Prepping cranberries to be sugared. ISLANDER PHOTO BY FAITH DEAMBROSE

Cranberries make the holidays merry and bright 

BAR HARBOR No matter how you traditionally celebrate the holidays, things are bound to look a lot different this year. Instead of company parties and large gatherings, gift swaps and general holiday shenanigans, Americans are being asked to limit the number of people with whom they gather and to remain physically distant. It is hard to be merry when those are the rules but staying separated this year will ensure we can come back together at a later date.  

With more time at home, prepping for holiday festivities—no matter how low-key they may be—might actually be in reach for more people this year. Here is one activity that, over the course of two days, can yield three different and delicious holiday treats. And, even if you can’t entertain this year, you can still celebrate, no matter the crowd size.  

This is a story about cranberries and the less obvious ways they can be used to put the ‘merry’ in Merry Christmas.   

The cranberry is a New England favorite with roots that go way back. A staple crop of the Native Americans, it was then introduced to the early European colonists and the rest is, shall we say, history. It has played a role in holiday culture for centuries and Americans consume roughly 400 million pounds of the bright red berry each year.  

Because of their sharp and almost sour taste, cranberries are rarely eaten raw. A tart treat busting with vitamins C, E and K, cranberries can be used in a variety of ways, but most often become sauce or juice.  

Sugared cranberries are a great addition to any holiday event. They make a festive snack, a great gift or a beautiful garnish on a charcuterie plate or in a craft cocktail. They are easy to make, but to do it right, you have to soak the berries in a simple syrup for at least 12 hours and then they must be dried, so you will want to plan ahead.  


Sugared cranberries 


l One bag of cranberries 

l 3 cups water 

l 2 cups fine granulated sugar (the finer the better) 


l Sort through the cranberries and discard any soft ones. 

l Bring 3 cups water and 1½ cups of sugar to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar is fully dissolved, remove pan from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Place the cranberries in a bowl and cover completely with syrup. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. If you try to put too hot a liquid over the cranberries, they will burst, so if you’re in doubt, toss one in there and see what happens before committing them all.  

l Strain the cranberries and retain the liquid, which has now become cranberry-infused simple syrup 

l Let cranberries dry.  

l Spread the remaining sugar onto a sheet pan. Drop a handful of the cranberries onto the sugar and shake them (or stir if necessary) until covered. Transfer the coated cranberries to a clean sheet pan in a single layer and allow room to dry. Repeat until all the cranberries are completely coated. Let the coated cranberries dry at room temperature for several hours. Store in a container in the refrigerator.  




1½ oz. vodka 

½ oz. fresh lime juice  

¼ oz. cranberry simple syrup 

¼ oz. cranberry juice 


Run a lime slice around the rim of a martini glass and then coat with sugar. Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake and strain into martini glass and garnish with a skewer of sugared cranberries.  


Soda water 

¼ oz. fresh lime 

¼ oz. cranberry simple syrup 

½ oz. cranberry juice 


This is another chance to use the leftover sugar water you steeped the cranberries in. Build ingredients over ice and garnish with a skewer of sugared cranberries. 

Garnish and gifting 

Once dried, the cranberries can be packaged in festive holiday tins and given as gifts. They can also be placed onto a skewer as a garnish for a cocktail or a non-alcoholic mocktail or as a garnish on your holiday table.  

Faith DeAmbrose

Faith DeAmbrose

Managing Editor at Mount Desert Islander

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