Cranberries are often described as being both tart and sweet, but they definitely lean more towards the tart end of that spectrum. While they do contain sugar, cranberries typically have to be cooked in some way to bring out that sweetness. One unique way to sweeten them up is to candy them! These cranberries are cooked in a sugar syrup that brings out that natural sweetness and softens them slightly, then they are rolled in sugar to give them a crunch coating a sparkly appearance.
The trick to making these successfully is that once the sugar syrup is prepared, it needs to cool slightly before adding the berries. While the syrup does have to be hot enough to cook the berries, the berries will pop open and won’t look as good when they’re finished (though you can still eat them) if the syrup is too hot. I recommend bringing your syrup to a boil, then reducing it to a very low temperature. Add the cranberries all at once to lower the overall temperature of the syrup quickly and keep the heat on low while they soak in that syrup.
You’ll need to use fresh cranberries for this recipe, so be sure to stock up when they’re readily available during the fall and winter months. These candied cranberries can be eaten by hand if you’re a cranberry-lover, but I typically use them to garnish desserts because they look so beautiful. They also make a lovely garnish for drinks like Cranberry Sangria and other holiday cocktails.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh, whole cranberries
for finishing: 1/2 cup super-fine sugar
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved completely, reduced the heat to the lowest setting and add in the cranberries all at once. Cook cranberries for 30 minutes on very low heat and do not allow the syrup to boil.
Place the superfine sugar in a medium bowl.
Drain the syrup from the cranberries and put the cranberries into the bowl with the sugar. Toss until cranberries are completely coated, then transfer berries to a flat surface and let them cool in a single-layer.
Makes about 1 cup.