There are a couple of ways you can dehydrate (or dry) fresh cranberries at home; in the oven or in a food dehydrator.
Regardless of the method you use, you’ll have to prep them first.
Part 1: Prep
One of the great things about fresh cranberries is that they contain a lot of water, but water becomes a problem when we want to dehydrate foods so the cranberries need to be split open first. If not then some moisture will stay in the berry after the drying process and they will go bad quickly.
Rather than splitting each one open with a knife, we can simply boil them open. One way is to just boil them on the stove for a couple of minutes to pop them. But you need to be careful not to boil them too much or they will be mushy, and in no condition to be dehydrated anymore.
A better way is to put the fresh cranberries into a container and pour some boiled water over them, then cover them (the container) for 10 minutes. It’s a slower, gentler way to pop them that yields much better results.
After 10 minutes you’ll drain the berries and check that they are all popped. If you find some that are not you’ll need to do so manually with a knife. A simple cut will do.
Drain them well and then dry them on a clean dish towel.
At this point they are ready to be dehydrated. Cranberries are naturally sour or tart, so if you enjoy the taste of them naturally then skip this next part and proceed to the dehydration section below (oven or dehydrator method).
If however, you’d like them to be a little sweet then they will need to be blanched first. Meaning they need to be soaked in water and juice (or sugar) until the berries absorb the sweetness, and then they can be dehydrated. (*** If taking this route you don’t have to dry them so thoroughly as stated above).
Directions to soaking them:
Using juice – 1:1 ratio of water to juice. Usually orange juice but you can use apple juice concentrate or any juice you like.
Sugar or sweetener: 1:2 sugar/water ratio. Some people prefer it less sweet with a 1:4 ratio (for example 1/4 cup sugar in 1 cup water) and some prefer it much sweeter, like craisin-sweet with a 1:1.
Cranberries can soak for 5 minutes and become sweeter but the longer the better. Some recommend letting them soak in the fridge overnight, although 20 minutes is plenty.
*** Tip: Adding a touch of lemon juice to the mix will help keep them longer in their dried form.
Once blanched, proceed to drain them once again and make sure they are well dried on a dish towel or with paper towels. Now we are ready to dehydrate them.
- Set oven to lowest setting, around 130-150 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment (not wax) paper.
- Spread cranberries to cover the entire pan, making sure they are well spaced out.
- Bake (dehydrate) for 4-8 hours, opening door every hour to let moisture escape.
- After 2 hours take one single cranberry out and let it cool (very important it cools completely) to see if it’s done to your linking. Do this every hour until they are dried to your liking. When they are ready take the pan out. Too much oven time will make them hard and crunchy instead of soft and chewy so the testing every hour is important.
- Once done, cool and transfer to a jar. Shake every few hours to make sure there is no moisture left in them. If there is, they need to either be dried in the oven more or kept in the fridge.
*** If cranberries are sufficiently dry then they can be stored in the cupboard (air tight) just like raisins. If however you like them a bit softer (a tad of moisture in them) then you’ll need to store them in the fridge.
Using a Food Dehydrator
Once again make sure the cranberries are fully dry. Spread them out on dehydrator trays and set the machine to 135F / 57C for anywhere from 8 – 24 hours.
Test them – After 8 hours take one out and allow it to fully cool. You must allow it to cool fully in order to see whether or not it’s dehydrated enough. If not repeat process every hour as times will vary by machine.
Once they are ready, allow them to cool and place them in a glass jar, or mason jar. Cover and shake a few times throughout the day to make sure you don’t see any moisture. This is called conditioning and is vital to make sure the berries are indeed dry. If not you’ll find that all of your hard work will become moldy after a couple of days. If they are moist then they need to be dried a little longer.
Store once again in air tight containers.
And that’s it. You now have dehydrated cranberries in your pantry that were homemade and, depending on if you used juice, sweetener or nothing to blanche them, a healthy snack.
Ways to Enjoy your Dried Cranberries
1- As a snack like raisins
2- In baking recipes like loaves and cookies.
3- In granola or trail mixes.
4- In drinks and cocktails (they will become re-hydrated once in a liquid) to add some tartness.
5- Enjoy them on National Eat a Cranberry Day.
Hope this helps.