Yes, you can make homemade dried cranberries without sugar or any sweetener of any kind. But only if you’re ready for beautiful jeweled toned tart morsels. Seriously, these are TART.
These are straight up cranberries. No sugar or sweetener of any kind, no oil, no preservatives. Just all the goodness and tartness of cranberries. If you adore sweet, gummy cranberries this is not your recipe. Look for a recipe that soaks cranberries in simple syrup, juice, maple syrup or honey or maybe one that coats them in sugar or alternative sweeteners. This recipe is just dried cranberries.
Did you know that cranberries have some of the lowest amounts of natural occurring sugar of all fruits? One cup of raw cranberries has about 4 grams of sugar, compared to raspberries at 5 grams, strawberries at 7 grams, cherries at 18 grams and grapes at 15 grams of sugar per cup. That’s why commercial dried cranberries and most home dried cranberry recipes add some sort of sweetener. Not only does sugar (whether naturally occurring or added) provide a sweet flavour, it also keeps fruit soft and chewy. Dried cranberries without added sugar, syrup, juice or oil are tart and a little bit crispy. They are not as gummy as commercial cranberries. I love them and enjoy the bright tart flavour they add to food.
How do I use these tart little jewels? Keep reading after the recipe for ideas.
Recipe for Homemade Dried Cranberries
Homemade Dried Cranberries
- cranberries fresh or frozen
- If using fresh cranberries, wash and pick out any unwanted berries. Pat dry. If using frozen, let thaw on counter for 1/2 hour. The remainder of the steps are the same for fresh and frozen cranberries.
- Cut all cranberries in half. This is critical to ensure air can get to the center of each cranberry. Without cutting, the berries' skin may harden and trap moisture inside which could lead to mold.
- Place cranberries on mesh trays and put in dehydrator. Dry at 135°F (57°C) for 10 to 14 hours. Fresh cranberries will take longer than frozen cranberries. Time will vary greatly with each dehydrator and with temperature and humidity levels in your house.
- Rotate trays and check on cranberries at 6 hour mark.
- Finished cranberries will be pliable with no signs of moisture. As they cool they will become firmer and maybe even crisp. Let rest on tray until cooled, at least 2 hours.
- Once cooled totally and completely, place in an airtight container (glass jar is best). To condition the cranberries and ensure they are absolutely dry throughout, watch and shake jar for next 7 days. If the cranberries soften greatly, clump together or if there is any sign of moisture on sides of jar - return to dehydrator. If all is good, store in a cool, dark place for a year or more.
How To Dry Cranberries in the Oven
You can dry cranberries in your oven.
Prepare the cranberries as described above – wash fresh cranberries or thaw frozen ones slightly and cut in half.
Spread out on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving a little space between each berry to allow air to circulate.
Set oven to to its lowest setting. Ideally, 135°F(57°C) but 150-170°F (65-76°C) will work – whatever your lowest setting is. If you have the option of a convection setting use that as air circulation is beneficial.
Baking time will vary depending on your oven and your temperature. Check, stir and rotate baking sheets at 4, 6, 8, 10 hours.
They should be fully dry, but still somewhat bendable. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
As they cool, they will become firmer and a little crisp. Once fully cooled, condition cranberries by storing in glass jar and observing them for 7 days. Shake the jar and look for any signs of moisture. If they soften, clump together or if there’s any condensation, dry them some more, otherwise store in a cool dark place for a year or more.
How to Condition and Store Dried Cranberries
Even after cranberries are properly dried, there may still be some residual moisture that is unnoticeable. That’s why it’s important to “condition” your newly dried cranberries.
Conditioning dried fruit means you’re giving it a chance to balance out whatever moisture is remaining. Remember, when we dehydrate fruit, about 10% of the moisture remains – we don’t actually remove ALL the water. You can imagine that once dried, some pieces of fruit have higher amounts of moisture than other pieces. When all the pieces are stored together, the moisture tends to equalize between all the pieces. It takes about 7-10 days for this to happen. After that natural “conditioning” happens, we can be more confident that the fruit is dry enough for long term storage. Luckily, conditioning dried fruit is super easy.
Pack cooled fruit loosely in a glass jar. Seal, shake daily and observe for 7 days. If at any point you see any signs of condensation in the jar, dry the fruit more. If the fruit clumps together or goes quite soft, dry the fruit more. If the fruit looks and feels dry – you’re cleared for storing that jar in a cool, dark place for a year or more.
Store dried cranberries like any other dried fruit – in a tightly sealed container, away from light in a room with consistent temperature (ideally cool).
Vacuum sealing is optional.
How to Use Tart, Homemade Dried Cranberries
Enjoy in anything where a little tartness is welcomed. Unless you really love sour candies, you likely won’t want to pack a whole bunch for an afternoon snack.
Use your dried cranberries in mixes, blends or baking.
- in oatmeal or homemade instant oatmeal
- in homemade tea blends
- in trail mix
- in porridge, chia seed pudding or other soft, wet foods
- in granola
- in granola bars – chop into smaller bits or soak before using
- in muffins, scones and loaves – chop into smaller bits or soak before using
- mixed with apples in pie, crisps or crumbles – chop into smaller bits or soak before using
HOW TO RE-HYDRATE DRIED CRANBERRIES
You can often use dried cranberries without re-hydrating. If you want to use them in baking or other recipes, you can also re-hydrate them before using.
Place cranberries in bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest for 15-30 minutes. Drain liquid and use cranberries in recipes like this Cranberry Walnut Muffin.
Do you have any questions about drying cranberries? How will you use your dried cranberries? I love getting reader’s questions and comments, please leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.