Cranberries, Sans the Sugar

Cranberries, that beautiful reddish-pink fruit that packs quite the punch of tartness, isn’t just for Thanksgiving. While most of us think of cranberry sauce with our turkey (and for me, with my sweet potatoes, salad, stuffing and basically every other dish at Thanksgiving – I really love cranberries), there is so much more to this fruit!

 

cranberries

A good source of vitamin C and fiber, cranberries will fill you up and provide antioxidants for very few calories. Plus, compared to other fruit, cranberries are quite lo-cal (25 calories per 1/2 cup fresh cranberries). Their tartness makes a great addition to salads, chicken and fish dishes and really anything that needs a little hint of sour.

My one issue with cranberries is that whenever you buy them dried at the store, they inevitably have sugar added to them to mask some of their tartness. Why do they need to sweeten them?!?! ARGH.

I decided that I would beat the system by drying them myself – sans sugar. I looked up recipes which mostly called for sugar or other sweetener. Argh again – no added sweetener, please! I would have to take matters into my own hands. I must say, though I wish everything I attempted in the kitchen came out perfectly in little to no time, this is not always the case. Enter, cranberries. While I did end up with pretty delicious (and still tart thanks to no sugar) dried cranberries, the process took me several days. In theory, it should take 6-10 hours to make dried cranberries (not three days as was the case for me). My issue was that I was never home/awake for that long of a span of time to keep the oven on. So I kept turning it on for a couple hours, then turning it off and letting the cranberries sit in the oven, then repeating this process. Assuming you have a day that you will be home or you can take shifts with your family/housemates, making your own dried cranberries is completely feasible. Here is how it’s [supposed to be] done:

Dried Cranberries:

Drop fresh cranberries into a pot of boiling water for several minutes, until the skin pops. Drain the cranberries in a colander and pat dry. Place on parchment paper and paper towels in an over at its lowest setting (mine was 170 degrees). Let them chill in the low-heat oven for 6-10 hours until they’ve reached the desired dryness.

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon to make them a little more festive and used them in oatmeal, in salads, with quinoa and veggies, on my green bean leftovers from Thanksgiving, and the list goes on.

Here are some other ideas and recipes for cranberries:

Fresh Cranberry Relish (uses only 1 tsp sugar plus lots of yummy fruit): enjoy this over chicken, whole grains or with pork tenderloin.

Cranberry, Almond and Cinnamon Tart from Martha Stewart. Definitely a treat – not an everyday thing – but damn, that looks delicious.

Cranberry-Avocado Salsa

Chicken with Cranberry Sauce

What’s your favorite way to enjoy cranberries?

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