The fall and winter months signal the beginning of the cranberry season. Cranberries are tiny, bright red, juicy berries filled with a lot of goodness. Cranberries are perfect in muffins, cupcakes, cookies, oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies. They are also perfect for sauce, pies, or jams. It can also be enjoyed as a raw delicacy.
Cranberries have a lot of flavor for their size, so it’s a pity they have such a short season and do not have a long shelf-life. So how do you preserve these tarty flavor bombs for when it goes out of season?
Can you freeze cranberries? Yes, you can. Freezing helps you to keep the tarty flavor, color, and taste of these fruits for a whole year. If properly frozen, cranberries can last for 12 months in your freezer. You will be surprised to find out that frozen cranberries would work in almost all of your recipes that require fresh cranberries.
Cranberries shouldn’t just be the special fruit pie at thanksgiving dinners. It could be more than that and can become an everyday kitchen staple with proper freezing. You can get frozen cranberries from stores all around although they are not available in all the stores in the US. It’s a great idea to carry out the freezing process yourself and enjoy fresh cranberries that haven’t been contaminated with preservatives.
How to Freeze Cranberries
Fresh cranberry season usually ends somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hence, they are very much present in the recipes for these festive periods. But with freezing, you can extend cranberries to be accessible all year round. Here are easy steps on how to freeze Cranberries.
Step 1: Washing the Fruits
If you procure your cranberries from the store or pick them from the garden, whichever way you got them, you have to wash them. Wash the cranberries under running water and scrub them thoroughly. Pour fruits into a colander, rinse and leave to drain. Then, pat the cranberries down with a dry kitchen towel to dry them.
Step 2: Flash-freezing
Cranberries tend to clump together upon freezing. This can cause difficulty when you want to use frozen cranberries. For example, getting an exact measurement could mean having to defrost the whole pack. This action can be prevented by flash freezing.
Spread the cranberries individually with enough space in between them on cookie sheets lined with wax paper. The wax paper is there to prevent the cranberries from sticking to the sheets. Ensure that the sheet has rimmed edges that can keep the cranberries from rolling off the sheet in the freezer.
Freeze the cranberries this way for no more than 8 hours to prevent the berries from getting freezer burn.
Step 3: Storage
Pack the half-frozen cranberries into Ziploc bags or airtight freezer bags. Expel as much air as you can from the bags before sealing them up. Mark the bags with a sharpie, labeling the contents and stating the date of freezing so that you can keep track of how long you have stored them.
Packing Cranberries in Sugar or Syrup
Proper packing helps the berries to keep their flavor during storage. The first step in syrup packing is the preparation of the syrup. You can do this by heating one part sugar and three or four parts water until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water.
Immerse the cranberries in the syrup in plastic freezer containers, before you freeze them. You can use syrup-packed cranberries as cranberry sauce or as a dessert topping.
Packing cranberries in sugar is quite different from packing them in syrup. Pour the cranberries into plastic freezer containers then add sugar. Mix the sugar into the cranberries until it dissolves. It is okay if the sugar doesn’t dissolve entirely, it might dissolve as it freezes.
You do not need a special skill to freeze cranberries. You don’t need any special equipment either. With items that can be found in your kitchen, you can properly freeze cranberries.
How to Defrost Frozen Cranberries
Frozen cranberries are quite good as they are; frozen. Frozen cranberries are perfect for baking as they would cook through and would not bleed too much color into the food. They are excellent as cranberry sauce, muffins, cakes, pies, and more.
If you feel the need to thaw the berries before using them, place the berries in the fridge for two hours. Transfer the berries into a strainer, rinse the berries in cold water, and drain the water. Place the berries on the counter and air dry them or pat them down with a towel to dry.
How to Sweeten Raw Cranberries
You can sweeten raw cranberries with sugar. Roast the berries in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 – 20 minutes keep checking until it has softened and slightly caramelized.
Here is another method you can use. Add one cup of sugar to three cups of raw cranberries in a saucepan, and cook at medium heat. Keep stirring the mixture until the sugar dissolves but ensure that the cranberries are still intact. This will sweeten your raw cranberries.
How to Recognize Bad Cranberries
Cranberries that are bad, will become soft and mushy. They will also develop an odd appearance or an odd smell. You can always check the berries for signs of mold to ascertain if they have gone bad or not. If you see signs of mold, accompanied with super soft or mushy texture please discard them.