Here’s a recipe you might want to try when fresh cranberries are back in the shops.
After discovering the joys of home-candied peel a few years ago, I have since tried my hand at several different fruits. With it being the season for mincemeat and fruit cake decorating, when I spotted some punnets of fresh cranberries on sale, I thought I’d give them a try.
Hunting around on the internet, it seems many people’s idea of candied cranberries is to dip them in egg-white and roll them in caster sugar. Beautiful and festive and twinkly-frosty, but not really candied in the traditional sense.
I also found no recipes on the traditional method of candying for these particular berries, so I thought I’d make up my own, based on the many examples of preserving recipes I’ve found in various manuscript books.
My method is a combination of the old-fashioned method of making conserves with delicate fruit, and how to make sloe gin *hic!*
This recipe takes about a week, but your active involvement is little more than an hour. Over the week, the delicate berries will gradually exchange their juice for sugar, making the cranberries more robust the more sugar they absorb, and as a bonus you’ll get a beautifully-coloured cranberry syrup.
For ease, select a pan you can get by without using for a week.
1kg fresh cranberries
1kg caster sugar
- Poke holes in each cranberry with a cocktail stick in order to let the juice out (and the sugar in). You don’t have to be too fastidious – I made about 5 or 6 holes around the middle.
- Layer the cranberries and the caster sugar in a pan – a wide pan is better than tall saucepan, for ease of gently moving the berries around later. Leave for 24 hours. The sugar will draw out some of the juice.
- Next day, heat the pan very gently to melt the sugar. You’ll probably have to add a little water to get it started – about 1/2 a cup. Shake, don’t stir – or if you absolutely have to, stir very gently. Vigorous stirring and/or heating will cause the berries to burst. Some will burst anyway, but try and keep that at a minimum by being gentle.
- Once the sugar is melted, turn off the heat, cover, and leave 24 hours. As the sugar is absorbed by the cranberries, they will gradually become more robust, but for the first day or two, you’ll need to be careful.
- Repeat the heating gently for 5 minutes then leaving overnight for 5 days. Gradually the syrup will become redder and the cranberries more jewel-like.
- After 5 days, warm the syrup (to make it easier to drain) and pour through a sieve to separate the cranberries from the syrup.
- To finish, the cranberries need to dry a little, so line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and scatter the candied cranberries over. Try and get them separated, to facilitate drying, but there will be some squished ones you can’t do much about at this stage.
- Last thing at night, put the trays in the oven and turn the heat to 170°C/150°C Fan for 5 minutes, then turn off and leave to dry overnight.
- Repeat the drying next day – 170°C/150°C Fan for 5 minutes then turn off and leave to dry. If extremely sticky, they might need another overnight drying (I did Friday night/Saturday day/Saturday night).
- Once only slightly tacky to the touch, they’re ready to use. I sorted mine into 3 groups: Perfect ones went back into the syrup (to keep moist) to use as decorations. I dipped a few of the not-so-perfect ones in dark chocolate, and rolled the rest in caster sugar and stored in a ziplock bag. The exploded ones I chopped and put in a jar for mincemeat.