I first saw this concept on Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks. She called them “sparkling cranberries,” and they sparkle in more ways than one. Raw cranberries straight from the bog are usually too tart to enjoy on their own, but an overnight bath in sugar syrup mellows their acidic flavor and helps to form a crackly sugar shell on the outside. I like to add a few orange peels to the sugar syrup for a hint of citrus. These sparkly gems make an irresistible sweet-tart snack packed with antioxidants. Kids love them. They can also double as a festive garnish. The orange-flavored syrup makes fantastic cocktails, or you can reuse the syrup to make another batch of cranberries. Keep in mind that these will only be as good as the quality of the cranberries themselves, so be sure to pick through the berries well and select only those that are firm, bright, and bouncy. Discard any that are wrinkled, soft, and shriveled. Sugared cranberries don’t store particularly well, but by the day’s end, there usually aren’t any left.–Tammy Donroe Inman
LC Extra Sparkly Holiday Season Note
Cranberries and sugar. Two things you probably have in abundance right now. Why not put them to extra sparkly use as an edible garnish or centerpiece of sorts? Cocktails. Cakes. Pancakes. Waffles. French Toast. Turkey. And that’s just for starters.
- 1 cup fresh (not frozen) cranberries washed and picked over
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/3 cup (66 g) for sprinkling
- 2 strips orange zest about 2 by 2 1/2 inches (5 by 7 cm), preferably organic
- Place the cranberries in a small glass bowl and set them aside.
- In a medium saucepan, stir the water, 1 cup sugar, and orange peels together over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and bring the syrup to a bare simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool for 2 to 3 minutes so the heat won’t split the skins of the berries.
- Pour the slightly cooled syrup over the cranberries. Set a small bowl on top of the cranberries to submerge them under the syrup along with the peels. Cover the bowls and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.
- Using a strainer, drain the cranberries over a bowl, reserving the syrup. If time permits, spread the cranberries over a metal cooling rack or a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar over the berries, a little at a time, tossing well to coat. The sugar may clump a little and that’s okay, but if it starts to congeal into a big wet mass, don’t add any more sugar. Remove the cranberries to a clean plate or baking sheet to dry for about 2 hours, separating any berries that are stuck together.
- Sprinkle another 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar over the berries, rolling them around until they are well coated, and let them dry for another hour before serving. Leftovers can hold at room temperature for up to 1 day.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These were surprisingly addictive. The sweet exterior, the sour interior, and the snappy texture kept me coming back for handful after handful. They couldn’t have been easier to make. I’ve always thought orange paired so perfectly with cranberries, and the infused syrup scented the cranberries perfectly. I think I’ll serve these alongside a cheese platter for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional grapes. The headnote said that the cranberries don’t store particularly well, but I actually preferred them after they sat in the refrigerator overnight—the exterior became even more crisp, making them easier (i.e. less sticky) to handle.
My husband was lucky to get his hands on just a few of these delectable cranberries last night at dinner. As soon as I tasted them, I was addicted and couldn’t stop popping them in my mouth! Before I knew it, half the tart, sugar-crusted cranberries had disappeared. I was truly blown away by this recipe. Soaking the fresh cranberries in an orange-flavored simple syrup all day really gave them an extra burst of flavor. I loved the texture of the berries once they had dried. Covered in crunchy sugar but still firm overall, they literally popped in your mouth when you ate them. I served these as a small bite alongside a seared duck breast, which was a nice combination of flavors. I could see them also being a wonderful decorative addition atop a cake or, as mentioned in the recipe, a lovely garnish for a cocktail. (A Christmas poinsettia drink of Champagne and cranberry juice, perhaps?) These sugared cranberries have “holiday small-bite” written all over them! I used only 2 tablespoons sugar on the first sprinkling, and then only 1 more tablespoon for the final sprinkling.
LOVED these! I couldn’t stop popping them in mouth. They were tangy but sweet, delicious and as pretty to look at as they are tasty to eat. I reused my leftover syrup and made a second batch and it was just as good as the first. (I just reheated the syrup, let it cool a couple minutes, and then poured it over the cranberries.) The second time I didn’t bother to add more sugar after the 2-hour drying time, as none of the sugar stuck when I did that the first go-round. I plan on making these often when cranberries are in season. They’re great for snacking.
Everything in this recipe worked great until I got to the straining and sugaring. I saw that the pile of cranberries in my little strainer wasn’t going to mix with the sugar without the sugar spilling everywhere. I spread the cranberries out on a baking sheet and started to sugar them, but they clumped horribly and became a sticky mess. The cranberries were just too wet from just being strained. I took the remaining cranberries I hadn’t sugared yet and put them on a metal cooling rack and let them dry for about an hour. I then sprinkled the sugar on them and it stuck beautifully, creating the sparkling sugared cranberries I had imagined. I ended up serving them with slices of warm Brie cheese. Delish.
Originally published November 27, 2013