Sparkling Cranberries

Around the holidays these pretty, sugared, sparkling cranberries are perfect. Tart and sweet, they glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table.

Sparkling Cranberries

I've become convinced that these sparkling, sugared cranberries should be a part of every holiday spread. Sparkling cranberries 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.
Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

Sparkling Cranberries: What Type of Sugar?

Over the years I've discovered this detail is key. I've experimented with a range of sugars with varying degrees of success. 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, coconut sugar, and Rapadura. I gave up trying to do a less refined sugar version. On the other end of the sugar spectrum, extra-fine grain sugar didn't work well either. The results were too clumpy. Essentially, the best way to get a good sparkling sugar crust on your cranberries is to first roll them in an slightly-chunky white sugar. The larger sugar grains retain structure despite the moisture from the simple syrup. Later in the process, toss them in regular, standard granulated sugar. The small grains of the granulated sugar cling to any spots that are still sticky from the simple syrup. 

Sparkling Cranberries

They are simple to make, but you need to do the first step the night before. I like to toss the cranberries in sugar the next morning, and off and on throughout the day so they have time to dry and crisp up.

Variations:

There are endless ways to add layers of flavor to your sparkling cranberries.

  • Cardamom Sparkling Cranberries: In the comments Aimee mentioned, ”I made my simple syrup with cardamom sugar to give it even more of a holiday flavor.” This got me thinking, you could steep a few cardamom pods along with the water and sugar, and strain before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. And/or add a teaspoon of finely crushed cardamom to your sugar mixture before tossing with the cranberries.
  • Citrus Sparkling Cranberries: By introducing the zest of an orange or two to your simple syrup pot, you can infuse the simple syrup with notes of winter orange. Strain and proceed with the recipe.

Also, use the leftover simple syrup in holiday drinks and cocktails!

Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

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Sparkling Cranberries

4 from 34 votes

One of the keys here is allowing enough time for the cranberries to dry and crisp up as you're tossing them to coat with sugar throughout the day. For the simple syrup, use 2 cups of granulated sugar. For the sugar coating, I do a mix of medium-large 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. You can sort of see the different grain sizes in the third photo in the main write-up. Have fun!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups cranberries, picked over
  • 2 cups water
  • 3+ cups sugar, mixed types (see headnotes)
Instructions
  1. Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
  2. Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and 2 cups of granulated 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.

  3. The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them, in batches, 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, in a single layer, to dry for a few hours.

  4. Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour or so, or until the sugar coating is dry and crisp.

Notes

Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.

Serves
10
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 
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Comments

This has been a total hit for four (not sure in covid) years I've given them to people at my church. They are awesome. While we lost our hives in 2020 due to small hive beetles I still keep making these with the honey from our girls. I just pick through and make sure I don't have really soft berries and do about 3/4 cup of honey warm, but not hot for a bag of berries. Our home honey gives such a boost, and anyone with access to the same will know what I mean. I let the sit stirring, for an afternoon and then put them in the fridge in a strainer overnight over a bowel. I let the cold honey stick and move around to get a good thin coat on all. Then just follow Heidi's directions about the sugar for the most perfect holiday treat ever! They were awesome when I did the first with simple syrup, but when I had my bee's honey they just exploded into better. I really miss my girls (bees) and will be glad when fuss and bother means we can provide a home for them again.

martha bains

I've been making these annually since you first shared years ago. Many have asked for the recipe. Just made another batch yesterday. Thanks for the recipe and tradition!

Amy M

Thank so much for this recipe. I have never made Sparkling Cranberries before. And I boasted to my wife that I could make better sparkling cranberries than hers. I have a feeling she knew I was bluffing so she forced me to a bet that I was going to do an awful job. Well, luckily for me, I followed you instruction and it was delicious. She loved it. Though my wife refused to pay up the bet she lost. LOL. Still, thank you for this recipe, and Happy Holidays Heidi.

Arjun

We lost both our beehives, but good, not commercial honey takes these to the next level. Something from a local beekeeper that actually tastes like something makes these amazing. Add just little water to the honey and if they stick together they will come apart when you top them with organic cane sugar and roll them around. Then just do the recipe. This simple recipe has made me the toast of friends, family, church and other groups. It's also quick on hands time so you can wear a mask and let people know you did. My current note for non-bubble people is, "Made with love, carefully washed hands, and a mask."

MJBains

I used honey from our hive in place of the simple syrup! (It's a relatively light wildflower honey.) They were awesome and got rave reviews.

Martha

I make these every Christmas and serve them in a crystal bowl. They are festive and fantastic. When they are dry they have a nice sweet and sour taste and a good pop to them. They go pretty quickly so I make a double batch. Also, they are very festive in a glass of prosecco.

Piper J

Heidi: can you please offer advice about how best to store the cranberries after they've been sugared? We made a batch experimentally and while they are delicious, we could not eat them all up in the first day. I am unsure whether an airtight container at room temperature is ok; vs. refrigerating them. I love how the berries have crisped up after drying, and I don't want them to lose that quality.

Julie

    Just leave them on the counter uncovered. They should stay dry and crisp for another day or so....Enjoy!

    Heidi Swanson

Save and reuse the simple syrup. After steeping the berries in the simple syrup, I saved it as a base for making a cocktail shrub, either more cranberries or blackberries, (both readily available in December on east coast). Sugared cranberries were good as well.

Hutton

    Love this idea!

    Heidi Swanson

I make these every thanksgiving! I first soak them in maple syrup, then roll in regular sugar. We serve them on top of a cracker with a slice of brie cheese - delicious and simple appetizer.

Becky B

WOW. Another great recipe! Thank you.

Asa Akira

These cranberries look beautiful like a Christmas decoration!

Alina

Thank you for this recipe. I made my simple syrup with cardamom sugar to give it even more of a holiday flavor.

Aimee

Fantastic, yet simple. Thanks for a new "favorite" to include in holiday fare......or to help guest feel special!

Rose

These are so beautiful- wish I had seen before Christmas dinner, but am bookmarking.

Deborah Dowd

I was all set to comment that I'm the only weirdo who didn't like these. They do look lovely. But my cranberries didn't taste good. Next thing I know, my daughter has consumed an entire cupful and wants to know how soon we can make more. Okay, I guess I am the only weirdo. In other news, this doesn't work with blueberries (had a lot so I tried it with a few. blue mush.)

PaprikaPink

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