I’ve been the person who buys two bags of cranberries five days early, only to find that 50% of them are an awful, slimy mess when it’s time to cook. Sadly, I’ve also been the person who waits until the day before Christmas to find the cranberry shelf has been completely slammed. Neither of these is a good look: Avoid this fate by stocking up on a few bags now, and freezing them. (Before everyone else does.)
Regardless of where you stand on the great cranberry sauce debate, whole fresh cranberries are a cold-weather gem. Use them in cookies, cakes, pies, or chill your beverages with them. After you’ve purchased your bounty of (hopefully) top notch, firm, unmarred cranberries, you need to check them over. It’s important to do this now, instead of just chucking the entire bag in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, you won’t easily be able to tell if they’ve gone rotten or not. I usually open one bag at a time and roll them out on a sheet tray. Gently squeeze them, and roll them around to find any that are busted, extremely wrinkled, or feel like water balloons. These berries are on their way out, if not completely rotten already. A good cranberry is hard with a tight shiny skin. They can range in colour from light pink to nearly black, so don’t rely on the colour too much. Put the keepers in a bowl and move on to the next bag.
After you’ve sorted out the berries, lay them out on a clean sheet tray, and put the whole sheet tray in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Although this step is extra precautionary, it allows the berries to freeze loose from each other. Then take the semi-frozen berries and pour them into a container or freezer bag. Store them in the freezer until you need them.
When you’re ready to use them, measure the frozen berries directly into your recipe. There’s no need to thaw them, they can be used immediately from a frozen state. Pour them into a pot to cook into sauce, or drop a few into your champagne to keep it chilled and festive.
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