Since it’s getting harder to find dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice rather than sugar, I decided to delve into making them from scratch. I’d bought some fresh ones around Thanksgiving–around a pound, I think, and froze them till I could figure out what to do with them. I decided to try an experiment with the frozen cranberries and a 12oz can of frozen apple juice concentrate.
12oz – 1 lb of frozen or fresh cranberries
12oz frozen apple juice concentrate
First I opened the can of apple juice concentrate and let it melt into a medium saucepan. Then I added the frozen cranberries and kicked the heat up to medium-high.
It wasn’t too long–maybe 5-10 minutes–before the ice had melted and they had simmered enough in the juice concentrate to start popping open. It’s important to get them to pop (and you can squash them open, too) because otherwise the skin will seal in the juices and keep them from drying (knowing this from an experience of drying blueberries and grapes in the past–it just made hot, juicy fruit).
So I removed it from heat when they started popping to let them cool down a bit before putting them in the dehydrator.
Then, using a slotted spoon, I carefully transferred them into the dehydrator trays lined with a mesh called “clean-a-screen” to help get them off later (because it’s flexible and the trays are NOT) and have something easier to clean.
I was careful to try to separate them as much as possible–where they clump and dry together, they become more like “fruit leather.” The big manufacturers just mist them with oil, but I didn’t want anything that could become rancid later. Then I put the lid on the Nesco Dehydrator and set it to 110F (more than that for long periods of time seems to warp the trays, so I just do them low–but you could also dehydrate them on baking sheets in the oven at 150 or warm overnight or for several hours, too).
Meanwhile, while those started drying, I decided to do something with the “juice” leftover, which now had cranberry seeds and juice in it, as well.
I measured it out, and it was exactly a cup. How perfect! Figuring that I would need to add more than just a cup of water, I found a glass jar with a lid that is 750ml (just under a quart).
I got some filtered water, and used the first cup of that to wash out the measuring cup from having the concentrate in it. After adding two cups of water, it tasted perfect (to me, that is–I don’t like juice very concentrated–you might want to taste it after adding one cup of water, and go from there!), and so as a leftover, I now had 3 cups of apple cranberry juice, too!
So, back to the dried cranberries. They were not quite dry enough the next morning, so let them go further, until early afternoon, and then finally stopped them.
So this was after roughly 18 hours or so of drying at 110F, so I’m thinking at 150F in the oven would take less time, perhaps just overnight. Even so, some of the berries had a little plumpness to them, so I’ll store them in the fridge instead of at room temperature. I’m sure Sherman will eat them up fast enough 😉 They are not quite as sweet as the store-bought ones, but probably more sweet than they would have been otherwise.