Usually I start my dehydrating posts by saying how easy various foods are to dehydrate, but not this one! Now, wait, don’t go anywhere! I am not going to say that cranberries are hard to dehydrate but they do need a bit more attention than most food.
Cranberries are not a throw it in and forget about type of fruit. Also, most articles will tell you to boil or blanch your cranberries to “check” them, essentially pop them (pop the skin) so they can dehydrate thoroughly. You can also “check” some food by freezing it first, but not cranberries. Here I’ll show you what I did and how things turned out when I dehydrated cranberries for the first time.
How To Dehydrate Cranberries Step By Step
I started by freezing my cranberries because I thought maybe freezing them would be enough to “check” or pop them.
I washed all my frozen cranberries.
Then I placed all my cranberries on the dehydrator trays.
Here is a close-up of what they looked like before going into the dehydrator.
I loaded up my nine tray Excalibur Dehydrator.
Set it on the fruit setting before I went to bed.
Then I woke up to the cranberries looking pretty much the same. Freezing was not enough to “check” them.
So I got out my ice pick (sorry this photo is not the best) and started “checking” each berry. This took me about an hour.
Here is what they looked like after they were stabbed with the ice pick…..:) But you can clearly see the skin is broken and they could now dehydrate thoroughly.
The majority of the cranberries took about 16 hours. I had to check on them many times. If you let the berries go too long they will become flaky and essentially turn to dust in your mouth or in your hands. So this was a bit more work than most fruit as the cranberries took different amounts of time to become fully dehydrated.
I could have had the dehydrator a bit too full. Dehydrators do best when there is sufficient air circulation. However, I had about 14lbs of cranberries and I had already defrosted them. It was easier for me to check on them every few hours and remove the dried ones and let the ones that were not done keep going than for me store defrosted cranberries while I waited for the current batch to finish.
Of course that got me thinking. Would it have been easier for me to boil or blanch (I’ve heard you can do either to “check” the cranberries)? While writing this post I found more cranberries at a local store and thought I would do a comparison.
First a bit of disclosure. When I first stated dehydrating I was not doing it from a food storage standpoint, but I was doing it from raw food perspective. I am not a raw foodist, but I do employ some of their philosophy in my food preparation. So cooking my food before I dehydrated still seems weird to me (although there are some foods that do better if they are cooked first like potatoes). However, I thought if it saves a ton of time it might be worth it.
So I loaded up my fresh cranberries in a big pot and boiled them. I did not blanch them. More on that in moment.
You can see most of the cranberries popped.
Here is a close up of my “checked” or popped cooked cranberries.
It goes against my grain to cook food in order to dehydrate it if it is not necessary. Cooking can deplete food of nutrition (not in all cases); after all, it is a process. You can see the pot above with all the very red cranberry juice (I foresee you reading a cranberry juice post in the future….:)
All that juice is full of nutrients that are no longer in the cranberries. Now, I did not stand at the stove and dip a few cranberries at a time in hot water or blanch them. This would take longer than poking each one with the ice pick and I would be standing over a hot stove. So you can argue that the cranberries were over cooked and that is fine, I am inclined to agree. However, like I said this was an experiment to see which would go faster: cooking the cranberries or using an ice pick.
Even after being boiled there are still some cranberries that did not pop. So this makes the boiling/blanching technique look even less appealing.
Then after 8 hours in the dehydrator there are still cranberries not dehydrated. I will have to keep this batch in the freezer and add it to smoothies or find something else to do with it. The first batch can be easily added to cereal, muffins or used in almost any other recipe that calls for cranberries. You can add sugar to your cranberries to make homemade craisins, however, then you could not put the craisins in your food storage as they would not store for a long period of time. You can re-hydrate your cranberries in a sugar solution to make them sweeter before place them into a recipe.
I put the dehydrated cranberries in the freezer for two weeks to “pasteurize” them. Freezing the food in a deep freezer for several weeks takes care of the majority of problems that might arise from bugs and bacteria. It’s not 100% foolproof – some bacteria freezes just fine and will thaw out and still be active. But this is one extra precaution that I take. Then store your cranberries in a cool dry place.