Dried cranberries are considered an excellent alternative to dried raisins. They are a rich source of dietary fibers and antioxidants. The nutrient content of dry cranberries is the same as fresh cranberries but some of the commercial drying techniques tend to reduce its vitamin A and C. Even addition of sugar can bring down its nutritional value to some extent. For all these reasons, more and more people prefer to dry cranberries at home.
Drying Fresh Cranberries in a Dehydrator
No matter what method you use for drying, picking the right kind of cranberry is very important. Choose only those which are ripe and firm. Take a bag of fresh cranberries and wash thoroughly. Take some water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour all the cranberries into the boiling water for blanching. As soon as you soak them in water, the cranberries will start popping and its skin will burst. If the skin does not burst, the cranberries cannot be dehydrated properly. So, keep them in boiling water for a few minutes. Do not take it out of the water within a few seconds.
Once the skin of all the cranberries have split, drain out the water, place them on a dry paper towel and gently pat them dry. Now, spread them on the dehydrator trays in the form of a single layer. Turn the temperature of the dehydrator to 120 degrees and leave the cranberries inside it. After a gap of every two hours, you should stir the cranberries. Continue to dehydrate until they are hard and slightly leathery to chew. It takes around 12-24 hours for this kind of effect. However, it largely depends on the weather condition in your locality. If you live in a less humid zone, then it is likely that the cranberries will dry up faster.
Drying Fresh Cranberries in the Oven
If you do not have a dehydrator, you can still dry cranberries at home. It may be surprising for you, but it's true that cranberries can be dried in an oven too. Dried cranberries are somewhat tart in taste which many people do not like. So, here, we are using a different method where the cranberries are sweetened before drying.
You can use sugar substitute for this purpose. Use sweeteners that are in the powdered form. Dissolve the sweetener (the quantity varies as per your taste) in water and pour it over the rinsed cranberries kept in a pan. Place the pan for a few minutes on medium heat so that the skin of the cranberries split. Allow them to cool down for the next 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover up the baking sheet with 2-3 layers of paper towels and a parchment paper. Spread the popped cranberries on the parchment paper properly. Place the baking sheet inside the oven and bring down the temperature to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, about 8 hours of heating is required for drying the cranberries but it may take longer in humid conditions. Some people want to keep it longer to make it crispier. Thus you can preserve its nutritional value and yield the benefits of dried cranberries throughout the year.
Hope you have understood how to dry cranberries easily. Now, these should be stored properly. You must vacuum pack them first and then keep inside the freezer. Cranberries stored in this manner can be used for almost 5 years. However, if it is stored at room temperature, it can be preserved only for a year or so.