The cranberry harvest occurs in late fall and early winter. Storing the abundance of these seasonal berries properly will provide you with a steady supply until the next harvest season. Cranberries freeze well, and with proper storage they retain most of their flavor and texture.
Properly frozen cranberries retain their quality for eight to 12 months when kept at temperatures at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing only firm, full-colored cranberries helps ensure maximum storage time. Avoid freezing berries with wrinkled skins, blemishes or bruises, because they may not last as long during storage and they will degrade quickly once they are thawed.
Proper packing helps cranberries retain their flavor and quality during storage. Spread whole cranberries out in single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them for the dry pack method. You can use dry-packed berries as you would fresh berries in baked goods and cooked dishes. Once frozen, you can transfer the frozen berries to a storage container for long-term storage. Syrup packing requires a sugar syrup, made from heating equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water. Immerse the cranberries in the syrup before you freeze them. Syrup-packed cranberries are usually used as cranberry sauce or as a dessert topping.
Storage containers protect the cranberries from air exposure during freezer storage, preventing freezer burn so the berries can retain their quality for a full 12 months of storage. Freezer-safe ziptop storage bags work well for dry packed cranberries as long as you squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing them. Plastic or glass freezer storage containers work best for syrup packed cranberries. Leave 1 inch of headspace in the containers so the cranberries can expand during freezing.
Packaging cranberries in serving-size containers eases thawing while also ensuring the longest storage time for the remaining cranberries. Frequent thawing and refreezing can shorten storage life because the berries lose quality each time you thaw and freeze them. Smaller containers ensures you only have to defrost what you will use immediately. Thaw cranberries in the refrigerator overnight and keep them refrigerated until you use them. Use the thawed berries within one week.
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