So let’s continue in our “3 Ways” series and try our hand at preserving cranberries! Unlike most berries that ripen in late spring or early summer, cranberries don’t come into season til late fall, generally between Thanksgiving and Christmas; that’s why the ubiquitous cranberry jelly is a must have on most everyone’s holiday table. Like other fruits, cranberries are a high-acid food which makes preserving them a breeze and allows for a good bit of variation. As always, when preserving cranberries or any other fruit, stick to tried recipes, safe canning techniques, even if your granny did it differently. Today, we’re going to can fresh cranberries in a heavy syrup, can cranberry sauce and make cranberry fruit leathers. Start your clocks, friends, because this is going to be finished and on the pantry shelves in no time!
Okay, first up, preserving cranberries in a heavy syrup.
Wash and stem your berries, then boil them in a heavy syrup for 3 minutes. Pack the hot cranberries into pint or quart jars and cover them with the boiling heavy syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Cap the jars with 2-piece lids and then process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes or as indicated in the instructions here. That’s it. Isn’t that crazy easy?! Now to mix things up, you can add some delicious flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest or use brown sugar in lieu of white sugar in the syrup. Just be sure to use the same ratios and don’t add low-acid ingredients such as nuts or onions to the recipe. I don’t know why you’d add onions to cranberries, but I just want to put that out there.
Alright, canned cranberries are done, so let’s move on to cranberry sauce. I don’t know about your house, but cranberry sauce HAS to be on the table for the holidays. Even if no one eats it, it has to be there. Because. So to make the thick, jelled cranberry sauce, you simmer 4 cups of cranberries in 1 cup of water til they soften and begin to burst. Carefully put the hot berries through a sieve or food mill to achieve the desired texture. Return the berries to the pan and add 2 cups of sugar, boil for 3 minutes, then ladle into hot jars, cap and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. If you’d rather have whole berry sauce, simply omit the sieve step and carry on with the sugar and boiling. Complete instructions can be found here! Again, in this instance, it’s perfectly acceptable to add a small amount of spice such as ginger or orange zest to your cranberry sauce.
2 products down, 1 to go! You’ll not find cranberry fruit leathers at the grocery store, but they are so delicious! Sweet, tart, chewy and they make a great dessert after a heavy meal. To make fruit leathers, use a portion of the cranberry sauce you just made and pour onto a baking pan or dehydrator drying sheet lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. You need to spread the sauce out til it’s approximately 1/8 of an inch thick and even throughout the pan to prevent under/overdehydrating. Dehydrate at 140 degrees til the sauce is pliable but not squishy anywhere; this could take anywhere from 6-12 hours, so keep checking. When it’s finished, cut into strips and store in the fridge or freezer in plastic containers. You can find this recipe and others at the Home Preserving Bible.
If you love preserving cranberries as much as I do, don’t stop there! Cranberries can be dehydrated, frozen, candied, pickled, made into salsa, chutney, jam, mustard, and about a hundred other possibilities. So when you see cranberries on sale for $.50/bag in the next few weeks, grab 10 of them and get them preserved and in your pantry! Til next time!