Great Snacking with Tart or Sweet Dried Cranberries
Dehydrating Cranberries is easy if you know how to craze them. Crazing (or checking) is a pre-treatment necessary because of the thick skins that make drawing out moisture difficult in the drying process. Other fruits like blueberries and grapes fall under necessary this pretreatment step as well. I have found this method easiest for breaking open the skins to facilitate faster and more even drying.
Because of their tart taste, many people prefer to sweeten the cranberries before drying, giving them the taste of the commercial product Craisins®. We give you both methods here to make your favorites.
This article will give you the 411 on how to make your own. Usually, 1 cup fresh berries (3.5 ounces or 100 g) makes about 1/2 cup dried (2.1 ounces or 60 g).
Quick Steps described below:
- Craze the Cranberries, 2 Methods
- Dehydrating Cranberries
- Testing Cranberries for Dryness
Dehydrated Cranberries or Craisins®
Ingredients, Method #1
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup water
Ingredients, Method #2
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup water or apple juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, date sugar, or honey
Craze the Cranberries, 2 Methods
1) Wash your berries, drain well, and place in a large bowl or pot. Instructions are here for Cleaning Your Produce.
2) For Tart, Natural Cranberries: Boil 1 cup water. Pour water over the cranberries placing a cover over them to seal the heat in.
3) For Sweet Cranberries (Craisins): In a separate pot, boil 1 cup apple juice with 1/2 cup sugar (it needs to be sweet to offset the tartness of the cranberries).You can also use coconut sugar, maple syrup, date sugar, or honey. Bring to a boil then simmer until all the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the resulting syrup over the cranberries, placing a cover over them to seal the heat in.
4) Let them sit for 15 minutes, covered. You’ll hear them popping as the skins burst open.
5) Do not be tempted to put them in the syrup on the stove and let them boil for a bit to increase the number of berries that break open. Boiling for any more than 30 seconds can give your berries to the consistency of cranberry sauce; too mushy to dehydrate whole.
5) Drain the berries in a colander, and shake off excess syrup. Save the syrup for flavoring other foods like tea or mixed drinks.
6) Lay out the berries on the dehydrator trays lined with mesh sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch space between each berry. This helps them dry faster with more air flow and it prevents globs of berries sticking together. It’s worth taking the time to do this.
For the syrup-covered cranberries, line the bottom of your dehydrator with parchment or baking paper to prevent having to clean the mess of dried syrup that has dripped down from your trays.
7) It will most likely be that not all the berries popped. Now that the berries are laid out on the trays, it’s easy to see which ones did not break open during crazing. With a paring knife, poke any berries that are not split yet breaking the thick skins. This will speed up overall drying time, since the berries will all dry at a more uniform pace and prevent case hardening.
8) Set the dehydrator to 135°F/55°C and be patient! These can take up to 2 days to fully dry depending on the size of the berries, how much space you left between them, and whether they have been crazed properly.
Testing Cranberries for Dryness
9) Cranberries are done when they have a leathery, pliable texture. Allow a few to cool on a plate periodically to test for doneness. Take one and break it open – there should be no moisture along the break.
If you want them drier, more crispy, they will store longer, but you need to dry them at least to the consistency of a raisin, or they won’t last long and can develop mold.
Drying the tart (unsweetened) cranberries to a full crispy state will allow for longer storage. To test for crispness, take a few and lay on a plate to cool. The cool state will give you the best measure of crispness.
Make sure you condition the cranberries before long-term storage.
Store in an airtight container. For most freshness it is best to keep refrigerated or frozen if they have not been dried to a crispy state.
For a full description of storage and the length of time, see our article Storage Considerations for Dried Foods.
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