your cranberries.
- Put the cranberries in the oven and let them dry for 8 hours.
- Check if the cranberries are completely dry but still pliable or leathery.
You may need to keep them in the oven overnight if they are still not completely dry.
If you think that the cranberries are ready, turn off the oven and take them out to cool for 20 minutes to half an hour.
The cranberry is completely dry when there’s no visible moisture along the line where you tear it in half.
Drying cranberries using a dehydrator
Here is the list of steps in drying cranberries using a dehydrator:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when setting up your dehydrator (usually at 140˚F).
- Spread the prepped cranberries evenly on a single layer on the sheet or tray of your dehydrator.
- You may need to rotate the dehydrator to promote uniform drying.
- Check the cranberries after ten hours.
- When completely dry, take the cranberries out of the dehydrator and let them cool.
The drying process may take up to 24 hours, depending on the unit or machine you are using.
Storing Your Dried Cranberries
Even though you did not encounter any problem in drying cranberries, they may still have residual moisture that you were not able to feel. To prevent ruining the preservation, you need to take note of the following:
1. Make sure that the dried cranberries have completely cooled before you pack or seal them in a jar.
Sealing some moisture inside the jar can shorten the shelf life of the dried fruit. Packing warm, dried cranberries will introduce moisture that can spoil the preserved fruit in a matter of time.
2. The dried cranberries must be loosely packed.
Each jar must only be two-thirds full. To make sure that the cranberries don’t compress, shake the jar once a day for one week to ten days. This is known as the conditioning period. When you detect condensation in the jar during this period, get the cranberries back to the oven or dehydrator to dry further.
3. Choose airtight jars when storing your dried cranberries.
If you use freezer bags (don’t use ordinary plastic bags), make sure you remove the presence of air inside the bag before you seal it. When possible, it is best to vacuum-seal your storage bag.
4. Store your dried cranberries in a cool, dry place.
It is recommended to store the dried cranberries in small batches to prolong the freshness, as well as lessen the chance of contamination. It is prudent to label the containers. Put the date when you made and packaged the content.
Drying cranberries is simple, easy, and inexpensive. The best thing about it is that you can always have some cranberries whenever you need them.