Cranberries come into season during the fall and winter months, and fresh cranberries freeze beautifully. Whether you bought too many bags for the holidays or decided to stock up, freezing allows you to capture the fruit's sweet-tart taste and bright color while enjoying fresh cranberry recipes year-round.
Fresh cranberries can last up to four weeks in the refrigerator. When stored correctly in the freezer, you can extend that to a full year. Frozen cranberries work just as well as fresh in cranberry sauces and relish, and have an advantage in baked goods.
How to Freeze Cranberries
Freezing cranberries is easy. This method makes sure the individual cranberries remain loose in the freezer bag or container rather than clump together. That's important because it allows you to take out the exact amount of cranberries you'll need for a recipe.
- Rinse the cranberries under cold water and let them drain in a colander.
- Sort through the cranberries. Remove and compost or discard any that are shriveled, mushy, or green. At the same time, pick out and get rid of any stems.
- Spread the cranberries out on a dishtowel and let them air dry for about 15 minutes.
- Spread the cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet, jelly roll pan, or similar dish. Use one with sides to ensure they don't roll off onto the floor or while in the freezer.
- Put the cranberries in the freezer, uncovered, for 2 to 8 hours. They may not fully freeze in less than 2 hours; they will get freezer burn if you leave them in longer than 8 hours.
- Transfer the frozen cranberries to freezer bags or containers. Seal or cover, and immediately put them back into the freezer. Frozen cranberries will keep in well-sealed bags or containers for up to one year
Using Frozen Cranberries
Cranberry sauce recipes typically use 12 ounces of fruit, which is the amount in most bags of cranberries sold at the grocery store. If you know your frozen cranberries are destined to become a sauce, you may find it easiest to store the berries in 12-ounce batches. Without a kitchen scale, measure out 3 1/2 cups of cranberries.
You do not need to thaw frozen cranberries before using them in a recipe. They are better than fresh berries in muffins, quick bread, and other baked goods because they heat through during cooking. Also, their color doesn't bleed into the food as much.
In addition to sauces, relishes, and sweet baked goods, frozen cranberries work well in a variety of recipes. Add them to pancakes or blend them into smoothies, salad dressings, or chutney.
Whole cranberries also make a fantastic garnish for drinks, especially those that use cranberry juice like the cosmopolitan. Since they're frozen, they double as ice and will keep your beverage a little colder with no dilution.
The frozen cranberries can also be thawed, dehydrated, and turned into "craisins." It's an excellent trick if you find yourself too busy during cranberry season, but have more time a couple of months later. They make a great snack or used in granola, yogurt, and a variety of recipes.