The cranberry is a small sour fruit. It is so sour that most people can't stand to eat fresh cranberries alone. Cranberries contain edible seeds and plenty of air. Cranberry juice has been shown to reduce bladder infections in a nursing home environment. Cranberries are popular as juice, dried fruit, and a jam or jelly called cranberry sauce — all with added sugar of course. One single growers' cooperative, Ocean Spray, controls 70% of the cranberry crop.
Ripe cranberries will bounce if they are in good condition. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Cranberries do not ripen after harvest.
Store fresh cranberries in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft and decaying, the others will quickly soften and decay also. Be sure to sort out the soft ones if you plan to store them for more than a few days. Fresh cranberries may last up to 2 months in the refrigerator. Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. Washed cranberries may be frozen for up to 1 year in airtight bags.
No matter what preparation method you choose, cook cranberries only until they pop; overcooking gives them a bitter taste. Since cranberries are almost 90% water, do not thaw frozen cranberries before cooking them. Thawing will cause the fruit to break down, resulting in soft berries. Cranberries may be baked with a sweetener to make a topping or sauce. They are also good chopped with oranges to make a relish.