Dried cranberries, also called "craisins," are great on their own, or on salads, with granola or yogurt, or included in muffins and other baked goods. They are easy to make at home, but there are a couple of steps you have to take before you dry them.
Prep the Cranberries
- Wash the cranberries. Place them in a large bowl or pot and pour boiling water over them. Let them soak in the hot water for 10 minutes. They should "pop" or split open, but don't worry if there are a few duds that don't. We'll take care of those a bit later.
- Drain the cranberries in a colander, then gently wrap them in a clean dishtowel to get rid of as much of the water clinging to them as possible.
- Stir together the cranberries and 1/4 cup simple syrup made with 1 part sugar to 2 parts water. You can omit this step if you wish, but keep in mind that likely every "craisin" you've ever tasted from commercial brands was sweetened. Unsweetened cranberries are sour and astringent.
- Lay a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil to cover the bottom of your dehydrator (below the lowest tray). This is to catch any drips from the fruit or the syrup.
- Put the blanched, sweetened cranberries on the dehydrator trays. Leave about half an inch of space in between the berries on all sides so that air can circulate between the fruits.
- As you are setting the cranberries in place on the dehydrator trays, notice if any of the berries did not split during their 10-minute soak in hot water. Pierce those that did not split with the tip of a paring knife before adding them to the dehydrator trays.
Dry the Cranberries
- Turn the dehydrator on to 150 F for the first half hour, then reduce the heat to 135F.
It will take 8 to 14 hours to fully dry the cranberries. Start checking them after 8 hours. They should be fully dry but still somewhat leathery or pliable.
You won't be completely sure if the cranberries are fully dehydrated until they have cooled (you know how cookies crisp up after you take them out of the oven? Same deal with dried fruit). Turn off the dehydrator and open it. Let the cranberries cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
After the cooling off period, tear one of the berries in half: there should be no visible moisture along the break.
Condition the Cranberries
Even after the cranberries are correctly dehydrated there may still be some residual moisture in the fruit that you can't feel. This shouldn't be enough to prevent the fruit from being safely preserved and mold-free. But you'll have a tastier, better product if you do what is called "conditioning" the dried fruit.
Put the dried, cooled cranberries into glass jars or BPA-free food storage containers, only filling the jars about 2/3 full. Cover the jars. Shake the jars a couple of times a day for one week. This redistributes the berries as well as any moisture they may still contain. If any condensation shows up on the sides of the jars, your fruit isn't dried well enough yet and it needs to go back into the dehydrator for a few hours.
Once your dried cranberries are conditioned, store them in airtight containers away from direct light or heat. It's okay to fully fill the jars at this point: the 2/3 full was just for the conditioning phase when you needed to be able to shake the pieces around.