I've become convinced that these sparkling, sugared cranberries should be a part of every holiday spread. They glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table. Another great thing is the way they effortlessly make the transition from savory course to sweet. So, for example, I've become fond of serving them as part of a cheese spread, but I imagine they'd be nice as the finishing touch on on a tart or clustered atop a crème brûlée or pudding of some sort.
I've experimented with a range of sugars here, and some work better than others. In the beginning, I wanted to make them with a maple sugar coating - but the cranberries looked like they had been dropped in dust. The same goes for raw cane sugar, and Rapadura. So I gave up trying to do a less refined version. And extra-fine grain sugar didn't work well either - clumpy. Essentially, the best way to get a good sparkling sugar crust on your cranberries is to first roll them in an slightly-chunky organic sugar (something like this), and later toss them in regular granulated sugar. The small grains of the granulated sugar cling to any spots that are still sticky from the simple syrup.
They are simple to make, but you need to start them the night before.
For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar lends a nice molasses flavor to the cranberries, but regular granulated sugar (or a blend of brown/white) will work.
2 cups cranberries, picked over
2 cups water
2 cups sugar (see head notes)
More sugar for coating: I do a mix of medium-grained organic sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don't want a huge grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar, smaller than most turbinado sugars. You can sort of see the different grain sizes in the third photo in the main write-up.
Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn't get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.
Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.
Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.
Prep time: 5 minutes - Cook time: 60 minutes