How To Dehydrate Cranberries

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dehydrate-cranberries

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

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I started by freezing my cranberries because I thought maybe freezing them would be enough to “check” or pop them.

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 I washed all my frozen cranberries.

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Then I placed all my cranberries on the dehydrator trays.

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Here is a close-up of what they looked like before going into the dehydrator.

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I loaded up my nine tray Excalibur Dehydrator.

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 Set it on the fruit setting before I went to bed.

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Then I woke up to the cranberries looking pretty much the same. Freezing was not enough to “check” them.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So I loaded up my fresh cranberries in a big pot and boiled them. I did not blanch them. More on that in moment.

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 You can see most of the cranberries popped.

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 Here is a close up of my “checked” or popped cooked cranberries.

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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.

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Even after being boiled there are still some cranberries that did not pop. So this makes the boiling/blanching technique look even less appealing.

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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.

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I like to store my dried fruit in canning jars. I vacuum packed my cranberries with a FoodSaver using the FoodSaver attachment for wide mouth jars.

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.

  • Ann Marie Forbes Jones says:

    A lot of variables there. I’m not sure that I would try this though I am anxiously looking forward to what you did with that wonderful juice. 😉

  • Rebecca says:

    I don’t like frozen carrots at all. I started out drying them fresh but they take a long time to rehydrate diced when dried raw. Blanching is suggested but I’m like you I don’t like pouring nutrition down the drain. I started steaming them a couple years ago. You could try steaming the cranberries first. I usually make cranberry sauce and freeze it. This year was thinking about caning it but I have to research that because I have never done it.

  • Barbara says:

    I did enough dehydrated cranberries for us to enjoy our favorite raw cranberry salad for a year. I froze them for a couple of months, and when I was ready, I treated them exactly like I do when I’m going to make that salad – I put them into a blender filled with water to coarsely chop them! I strained off the water, then dehydrated them and stored them in vacuumed jars. They are so easy to dry this way, taking mere seconds to prepare, and I recently made the first salad with them. They rehydrate in a jiffy in an equal amount of water which I incorporated into the soft-set Jello that was waiting for them, then I mix them with it, added my crushed pineapple, chopped grapes, sweetener, and chopped pecans and some mini marshmallows. They taste as fresh as they did last November! I don’t care for them cooked, but this salad is so good in the summer that I decided to see if I could save some of them for the summer months, and I’m delighted to say that it was highly successful! It’s a pretty side dish, too!

    • Katrina Staats says:

      Hi Barbara, I really like your idea of blending the cranberries in water before dehydrating them. I have some frozen that I would like to dehydrate before putting it in my suet cakes I make for our bluebirds. This sounds easy enough to try. Thank you so much for sharing this idea.

  • Martha says:

    Would it have worked (from the beginning) to have pricked the skin and then dehydrate them or would it still have been necessary to freeze them? They look yummy in the jar! I enjoy them in granolas and in salads.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Yes, it would have worked from the beginning and I should have done the pricking first…..:) Next time, I will know better. Yes, they are great in granola and in salads!

  • Peggy says:

    Thank you for the great article. I have been looking into dehydrating food but have no idea what dehydrator would be good. I have read the comments in Amazon but still don’t know which is a good one. Has yours been good? Would you recommend it?

    There are only two of us but I want to try all kinds of foods to see what I can store.

    Thank you.
    Peggy

  • Sondra says:

    I would like to know if you can dehydrate the cranberries in the oven? I don’t have a dehydrated so the oven is the best I can do.

  • Alison Norris says:

    When boiling them to make juice (from your other post), how many berries to how much water do you use?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Alison,

      I just made sure the cranberries were covered with water. You can use a little less water if you like. I wouldn’t let the water get below half of the cranberries.

  • Linda says:

    I did some research. Store bought are prepped via boil, then sugar and oil are added. When prepping at home, bring the water to a boil then drop them in until they burst NO longer than about 2-3 min. Drain and dehydrate on about 140. You can lightly sprinkle with about 1/4c of sugar for a 12 oz bag if you desire more sweetness. They will rehydrate some after 30 min of soaking, but remain much like raisins. They are good in salads that way.

  • LindaV says:

    Thanks for this information – mine have literally been dehydrating for 5 days!!! Most will be to dry, but maybe a few…

  • Melissa Mortensen says:

    Do you think boiling them in apple or orange juice will sweeten them? I don’t want to add “sugar”, I’d like to sweeten them with fruit juice…..

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Melissa,
      You could try sweetening them with juice. I’ve never tried that. I would be interested to know how it works for you. I would start with concentrated juice, though. Cranberries are pretty sour.

  • Jon says:

    Like yourself, tried dehydrating fresh, dehydrating thawed frozen- utter failure. Tried dehydrated partial cooked (until they popped) very messy. Settled on steaming them. I can steam a bunch, place them separate from each other on the trays and they do dehydrate. Still get a few that don’t want to pop- they get thrown in for smoothies. This works the best because I don’t have the patience for pricking each berry.

  • Mark says:

    How about crushing them slightly? That would crack the skins.

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