According to the Ag Marketing Research Center, Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries per year (that’s about 2.3 pounds a person) and 20% of this is during Thanksgiving week.
Fresh whole cranberries are available in our markets now, but won’t be there for long. The season is September through January.
If you’re buying fresh berries, look for those that are red, ripe, plump, hard and shiny. Before use, they should be sorted and washed. Take out any bruised, shriveled, soft, spongy or brown berries. White berries are safe to eat; they have just not developed their full color.
They are usually sold in 12-ounce bags that are equal to about 3 cups whole berries or 2 ½ cups of chopped. Fresh berries will keep in the sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Since the season is so short, why not buy a couple of extra bags to freeze for use during the next year? Instructions on the bag say to simply throw them in the freezer as purchased. These berries won’t be washed, so you’ll need to wash and sort the frozen berries just before use. When removed from the freezer and thawed the cranberries will have a soft texture and are best used for cooking and baking.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation encourages rinsing and sorting the berries before freezing. They recommend placing the clean and dry berries on a tray so they will freeze individually and then pack loosely into freezer containers or bags. Like other frozen fruits, cranberries should be added to recipes still frozen to prevent the juices from flowing out of the fruit.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University