Cranberries are good for you. They are rich in vitamin C and contain properties that fight infection. Cranberries are a powerful antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory benefits. Cooking does not destroy the benefits of cranberries.
Cranberry Health Benefits
Cranberries not only help prevent and cure urinary tract infections, but have other health benefits as well.
•Cranberries treat diseases such as cystitis
•Cranberries provide relief for asthma
•Cranberries contain tannin, which contributes to healthy hearts
•Cranberries are a bactericide and disrupts the formation of painful kidney stones
•Cranberries improve the circulatory system in the body
•Cranberry extract reduces oxidation of “bad” cholesterol
•By inhibiting bacteria in parts of the stomach, cranberries can prevent peptic ulcers
•Cranberries can help prevent neurological damage in the brain
Dried cranberries are popular in trail mixes, breads, and salads. They are sold commercially as “craisins”. While dried cranberries sold in stores are tasty, they are also full of added sugar. Dried cranberries prepared without sugar can be very tart. Commercial preparations will often use vegetable oil to coat the dried cranberries so they will not stick together. They may also coat the dried fruit with sulfur. When prepared naturally, these coatings are eliminating. The result is that the dried cranberries may not look as bright and appealing, but they will be much healthier to eat.
A cup of fresh cranberries has around 47 calories. A cup of dried cranberries have over 300 calories, due to the number of berries as well as the added sugar. Fresh cranberries have four grams of fiber per cup, compared to seven grams of dried cranberries, again because more dried cranberries can fit into the cup than fresh cranberries.
Making Dried Cranberries
Fresh cranberries are sour to taste; commercial dried cranberries have loads of sugar. By making cranberries at home the amount of sugar can be controlled, and it is quite easy. Dried cranberries can be made either in a dehydrator or in the oven.
For this recipe the following is needed:
•Bag of fresh cranberries (frozen can be used if fresh cannot be found)
•Sugar or sugar substitute (use a natural one like Stevia)
•Oven or dehydrator
Wash cranberries and place them in the empty saucepan. Dissolve the sugar or sugar substitute in the water. Sweeten the cranberries by pouring the dissolved sugar over them.
Note: some recipes for dried cranberries will involve letting the cranberries sit overnight in the water and sugar solution. This can deplete the cranberries of natural nutrients in the fresh cranberries.
Use enough water to cover the cranberries, and sugar to taste. Remember, if it is preferred to have tart cranberries it is all right to eliminate the sugar.
Boil the cranberries in the water. By boiling the water the cranberries will be blanched and the outer skin will split as the berries burst. If the cranberries do not burst they will not dry properly. Once the berries have all split, drain the cranberries in a strainer. Lay paper towels on a baking sheet, and once all the berries have drained and cooled a bit, place them on the covered baking sheet and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 2 or 3 layers of paper towels followed, by a top layer of parchment paper, directly on the baking sheet and spread the cranberries in a single layer over the parchment paper. After the oven heats at 200 degrees, turn it down to 150 degrees. Place the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack, and leave for approximately 8 hours. The cranberries should be chewy and have a texture like leather.
In the dehydrator, spread the cranberries single layer in the trays and set the dehydrator to 120 degrees for approximately 12 to 24 hours, stirring the berries every 2 hours to make sure they dry evenly.
Good dried cranberries!