January 11, 2024

Dehydrating Cranberries

Right after the holidays, seasonal food items that we like go on clearance. There are several things that I look for and stock up on, like molasses and dried dates. This year I bought several bags of fresh cranberries for 99 each.

I especially enjoy dried cranberries on my breakfast granola when there's no fresh fruit in season, and I thought it would be nice to make some without the stuff commercial processors like to add.

I consulted my two books on dehydrating foods to compare instructions.

Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook and
Making & Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson

I always like to look at more than one source for projects, to compare notes and possibly pick up unique tips. Their directions were similar and started with popping the raw cranberries into boiling water until the skins cracked. (No pic). Then they went into a bowl where I coated them with honey.

Then it was onto the mesh dehydrator screens.

Both sources recommended a low heat for 10 to 12 hours. What I found however, was that mine still weren't dried in that time. I had to repeat the drying several times. While it took a long time, I ran the dehydrator at night so we benefited from its little bit of heat in the kitchen come morning.

I removed the dried ones along the way and eventually got them all done! 

When I tasted them, however, I was dismayed that the honey didn't help sweeten them at all. So when I put them into a half-gallon jar, I sprinkled with unbleached sugar. 

My final yield was 5 cups.

Because of how long it took, I doubt I'll try these again. And I will probably save these for baking, rather than eating on my granola. But I'm glad I gave them a try anyway.


SmartAlex said...

I'd be curious about the difference between yours and the 50% less sugar Craisens. Craisens are a staple in our house but I like mine tart so I always buy the reduced sugar ones.

barbaradougherty126 said...

Ugh. I tried them too! I had them on 135, then 145 and they NEVER got dried out. Just a gooey mess. I ended up tossing them honestly. I didn't have but one bag. But I do have to admit when the juice dripped down it dripped on my oranges making them look so nice! Lemons!

daisy g said...

I so appreciate you sharing the things that don't always work out as anticipated. I thought it was a great idea to add the honey, as I don't do processed sugar anymore, but I'm sorry it didn't sweet them enough. No doubt you will use them in some marvelous way!

Leigh said...

Alex, I like the tart ones too. But sugar-free is beyond my tart meter! They also add oils to many dried fruits, which I'd rather avoid. The brand I've been buying (Nature ToGo) uses sunflower seed oil, but I think they all use oil of some sort. Not sure why, and I'm doubtful it's actually useful, but that's what they do.

Barbara, thank you for your comment! That makes me feel better because I thought it was just me. :)

Daisy, of course! I learn a lot from others' successes and failures. We're in this together. :)

The books recommended "honey" made from sugar and water, which they warned wouldn't actually sweeten the cranberries. To which I wondered, what's the point? I thought straight honey would sweeten them nicely and was surprised that it didn't. Live and learn, right?

Ed said...

On our recent trip and subsequent hikes in Arkansas, I bought some GORP that had dehydrated cranberries in it and it was quite good. Dehydrating always seems like it should be a fairly easy task, and it is, but it takes a lot more of my time than I expect.

Carla said...

Last year I tried dehydrating blueberries and was surprised at how long it took! For one batch I just gave up and made blueberry syrup out of them for the freezer.

This year I canned cranberry juice for the first time and I absolutely LOVE it.

Leigh said...

Ed, I have to mentally set up the prep times to dehydrate something, and plan to be around to check the progress. What I do like, is how little storage space dehydrated foods need. Better than all those mason jars! My biggest problem is that I don't have a good routine for rehydrating and using dried foods. I have a lot of things I can toss into soup fixings, if I only remember!

Carla, I didn't have very good results dehydrating blueberries either. Now, I freeze fresh for baking, but of course, that takes up room in the freezer. I really like your idea of juices! I will have to try that one because home canned juice would be a welcome addition to our pantry.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, what was the total time for the dehydration?

(I had not thought of sweetening them, but now it totally makes sense that I think about it).

Michelle said...

I can only dream of finding fresh cranberries on sale after holidays here; all the stores seem to sell out before then! If I ever do find any at a reasonable price, I pop them in the freezer.

Leigh said...

TB, I didn't keep track, but it was days. Lots of days, as in probably at least a week for some of them. Not sure what would be the best way to sweeten them either. I'll leave that experiment for someone else. :)

Michelle, I'll still buy them on clearance, but so far, my favorite uses for them have been either homemade, home canned cranberry relish or jam. Cranberry and fig is especially good together; somewhat similar to strawberry jam.

Nina said...

I buy cranberries when they're on sale too, but I just toss them in the freezer. I've never seen them after Christmas, but the week before, they usually cut the price dramatically. So easy to freeze too, since I just pop the whole bag in the freezer and take them out by the cup when I need them.

Boud said...

Those cranberries are grown about an hour south of where I sit, exported out of state in bulk to Ocean spray, and they're never ever seen here that cheap! I love cranberries and I'd snap them up, to freeze.

I buy dried cranberries and hope they don't have unhealthy stuff added in!

Cederq said...

I like dried cranberries. My mom used to make them but used to the oven in the summer kitchen at low temp to dry them. I never learned her technique, now I wish I had payed a lot more attention to her canning and drying of fruits and vegetables. I was young, the world was close to be right as rain and we thought the future looked bright and sunny... Boy was I delusional. I use to put the cranberries and blueberries(dry) into my Wheaties.

Leigh said...

Nina, I'd probably do that too if I had room in my freezer! They do keep fairly well in the fridge and they make great jam. Next year, I'll do that.

Boud, you live in cranberry country! I'm guessing there are some good healthy brands of dried cranberries. We don't seem to have much choice around here, so I take what i can get.

Kevin, well, kids are always idealistic. :) There are so many things I'd wished I'd paid more attention to growing up. We're pretty much the shortcut generation, which has it's good points, but losing the original skills is a sad thing, I think.

Quinn said...

At that price I would have thrown 6 bags in my freezer and baked treats with two more! I love cranberries, and I live right here in cranberry country, but can't recall seeing a price like that in years!

R's Rue said...

Looks delicious.

Leigh said...

Quinn, for us it's Aldi that puts them on clearance at that price every year. And every year I take advantage! Usually I can jam and relish, but I'm glad I tried to dry them. It was a good experiment.

Regine, if you like tart!

Fundy Blue said...

I wouldn't have the patience to dehydrate cranberries, Leigh. When I find them on sale, I buy them and freeze them. I'm a fan of Craisens, and I stock up on them when they are on sale.