Freezing cranberries made easy

The easiest way to preserve cranberries for year-round enjoyment is freezing. Learn how!

Cranberries in a glass container.
Photo: Christine Venema, MSU Extension.

Just before the fall season, cranberries make their grand entrance on the store shelves. However, since cranberries appear for only a short period of time, Michigan State University recommends freezing the cranberries so you can enjoy them year-round. Freezing these ruby-red jewels is simple and easy.

It is important to select firm, plump, shiny, red cranberries when preparing fresh products or preserving.  Choose high-quality produce to make a high-quality product. Preservation techniques do not improve the quality of the final food product.

Fresh cranberries must be stored in the refrigerator until they are used or frozen. The quality of the cranberries will last one month in the fridge. If you know you will freeze them, do so as soon as you bring them home.  There are two easy ways to freeze cranberries: rinsing them under cool running water before or after freezing.  Here are the steps for each:

Rinse before freezing

  1. Sort, rinse, drain and pat the berries dry to prevent ice crystals from causing freezer burn.
  2. Place them on a shallow tray until frozen in the freezer.
  3. Pack them in a rigid freezer container or plastic freezer bag-label them with a date. If using a plastic freezer container, allow for ½-inch headspace, which is the distance from the top of the fruit to the rim of the container.

Rinse after freezing

  1. Place the packaged or unpackaged berries in a freezer bag with a date on the bag.
  2. Place the berries in the freezer.
  3. When you are ready to use them, take them from the freezer, and sort out any berries that are not deep red and firm with glossy skins. Pick off any stems and rinse them well under cool running water before using them.

Cranberries freeze well when properly stored. They retain their color, good flavor and quality for eight to 12 months. Maintaining a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit or below is recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Check the freezer temperature often by adding an appliance thermometer for easy reference.

One tip for using the frozen jewels for muffin or bread mixes: Keep berries frozen, as this prevents the cranberries from weeping. Weeping is the expulsion of liquid from the berries that discolor the batter (unless you like pink muffins or bread).

So, remember to purchase extra cranberries when they appear in the store so you can preserve extra for use during the year. Hot cranberry pancakes or a cranberry muffin taste great all throughout the year.

For more information and tips, visit MSU Extension's Food Preservation website.

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