Fresh cranberries are plentiful in the autumn, when their harvest occurs, which accounts in part for their prominent place in holiday meals. If you wish to enjoy their vivid color and flavor throughout the rest of the year, autumn is also the time to fill your freezer with cranberries. The tough-skinned berries freeze beautifully for up to a year, and can be used straight from the freezer for cooking and baking.
Choosing Your Berries
If you purchase your berries in bulk, they'll need a modest degree of preparation. Rinse them thoroughly and pick out any stems, leaf fragments or other debris, then dry the berries completely. If you bought commercially packaged berries, they'll already be clean, but it's still a good idea to sort through them. Remove any berries that are shriveled, soft or visibly damaged, and freeze only those that have retained their quality. Any questionable berries should be used immediately, rather than frozen.
Sweet and Sour
The most convenient way to freeze your berries is in a single layer on a baking sheet, so they don't stick together. Commercially that's called IQF -- individually quick frozen -- and it means you can scoop as many berries as you need for a given recipe. Once the berries are frozen, pack them airtight in heavy-duty freezer bags or vacuum-sealed bags. Open a bag as needed, leaving the rest intact. Alternatively, pack some of your berries in a syrup made of equal parts water and sugar. Those berries can later be cooked in their syrup, to make fresh cranberry sauce for your holiday bird.