Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Making Sweetened Dried Cranberries

Another experiment in American cookery.

I don't know if many of you have cooked with cranberries or even tried a raw cranberry before (the boys had fun daring each other to eat these so I had lots of little spit-skins on the floor for a few days). We're surrounded by pines and cranberry bogs up here but somehow I've resisted the impulse to make paper or cook with cranberries all these years.

Several years ago when the oldest boys were babies and we'd just moved up here Dean's company gave us a huge bag of free cranberries. I didn't know what to do with it. I've never liked cranberry sauce and those sweetened dried cranberries weren't popular yet so I just strung them on a line and put them around the bird cage. They didn't want them either.

A few weeks ago I went to the Warrens Cranberry Festival with my mom and I brought home 10lb. of fresh cranberries because I thought it was time for me to learn something. Cranberries are not going away. Cranberries are vital to our local economy...just like potatoes and the paper mill.

I've read several versions of how to make sweetened dried cranberries (my favorite are the orange flavored ones). I decided to try 2 or 3 methods and see what turned out the best.

First I put them in a pot of boiling sugar water (1/2 sugar to 1 cup of water). The first method was a no-boil method (supposedly boiling makes them squishy). In the hot water they were supposed to burst. I think maybe 3 burst and the rest stayed hard little balls. After 45 minutes I just turned the heat back up. I boiled them until all had burst. Then I let them sit in the hot water a bit longer. They looked pretty mashed up by the time I put them on the first tray of the dryer.

The second group I put on a cookie sheet and turned the oven on low. I haven't read anything about doing that, but you can dry fruit on low in the oven so I thought maybe it would work better. I left it on 125 for 15 minutes then we were leaving so I shut the oven off. When I came back most of them had split so I took them back for a sugar water bath.

Now the sugar water was cranberry flavored from the last boiling. Dean had already stolen it (and watered it down slightly) for cranberry drink! I had to get it back and let the oven cranberries sit for at least 30 minutes in the solution. Then I put them on 2 more trays and started it up.

This is where things get sticky. The plug didn't work and somehow I forgot to get my handyman. They sat in there. Then they dried off and on over the next 2 days. They dried way too long actually because I read they needed a good 8 hours in the dryer.

So now we have some semi-sweet (but smashed) cranberries. I don't mind those. Slightly tart is good.

And then the really tart ones. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with those. I bagged them and I'll think about it later.

Now I have to think up a new way to do this. Maybe I'll try soaking them in orange juice this time.


Anonymous said...

a friend at Dean's company gave me the cranberries. :-)

lisa said...

Sounds like some good experiments, anyway!