It’s cranberry time again! Cranberries are extremely popular this time of year, and for good reason. Not only do they add flavor and festivity to almost any dish, they have only 46 calories per cup and are jam packed with vitamin C, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Picking the ripest cranberries means better recipes this holiday season. Fortunately, determining ripeness is easy to do. Just put your cranberries through a few simple tests!
How to choose ripe cranberries
- Color matters: Check the color of the cranberries. Ripe cranberries should be slightly opaque with a scarlet or fire-engine red color. If the berries are coral, golden, maroon or deep purple they are more than likely overripe. What if the cranberries are pale pink? That typically means they are underripe and super bitter.
- Investigate the firmness: Hold a cranberry between your fingers and give it a gentle squeeze. It should feel very firm, like an acorn or pearl. The flesh should give just a tiny bit. If your cranberries feel more like a grapes (soft and almost spongy), they’re overripe, and you should toss them back! You might even notice that the flesh of an overripe cranberry is puffy or wrinkled.
- Sound check: A ripe cranberry will make a distinct hollow sound when you drop it onto the counter or back into the container—kind of like the sound your child's rubber ball makes when she bounces it against the wall. Overripe cranberries will make a dull “thud” sound when they fall.
- Bounce: Ripe cranberries will bounce! You might feel a little strange bouncing cranberries across the store's countertops, but I promise it's one of the best ways to test for freshness—plus your kids will love to help. What if the cranberries don't bounce? Put them back—those puppies are past their prime!
How to store
Remove any pitted, shriveled, soft or discolored cranberries before you store them. Rotting or damaged fruit will speed up the decaying process and make your cranberries go bad faster. Place your ripe cranberries in the refrigerator where they'll last for up to 20 days. Want to keep your cranberries for even longer? Spread them out on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer. Once they are fully frozen (it will take a few hours), just store them in a freezer bag and they'll last more than a year! Don't forget to write the date on the bag so you know when you put them in there.
If you've got a sweet tooth, try layering cranberries with pudding, granola and whipped cream to make a cranberry parfait. Having company over this holiday season? Why not serve some rustic cherry-cranberry mini pies or stuffed cranberry cupcakes?
Are savory dishes more your thing? Whip up curried cranberry chicken salad; add cranberries to a harvest stir fry; or mix cranberries with sausage, cubed bread, butter, and spices to create a delectable stuffing.