When you’re neither cooking nor hosting Christmas dinner, you often spend the day before texting the host and begging them to tell you, specifically, what you can bring. If you have a bag of cranberries, white sugar, and some water, you have everything you need for the perfect appetiser—whether or not your host knows it.
Sugared cranberries are the kind of old-school, underrated snack that should be way more popular than they are. The first thing you notice about them is how darn pretty they are—like enormous glittering rubies or something. But as good as they look, they taste even better.
Aggressively tart and slightly sweet, with a pleasant crunch from both the sugar coating and the cranberries themselves, they’re the exact opposite of everything else you normally eat on Christmas. And unless they’re already a family tradition, you can bet that nobody else will blow up your spot by showing up with their own jar.
Sugared cranberries are dead simple to make. Just bring half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve. Add one 340g bag of fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, stir to coat with the syrup, and transfer them to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Let dry at room temperature for an hour.
Line a smaller rimmed dish with another cup and a half of sugar and roll the berries around in it a handful at a time. I recommend aiming for a thick, clumpy coating—it’s necessary to balance the overwhelming sourness of whole cranberries. Transfer the sugared berries back to the rack as you go and let them dry for another hour. Eat immediately, or store overnight in an airtight jar.
You can skewer a handful on a toothpick for a cocktail garnish, sprinkle them on whipped cream-topped pie, or just eat them by the handful. Personally, I think their truest home is on a pre-dinner cheese plate—it’s like putting both a crunchy pickle and some sweet-tart jam on your cheese, but without any risk of clashing flavours. However you serve these delightful treats, they’re bound to be the sleeper hit of this year’s spread.