Homemade, Entirely Sugar Free Dried Cranberries

I’m just gonna give it straight to you guys…

When I made these, I thought NEVER AGAIN!

In fact, I wasn’t even done making them that already I was thinking NEVER AGAIN!

I was so disappointed. I thought that making my own dried cranberries would be such a revelation.

Unsweetened Dried Cranberries | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

You see, I simply adore dried cranberries, but the naturally sweetened ones are very hard to come across, and when you do find them, well, they always contain *some* kind of oil, to prevent the fruits from desperately clinging to one another.

I’m not crazy about that.

Personally, I’d prefer to do without, even if it means that I would get little clusters of fruits instead of neatly separated and individualized fruits.

Also, I was recently told by a “producer” that even the ones that are naturally sweetened with apple juice also have *some* other form of sugar added, otherwise they would go bad in no time…

Hmpft… not sure I like the sound of that!

Last but not least, I figured that by making my own dried fruits, I would save tons of money because, let’s face it, dried cranberries tend to be on the expensive side and the organic, unsweetened variety will generally cost you an arm and a leg.

Now I know why!

And you’re about to, too!

First off, you need to buy fresh cranberries. They don’t always come cheap…

Lucky for me, they were on sale that week, going for 2 bucks a bag, so I grabbed a whole bunch of ‘em.

I used two for this recipe.

Also, that very same week, my favorite grocery store was giving away small bottles of pure pomegranate juice with every purchase of $70 worth of groceries.

That juice has a retail value of $4.

So we’re at $8 now, right? Right!

Cranberries and Pomegranate Juice | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Alright, we have all our ingredients, so let’s get started.

First off, you want to cook your cranberries very slightly in the pomegranate juice.

So throw the fruits as well as the juice in a large heavy bottomed pan.

Cranberries in pan

That’s two 340g bags of cranberries and one 236ml bottle of pure, unsweetened pomegranate juice.

Bring that to a boil over high heat and cook until your cranberries start to pop. You will hear them, kind of like popcorn.

At this point, you want to kill the heat and press on them with the back of a large cooking spoon to help them all pop. DO NOT let your cranberries cook for too long. One or two minutes is all it takes.

Dried Cranberries in the Making

Let the fruits rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, you want to line a baking sheet with paper towels. 3 layers of them.

Oh, and start the oven at the lowest possible setting you can get it at.

Mine doesn’t go any lower than 170F.

If you can do 150F, that’s even better…

Baking Sheet Lined with Paper Towels

Add a layer of parchment paper on top of the 3 layers of paper towels.

When your cranberries are cool enough, transfer them to the prepared baking sheet and squeeze them some more (there oughta be a few ones that didn’t get squeeshed, I’m sure!)

Yep, there are…

See that one right there, in the middle? And there’s another one right beside. And I see a few in the corner, too…

Dried Cranberries in the making

So squeesh and squoosh some more.

Then place the baking sheet in the oven, but by all means, find something else to do. Don’t just stand there and wait for your cranberries to be ready, ‘cuz it’ll be a veeery long day if you do!

You’re gonna have to leave them in there for AT LEAST 5 hours, probably even more.

Of course, it depends on how dry you want them. But figure at least 5 hours.

Wait! Where do you think you’re going?

I know, I said 5 hours… but you can’t leave the house!

Why?

‘Cuz you’re gonna have to take these babies out every 3o minutes to an hour and separate them, peel them off from the paper, move them around a bit, maybe even squoosh and squeesh some more.

Until you are left with something that looks like this:

Dried Cranberries in the making

WHAT?

This can’t be it! Is that it?

”fraid so… That IS it!

Took mine 7 hours to get there, plus one entire night drying in the oven after I turned it off.

That’s not even 3 cups. Perhaps not even 2.

To be honest, I was so disappointed that I didn’t even weigh or measure them.

In fact, I was so convinced that I was never going to make them ever again that I just threw them there on the corner of the table and snatched a couple of quick shots, without even putting my heart into it.

I figured I would at least log them, that I owed that much to all the people out there who would be tempted to also give the experience a try.

So there you have it…

Unsweetened Dried Cranberries | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Homemade, Unsweetened Dried Cranberries…

Messy, lengthy, expensive… not worth it.

- NEXT!

But wait…

Then something happened.

The darn things were in the fridge, you know…

Unsweetened Dried Cranberries | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

So I had a handful here…

And a handful there…

Well, lo and behold, they grew on me!

Unsweetened Dried Cranberries | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Now I find I am LOVING them…

They’re so tart, so tangy, so… moreish!

Hmpft! This can only mean one thing.

I will HAVE to make them again.

Unsweetened Dried Cranberries | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

If you want to give them a try, be my guest. Don’t say you haven’t been warned, though.

You might very well get hooked, too!

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Comments

  1. Crystal says

    I really appreciate this post! I have an inner-cranberry struggle too, meaning that I love the things, splurge on a “naturally sweetened” bag once or twice a year, and want desperately to make my own but can never bring myself to do so. Maybe this year! Thanks!

    • says

      Good to see I’m not the only one… Now I just know I will have to give these little guys another try. I just love having totally guilt free dried cranberries on hand. So what if I have to keep them in the fridge. I just have to find a way to make the process less painful! ;)

  2. says

    OK Sonia you have thrown the red flag down or is that one of the paper towels soaked in the cranberry juice? Whatever… I. Now. Must. Make. Dried Cranberries. I love cranberries. I love anything tart with a bit of sweet and this sounds just up my alley. I’ll let you know how my day went. Thanks for the great idea!

    Cath

  3. says

    that is some determination and hard work there! The final result looks very delicious but just thinking about the amount of time you have to spend on them makes me want to spend arm and leg on organic dried cranberries. thank you for your honesty and warning!

  4. says

    If you aren’t opposed to dropping $40 for an inexpensive dehydrator, you can make them that way. You can apply the same cooking method OR just poke them with a knife (otherwise they turn into cranberry puffs!). The upshot is I use the dehydrator to make unsweetened banana, apple, pear, and orange chips. You can also make fruit leathers with any kind of fruit/vegetable puree. I wasn’t sure how much I would use the dehydrator when I first bought it, but its been invaluable for dried snacks without added sugars. Plus, it’s maintenance free, so you can prep everything before bed or before work and come home to tasty treats. Also, you can store unsweetened cranberries in the fridge or freezer.

    • says

      Shana, thanks a bunch for that!!! I am not opposed to dropping that money at all… as a matter of fact, I love the idea of making my own dried fruits and making fruit leather is something I would definitely like to try. Do you have any recommendations for me? I would truly appreciate your insight.

    • says

      Thank you Tender. And erm… as far as you guys sampling mine, I got so little that I could probably afford to send only one teeny weeny cranberry per person. Not what I would call a decent sample. Not enough to make up your mind anyway. But hey, I’m definitely planning on making more. Especially since cranberries happen to be in season right now! :)

    • says

      AND THEY’RE CRUNCHY????? Like the fried things? I LOVE those but never eat them anymore since I found out they were fried. So all you do is slice up the bananas and throw them in the dehydrator? Now I so badly want one! Thanks much for the link, I’ll definitely look into it!

  5. says

    I’m so happy you experimented with this to save me the trouble :D

    I’m sure they’re delicious but two cups?! No no no. It’s not like I can get that juice over here anyway. I wish I could find unsweetened cranberries too. Only have sugar sweetened. Oh well. I don’t use them that often!

    Pretty photos again!

    • says

      I need to experiment some more though, ‘cuz now I have a huge problem. I retried the store bought stuff after making my own and I didn’t care for them at all. I find they lack that tartness I like so much.

      That can only mean one thing: I’m stuck making my own from now on! Good thing I just bought a truckload, I guess! ;)

  6. Tina says

    Thanks for the post.

    I wonder if you could simplify the process by making cranberry fruit leather instead. You could puree or mince the raw cranberries with a little bit of honey, spread it on the parchment and dry it in sheets. Then you could either use it as fruit leather, or dice it into small cubes to eat as craisins. You could cook it with a little bit of honey if you wanted the cooked texture/flavor or use them as a raw, dehydrated treat. It would simplify the watching/tossing process. :-)

  7. Flying Mermaid says

    Why doncha just get a dehydrator? And why do they have to be cooked first? I’d think I’d prefer simple plain, whole, organic, dried cranberries, without diminishing any of the nutrients by first cooking, then baking.

    I’ve got a dehydrator, but no access to fresh cranberries aside from around Thanksgiving…..

    • says

      Yeah, I’ll definitely have to give that a try, sometime. I was really planning on getting a dehydrator, but sadly, I am running out of storage space in the kitchen…

      I think I need a bigger house. Or maybe I could squat one of the kids’ bedroom to store my kitchen supplies!

      Have you ever tried dehydrating cranberries at home in a dehydrator? I’d be very curious to know the outcome! If it worked great, then I would definitely get a dehydrator and would even keep it in my bedroom if I had to! ;)

  8. Megan says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I was getting very annoyed and frustrated that all the dried cranberry sources I was finding had the despised sunflower/safflower oil, or sugar – apparently just as you did. I will definitely be giving this a try as soon as I find fresh cranberries!

  9. says

    I have always been wondering if it was possible to make dried cranberries without sugar since I am diabetic. I am fortunate that I am able to gather my own wild cranberries and not only avoid GMO’s, but able to pick them at the perfect stage (commercial cranberries are rarely fully ripe and wild berries are always more flavourful than cultivated). They ripen in the fall, but can be picked the following spring although they are more softer having been frozen then thawed out repeatedly. I have found the previous years cranberries still edible in the month of May, so this is why I doubt that sugar is needed to prevent spoilage, these berries are very acidic which acts as it’s own preservative. I believe the reason they add sugar to commercial dried cranberries is obvious, to make them taste sweet and irresistible at the very first taste. Eating raw cranberries is an acquired taste, so if the commercial dried ones were unsweetened, many who try them may not buy them again (and the sellers certainly don’t want that to happen!)

    Many thanks for posting this article!

    • says

      I LOOOOOOVE fresh cranberries (read: I could easily eat a whole pound by myself while watching a movie or something…) and I envy you so much for being able to eat the real thing. What I wouldn’t give to be able to pick them up in the wild. And then of course, I would have to try to dry those at home! :) And you might very well be right about the sugar situation, too. Maybe one wouldn’t be able to keep them on the shelf without the added sugar, but at the very least, I’m sure they could easily be kept for a [long] while in the fridge!

  10. nikki says

    thank you for sharing this! I am allergic to all grass family foods so I can’t have any sugar. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get unsweetened dried cranberries all week. I’m going to try the cooking then dehydrating method. thanks!

  11. Anna says

    You made drying cranberries sound so difficult! You boil water, throw cranberries in for 90 seconds, they pop, you throw in I’ve bath to stop cooking, you dry out with paper towels, place in dehydrator, and walk away for 16 hours give or take based on your humity. I have a Excalibur food dehydrator that has 9 flat square trays, I line each tray with parchment paper so there’s no cleanup. Banana chips, apples pears etc all take same time. I can fit 2 bags of cranberries on one tray. They don’t stick together and all come out individual, no fuss. With this type of dehydrator the air flow back to front inside of bottom to top so the flavored from other trays won’t mingle. I don’t sit there and squish and squish, as the 90 seconds in boiling water already popped them. If I notice one or two un popped I poke them with a toothpick. One way you can guarantee they are popped is by cutting them in half which I imagine taking forever.

    • says

      It all sounds fantastic until one gets to the dehydrator part… What if you don’t own one of those? Sure, your dehydrator does sound great, but at $250, I don’t know that I’m ready to make that kind of investment just yet.

      Although you did make it sound really tempting, I admit… hopefully I can fit this into my budget some time soon.

      Until then, I’m afraid I’ll have to stick with the oven technique, however difficult it may be!

  12. Amy Gillette says

    How long will these last in the pantry? I have some from a few months ago that didn’t get eaten. (Imagine that) they were hiding and completely forgotten about. Just don’t know how to tell if they have gone bad. Just starting in my preservative free lifestyle and don’t know how long things last. Thanks for you help

  13. Donna Houseright says

    My husband is type 2 diabetic, we found the Craisins have too much sugar for him. This sounds like our solution, except now to find the fresh or frozen cranberries. If anyone knows of a good reasonable source please email their link or addy. Thanks muchly~
    Donna Houseright

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