I like cranberries. I love their tart pucker-up nature. I love their deep ruby hue. I love their cute little shape. On the other hand, I very much dislike dried cranberries. It seems like they've been so sugared-up that they have not only reduced in size--they have been reduced to a shadow of their natural flavor. What's the point?
So when I was assigned to make cookies with dried cranberries, I wondered...is it possible to make your own dried cranberries? And sweeten them only as much as you'd like? In the name of #whathappenswednesday, I decided to give it a try.
I went to the store and bought a bag of fresh cranberries, and while in line in the grocery store, I started to google "how to dry cranberries".
I liked the simplicity of this recipe best, which called for briefly boiling the cranberries, then draining them and chilling them briefly (apparently, this keeps them from getting mushy). You preheated the oven to 350, then added the cranberries and immediately turned off the heat, and let the cranberries slow cook in the residual heat. I decided to give it a try.
So I heated up some water, and once it boiled, I turned off the heat and added the cranberries.
Once the skins popped, I drained them and patted them dry.
Then, I scattered them on a baking sheet, and let them freeze for an hour or so.
Near the end of the chilling time, I heated the oven to 350 degrees.
I took out the berries from the freezer, and drizzled them with honey, and then for good measure, I drizzled them with olive oil and a pinch of salt, too. I added the berries to the now-heated oven, and immediately turned off the heat.
About five hours later, I checked on them. They were still rather plump, so I made an executive decision and turned the oven back on, to 180 degrees F (the lowest setting my oven has). I let them cook for 2-3 more hours, and at the end of it, they looked like this.
They were shriveled but still with a little plumpness to them. But best of all, they retained the tartness of what I think of as a cranberry's true character. The honey and olive oil softened the edges just enough so that they were perfect for baking.
The cookies turned out splendidly - you can check out the recipe here. I left the recipe open-ended because I figured most people would use dried cranberries, but you can use the DIY kind as I did!
I should mention that the fact that the cranberries weren't over-sweet made them versatile, too, and able to be incorporated into savory dishes without tasting like sugar cubes had been added. I actually used the rest of them to garnish roasted brussels sprouts for dinner, and it tasted perfect.
So yes, you can make your own dried cranberries, and if like me you get annoyed by the bland, over-sweet ones, then I very highly suggest you do it!
Here's how I did it.
DIY Dried Cranberries
Printable recipe here - Yield: a bit over a cup of dried cranberries
- 1 bag (12 ounces or so) fresh cranberries
- about 2 quarts water
- honey, olive oil, and salt, to taste
Pour the water in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat, and add the berries to the still-hot water. Let them sit until the skins begin to pop.
Strain, and pat the berries dry. Scatter on a baking sheet, and place in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Near the end of your chilling period, preheat the oven to 350.
Once it is preheated, remove the berries from the fridge, and drizzle with honey (I did olive oil and salt, too) to taste. Place in the oven, and turn off the heat. Let the berries sit there for about 5 hours.
If you have an oven light, check them at the 5 hour mark. Chances are, they're a little shriveled but not crazy different looking. This is when I turned the heat back up, to 180 degrees F.
I let the berries bake for about 2-3 more hours on low heat. You can remove them whenever they have reached your desired texture.
Store these berries in an airtight container; they will keep for weeks.