Have you ever tried to dry cranberries? I myself am a dehydrator veteran, but the idea of cranberries was new to me. It’s also hard to find in food preservation books. Our family picked up some cranberries from a late harvest in November, from a local bog. Some of us made them into holiday sauces, and then froze the rest (just put them in the freezer, it’s that easy!), and then I dried all of mine. My children eat them as an alternative to fruit snacks.
I was surprised at how little sugar is required for these. I also like the idea that alternative sweeteners can be used. But there is a trick to drying cranberries, and without it, this processes will surely fail.
First off, to understand how to prepare cranberries, you have to have an understanding of how they work. Most people are detached from their food by the industrial food market, so farming knowledge is lost. Here’s a photo of a cranberry bog.
This is how it works: When the cranberries are ripe, the bog is filled without about a foot and a half of water- the cranberries don’t grow in the water. Then, workers go about, knocking them with a device, so that they detach from the plant. Air inside the berry causes it to float to the top, and then a type of skimmer goes across the surface collecting them. Therefore, one can deduce that like blueberries, cranberries are fairly airtight.
You can see how that would cause problems in a dehydrator- how would the moisture escape the skin?
Well, this is why you scald them. To prepare your berries, cull them (that is, sort through them with your hands, removing bad berries that may have gone by or blackened, stems, etc.), and place them in a bowl. For a 12oz package, you’ll need to boil approximately 1 quart (4cups) of water in a separate pan. When the water comes to a boil, take it off the burner and wait for the bubbles to stop forming. DO NOT pour bubbling water over the berries. Pour the calmed water over the berries, being careful to stand back. The boiling water causes the skin to split on the berries, which makes them spit- spit boiling hot water/juice at you. Like with most food preservation, you should be wearing an apron and long sleeve to protect yourself. I also keep a wet cloth handy to protect my white countertops from being stained by lingering cranberry juice.
Let the berries sit for about 5-10min until they have split. Then drain them in a cullender. Once they have been drained, put them back into the empty bowl. For every 12oz of berries, add 1/4c of sugar, maple, agave, or sweetener of your choice. Then spread them in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for 2hrs.
When the two hours is up and the berries are chilled, spread them out into your dehydrator and dry them at 135. After a day, open up the dehydrator and with a very sharp knife, stab the ones that are in tact. This will assure that the berries are letting out moisture. Put the dehydrator back on, and check them about every 12hrs. The drying will take approximately 2-3 days, depending on how many you have in the dehydrator. Store them in a dry place.