Although it may seem more convenient to get them at the store, it doesn’t hurt to know how to dry cranberries in the comfort of your home. Dried cranberries have long earned the love of adults and children for their pleasant, sweet-and-sour taste.
This is one of the most useful berries in the Ericaceae plant family, which grows mainly in the American north-eastern territories. Besides having an attractive decorative shape, cranberries are rich in medicinal properties, widely used today.
Other cranberry uses include alcoholic tinctures and essential oils.
Cranberries contain 309 kcal per 100 g in dry form, 0, 9 g protein, 0, 8 g fat, and 72, 3 g carbohydrates; it also includes vitamins P, A, B, C and elements of magnesium, iron, and copper.
The iron contained in cranberry is absorbed by the body 100%.
Furthermore, cranberries are rich in ascorbic acid, which is necessary for maintaining a healthy immune system and strengthening blood vessels’ walls.
Drying cranberries at home is one of the rational ways to preserve them for a long time. Due to water evaporation, their weight is reduced 6 times, concentrating useful elements. A small mass of the “finished product” allows its compact storage for a whole year.
Dry cranberries: The benefits
Cranberries have long been used in medicine as a remedy for various diseases:
- Restoring vision
- To strengthen the cardiovascular system
- Normalizing bowel movements
- Gargle with angina inflammation (in the form of decoction)
- Fungal medium
- For rheumatism and gout treatment
- Balance blood oxygen
- Reduces blood sugar levels, thus improving the health of diabetics
Cranberries don’t contain sugar, only fructose. Insulin is not necessary for it to be processed by the body; therefore, you can enjoy its sweetness without overloading the pancreas by eating sweet dried cranberries.
Another common use for cranberry is in the cosmetology world (a primary ingredient in the preparation of creams). Its healing properties restore the damaged epithelial layer, preventing the skin from drying out and peeling.
Eating 5-6 dried cranberries a day to stay healthy and protected from viral diseases should be enough. However, people with kidney and pancreas diseases should not abuse them.
How to dry cranberries
Cranberry harvest begins in mid-July and continues throughout September. Fresh cranberries have a deep red color and dense texture.
The ripe ones are softer and watery, so they need to dry longer than usual and are only good for pie filling or pastries.
You can pick your own cranberries by looking for them in a coniferous forest, on bushes, or growing them in an orchard.
After picking the fruits, they should be washed, spread on a kitchen towel, and allowed to dry naturally; without cleaning them by hand to avoid crushing. They should not be exposed to the sun. Under UV rays, cranberries lose their properties and burn.
As the fruit dries, you can start separating them from the twigs and leaves so that each berry is separated from the other, without any garbage.
To dry enough cranberries, you must consider that from 22 lbs of the fresh product, you will get approximately 4 lbs of dried berries. The result is the evaporation of moisture excess from the fruit while maintaining the basic structure.
With any method, you must follow these rules:
- Please do not exceed the temperature: the longer the drying process, the better the berry (in other words, don’t try to rush it)
- Place the fruits lying on the plates in a single layer, without mixing them (spacing between them is important)
- Don’t leave them under the sun and in a very humid environment to avoid mold and sunburn.
How to dry cranberries in winter
- Using special drying equipment
- Grandma’s method – drying in the oven
- Popular option: decompose the fruits outdoors and let nature do its work.
Cranberries can be mixed with other fruits of similar structure, such as currants, and dried simultaneously. Note that watery/juicy fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries should not be dried.
Using an electric dryer
There is a special device for drying fruits and berries. First, you must prepare the raw material and then follow the instructions:
- Take a certain amount of cranberries
- Arrange the berries in layered trays
- Collect the trays in the device and adjust the temperature to 140 F
- Cooking blueberries in the dryer should be within 40 hours
- To remove the dried fruits from the appliance, carefully pour it over a sheet of “pastry paper” and then into a storage container
The drying process is elementary; anyone can handle it. The most important thing during the drying process is not to rush it. Let the cranberries dry evenly and slowly.
How to dry cranberries in the oven
Making dry cranberries using a conventional oven requires a delicate approach and consideration of important details. After preparing the berries, you must first clean them from twigs and debris.
The next step is to follow these instructions:
- Place the cranberries on the tray, but in a thin layer, depending on the type of oven, it can be in 2 layers
- Adjust the temperature to 110 F and leave it for 3 hours
- During this time, “stir” with a wooden spatula
- After 3 hours, raise the temperature to 140 F until completely dry
- The finished cranberries will stick to the fingers, highlighting their fructose
Air drying process
The classic air-drying method is as follows:
- Choose a suitable place for the process, protected from direct sunlight. Warm air exposure is ideal, which will blow and evaporate the moisture out simultaneously
- Spread a cheesecloth on a table or other horizontal surface
- Put the cranberries in a single layer
- Air dry for 3 days
Some people like to use “hanging nets” to protect the berries from flies and dust. The warm air penetrates freely into them while staying protected.
This method is convenient because the berries can be mixed by shaking the net; they don’t get rancid. They dry separately.
Suggested uses for dried cranberries
The use of dried cranberries in cooking is widespread, despite their appearance. These fruits harmoniously complement confectionery, serving as decoration for cakes.
It can also be used in the following versions:
- Add as filling in pies, rolls, meatballs
- Mix with shaken cocktails
- Add to sweet cereals
- Cooking jelly
- Sprinkle cookies or ice cream
- Make a delicious cranberry tea
- Prepare medicinal decoctions
- Make cranberry jelly
Cook compotes with the addition of other fruits and berries
Vegetarian nut soup is a common dish. It is cooked for 35 minutes. Calories in 100 g – 335 kcal. The following ingredients are good for 6 portions:
- Cranberries – 60 g
- Raspberries – 100 g
- Lingonberry – 100 g
- Blueberries – 100 g
- Potato flour ½ cup
- Sugar – 200 g
- Water – 3 lbs
- Place berries in a pan with water
- Simmer for 20 minutes
- Add potato flour and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Serve hot
Cranberry jelly recipe
Another interesting use. It only takes 30 minutes to prepare; its caloric content is around 203 kcal per 100 g.
The following ingredients serve 4 portions:
- Sugar – 150 g
- Potato flour – 2 tablespoons
- Dry cranberries – 50 g
- Water – 500 ml
- Pour water over the cranberries and cook for 20 minutes
- Mash the softened fruits with a spoon or crush and strain, preserving the decoction
- Add the sugar and boil the water again
- Pour the potato flour and cook for another 10 minutes
- Serve hot or cold
You can add dried cranberries to any semi-sweet dish. Sweets and other dried fruits combine harmoniously.
Suggestion Before baking, the fruit should be softened in water so that it doesn’t over-shrink.
Storage and conditions
With proper storage, you can preserve its qualities for up to two years. After this period, it’ll start losing its medicinal properties and become unsuitable for consumption.
The finished product should be changed to paper boxes, not newspapers so that the ink is not printed on the fruit. It is better to use tracing paper or parchment. You can use cloth bags or cheesecloth wrapping.
The idea is that air passes through the container or packaging.
Using dried cranberries at any time of the year is the same as taking “vitamins.” It’s safe to give to children and the elderly because of the lack of sugar.
Drying cranberries for the winter is the best option to provide vitamins for the whole family.
Bonus: Food dehydration
Dehydration is one of the healthiest and oldest ways to prepare food without resorting to high temperatures – below 47ºC – and therefore without destroying enzymes and vitamins.
According to raw vegan diet enthusiasts, 70% of food should be consumed raw or dehydrated.
It also serves to preserve seasonal products, especially fruits, vegetables, and aromatic plants, to be consumed the rest of the year.
In dried foods, nutrients become stronger. They are ideal for snacking between meals or for taking them out on excursions and workouts.
How to dehydrate food at home
You’ve probably noticed that dehydrated foods are typically expensive. The good news is that you can make them yourself.
Home dehydrators run on electricity, which, if you use them often, they will pay for themselves quickly. Although they certainly don’t come cheap. But keep in mind you can use your oven as well.
Using the oven to dehydrate food
Conventional ovens are not designed to keep the right temperature for delicate dehydration, which is around 105 F. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to achieve this temperature with some tricks.
Surely the first number on your oven’s thermostat is higher than 105 or 120 F. To ensure that the temperature is constantly lower, you’ll need a kitchen thermometer.
The idea is to put inside the oven and observe from outside.
To manually control the temperature, set the thermostat to the minimum and when it reaches 110 F. Then, insert the trays with the food and leave the door ajar. You can prevent the door from closing with a wooden spoon.
Leaving the door open helps control the temperature, but it allows water vapor to escape above all. As for the temperature, you only have to turn off the oven when the temperature reaches 119 F and turn it back on when it drops to 105 F.
Dehydrating in the sun
Humans started dehydrating food long before discovering electrical energy. Sun drying is still practiced today (for example, figs or dried tomatoes), and you can do it yourself as well.
You could put the food to be dehydrated on a tray, but it’s preferable to build a frame that holds a mosquito netting.
This frame allows the food to remain aerated on all sides. Cover the food with gauze to protect it from insects and place the frame out to sun exposure, supported by four bricks or chairs. Or you can pile up several frames.
Every 12 hours you can turn the food over (the drying process can take several days).
To dehydrate in the sun faster, you can build a solar oven. It can be as simple as a wooden box, with the interior painted black or lined with aluminum foil, and one side made of glass or transparent plastic. On the internet, you will find many places to explain how to build all kinds of models.
Give it time
Much depends on the circumstances (oven temperature or ambient temperature and humidity), but most vegetables dehydrate in 16-24 hours (1 to 4 days in a solar dehydrator).
Fruits, because they have a higher proportion of water, require more time (up to 42 hours in the oven and 5 days in the solar dehydrator).
The most critical point during the dehydration process is to stop it at the right time when the humidity has disappeared, and it has not yet been toasted.
To determine this, take a sample, let it cool down outside the oven, put it in a medium-sized glass container with a screw top, and rest in a dark area.
After a day, you will check for jar condensation or other signs of moisture. If so, you’ll need to put the food back in the dehydrator.
Some useful tips:
- Don’t try it with watery (leaking) fruits
- Dry fruits separately because they each have their own rhythm
- Don’t use drying as a way to preserve fruits going rancid or “ugly-looking“
- You can dry berries and aromatic plant
- It is recommended to cut the big fruits and vegetables into slices or pieces of the same size. A suitable thickness is between 0.5 and 1 cm
- Tough vegetables are best blanched before drying
- Succulent fruits or vegetables, such as tomatoes, should be dried with paper before dehydrating
- Place the pieces separately, not piled up
- Once the food has been dried, store it in a glass jar with a screw top