Cranberries are great for eating AND decorating. These sugared cranberries are easy to make for a perfect holiday garnish.
Cranberries are so important for the holidays. Besides being the main ingredient in Thanksgiving’s cranberry sauce, they are delicious in all kinds of baked goods. And don’t forget the cranberry juice that goes into holiday cocktails like the Cranberry Martini (Cosmo) or Cranberry Moscow Mule!
And if that isn’t enough, cranberries are great for adding beauty–from centerpieces to well-styled food.
Now while cranberries are beautiful au natural, another lovely touch is to coat them with sugar. Doesn’t a bright red berry tinged with frosty white shout “hooray for the holidays!”
And making Sugared Cranberries is so easy, you’ll want to add them to everything!
What are Sugared Cranberries?
Sugared cranberries are berries that are soaked in a sticky sugar syrup, then rolled in sugar and air dried. Easy-peasy!
And how are they different from candied fruit?
Making sugared cranberries is a simple process and it’s quite different from making other candied fruits like candied orange slices. Regular candied fruit is boiled in simple syrup until the syrup is pulled into the fruit, preserving it, and making it sweeter. This amazing process can even turn a tart fruit like a lime into something you’d snack on!
But unlike other fruits, cranberries are hollow. This helps farmers harvest them since they float on water. But if you boil them more than briefly in sugar syrup, they pop and lose their pretty shape.
So when it comes to décor, everyone decided to just coat cranberries in sugar and call it a day. They may be tart, but they’re pretty!
Why You’ll Love This!
Beautiful! This is a lovely garnish for everything from drinks to pies.
Festive. Coat a holiday fruit with snow-like white sugar and it will certainly add to the holiday spirit!
Fun & Easy. These are so fun and easy to make you can have your kids or grandkids help! And they make decorating you holiday dishes easy too!
What You’ll Need
- Water. This helps form the sticky syrup that coats the berries.
- Granulated sugar. This also helps form the syrup that coats the berries, and then you roll the berries in it.
- Cranberries. This is the main ingredient!
- Optional coarse sugar. You can roll the cranberries in regular granulated sugar, but for a different look, you might consider using coarse sugar for some.
- No special tools required!
Step by Step Directions
This recipe is a simplified version of one from Whole Foods.
You bring the sugar and water to a boil to prepare a simple syrup.
Place the cranberries in the syrup then refrigerate for 1-8 hours. (If you are short on time, you can reduce this time since only minimal amounts of sugar are absorbed by the cranberries).
Drain the cranberries. When damp but not dripping, roll them in sugar (granulated or coarse sugar).
Place on parchment to dry for about an hour. Again, if you are short of time, they can go on a dessert earlier if you are careful not to smudge the sugar.
How to Serve
Sugared cranberries are quite tart, so I generally reserve them for decorating food rather than eating. But as a garnish or decoration, they can be used in many ways.
First, put some on a cocktail pick to garnish a drink.
Next, add a small mint leaf and top an individual dessert. Or combine with other items like fresh herbs or orange peel to top a cake or tart.
I have made these with both regular granulated and coarse sugar. They’re pretty either way.
I have also heard of people blending the sugar to make it finer (I didn’t like this as well when I tried it) or adding lime zest to the sugar.
I decided to run a test this year so see how long these will actually last. So far, I’ve had them sitting, uncovered in my refrigerator, for two weeks. While a couple are slightly sunken, most of them still look great.
Now I’ve read that covering sugared cranberries can sometimes makes them softer or “weepy” so that may be something to be cautious about. But from my experience, you can make them ahead of time. Or save the leftovers–perhaps to use in holiday cocktails!
And at this point, my test cranberries are destined to top my Cranberry Curd Tart when Thanksgiving arrives!
Tips & FAQs
Finally, let me reiterate that cranberries are tart. That is why you don’t see cranberry juice made without some type of an added sweetener, even if it’s just grape juice.
And although these are soaked in syrup and coated in sugar, they by no means sweet. So I usually mention to my guests that eating them is optional. Even if I have been snacking on my “test” sugared cranberries, sitting in the refrigerator.
But I think they’re so cute it’s worth it even if some of them end up in the compost!
- Gluten Free Cranberry Cookies Recipe from In Our Spare Time
- Cranberry Orange Scones from That Recipe
- Instant Cranberry Pickle from Magical ingredients
- Sugared Cranberries from Art of Natural Living
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup cranberries
- ¼ cup sugar for coating
- To make simple syrup, combine water and ½ cup of sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
- Pour the simple syrup into a bowl, then add the cranberries. Cover and refrigerate for 1-8 hours.
- Place the ¼ cup sugar in a bowl.
- Drain the cranberries well (you can save the syrup if you like). When damp but not dripping, coat the berries with sugar, a few at a time.
- Remove and place on waxed paper or parchment to dry, about an hour.
Updated from original, published on Dec 16, 2015
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