Depending on how many cranberry plants you’re growing, you might have more cranberries than you can reasonably consume in a short time. Good thing they’re easy to store and preserve!
Sort Your Picked Cranberries
Your first step is to sort through your harvested berries. Discard any that are bruised, soft, or damaged. If you accidentally picked some before they were fully ripe, send them to the compost; cranberries do not continue to ripen after picking.
Refrigerating Your Cranberries
Washed cranberries will last three to four weeks in the fridge. Just make sure they’re as dry as possible before putting them into the refrigerator.
Freezing Your Cranberries
Cranberries are easy to freeze.
You can also wash your cranberries before you freeze them. After you wash them, lay them out in a single layer on a towel to dry. Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Keeping them in a single layer, put them in the freezer for a few hours to firm up, then transfer them to a freezer bag or other freezer container. The first freeze will help keep the berries separate during storage.
If you have a food sealer, even better: that will help reduce the chance of freezer burn. When you’re ready to use them, you don’t even have to thaw them. In fact, when you’re measuring out frozen cranberries for cooking or baking, always measure them while they’re frozen, not thawed. Frozen cranberries are the same size and shape as fresh cranberries; thawed cranberries can get soft and compact, and that might give you an inaccurate measurement.
Canning Your Cranberries
Canning is a time-honored preservation method—and one you should only pursue if you have the right equipment. You must be careful to follow all canning directions to the letter in order to avoid botulism in your canned goods. Check out our post in Food Gardening Daily that provides Pressure Canning Safety: 10 rules to live by.
Dehydrating Your Cranberries
You can also dehydrate your harvested cranberries. Spread cranberries out in a food dehydrator for about eight hours, or eight to 10 hours at 300 degrees F in the oven. An oven with a convection setting works best for this.
It’s your choice whether to sweeten your cranberries before you dry them. If you want to sweeten them, blanch you cranberries and dry them. Then soak them for about 10 minutes in a simple syrup (one part sugar to two parts water). Dry them off, spread them out in a single layer, and use the drying method of your choice.
You can grind or pulverize dried cranberries for use in smoothies, baking, and more.
How frequently do you harvest your cranberries? Please tell us what you look for when getting ready to harvest, and how you preserve your harvest by commenting below.