The cranberry is a small sour fruit. It comes in several varieties, which range across northern America, Europe, and Asia.
Cranberries are small, red, and quite tart. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. They are firm, containing edible seeds and a large amount of air. Ripe cranberries will bounce if they are in good condition. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Cranberries do not ripen after harvest.
Store fresh cranberries 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 containers.
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.