Cranberry lovers will swoon over these quick pickled cranberries! Uses are endless for these sweet, tart gems from adding to drinks, topping cooked meats or, displaying on a charcuterie board.
They can easily serve as a table centerpiece or festive homemade gift option too. No canning necessary (unless you want to) and they’ll last 1-2 months in the refrigerator!
I used to drink the vinegar at the bottom of the salad bowl growing up and still to this day, enjoy sucking on a lemon like I used to as a kid.
This love of tart foods runs deep so it’s no surprise these pickled cranberries have become the most favorite thing I’ve made this holiday season.
The second fall rolls around, I’m throwing bags of cranberries in my shopping cart almost every trip to the store. Cranberry season beats out pumpkin season for me no contest.
Well, mainly because the uses for these amazing sweet tart gems are endless!
HOW TO USE PICKLED CRANBERRIES
When I had the idea to quick pickle these cranberries, I had this pickled blueberry panzanella salad in my head.
So initially, the intent was to use them in salads.
But once made and tasted, the ideas and options just kept rolling in!
Sure, they’d be great in a winter salad.
You can add them to this pickled fennel citrus salad or, replace the regular cranberries in this cranberry lentil avocado salad and this roasted winter root vegetable salad. Their mouth puckering tartness combined with a hint of sweet sugar will make all those salads pop with extra flavor.
But beyond salads, there are so many great uses for these pickled gems.
On a charcuterie board – these are all the rage for parties lately and just like jams, jellies and fresh fruit are often included with cured meats, cheeses and crackers, these pickled cranberries would be an amazing accompaniment to all those items! Don’t feel like pickling? Make this cranberry jam instead.
As a topping for meat – last year, I made this pan seared duck breast with maple cranberry sauce. I cannot wait to replicate that recipe using pickled cranberries instead this time around. Berry sauces often accompany meat, usually red meat like this rosemary garlic flank steak with black berry sauce, so this is a delicious and obvious choice. Alternatively, how about serving these on the side of your holiday ham or turkey?
Use in cocktails – create a festive holiday cocktail using the cranberries. Think of the pickled cranberries like the tart step sister of a maraschino cherry. Even something simple like a vodka, seltzer, lime could take a fun festive twist with a couple of these in the glass. I’m also digging the idea of a simple pickled cranberry gin and tonic!
Spread on toast – I got home late the other night and wanted a simple snack before bed. Some toasted gluten-free sourdough bread, a smear of pumpkin seed butter and a spoonful of pickled cranberries totally hit the spot. They can be used just like any fruit spread.
PICKLED CRANBERRIES AS A HOLIDAY GIFT
The other use for this easy recipe is making them for homemade holiday gifts.
A jar or two of these cranberries is such a thoughtful and festive idea for an edible homemade gift.
Edible gifts are my preference when it comes to gift giving. There’s just something special about the care that goes into creating food for others.
PICKLED CRANBERRY JARS FOR A TABLE CENTERPIECE
And lastly, as if there weren’t enough uses already, a few jars of these bright red berries makes for the easiest centerpiece on your holiday table.
I plan to showcase mine on a wooden board with some fresh cut pine leaves and pine cones around them. Festive and useful! They can be left purely for decoration or opened and served with the meal.
Might I suggest this cranberry pesto stuffed lamb which they would go wonderfully well with?
INGREDIENT TO MAKE PICKLED CRANBERRIES
You’re not going to believe how incredibly easy it is to pickle cranberries.
All you’ll need is:
- fresh cranberries
- apple cider vinegar
- cinnamon stick
- whole cloves
- piece of fresh ginger
You’ll also need some clean, sterilized glass pint jars, a piece of cheesecloth and some kitchen twine to create the spice sachet.
HOW TO MAKE QUICK PICKLED CRANBERRIES
Start by sterilizing the glass jars by boiling in water for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs to a clean surface to dry.
This is a quick refrigerator pickled recipe so we won’t be sealing and canning the jars under water but it’s important to start with sterilizing jars since these will still keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
Make the spice sachet by placing the cloves, ginger and peppercorns in the center of a small piece of cheesecloth. Pinch the ends together and tie into a small little bundle with some kitchen twine.
Combine the water, apple cider vinegar and sugar in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and whisk until sugar is dissolved.
Add the cinnamon stick and spice sachet to the pot and let simmer for 1 minute.
Add the fresh cranberries and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes until cranberries start to soften and pop.
Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and sachet.
Spoon the cranberries into the prepared jars then pour the pickling liquid into the jars to cover the berries. Leave a small amount of headspace in each jar.
Let cool to room temperature then screw on the lids and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
Trust me when I say, there’s no chance in heck they’ll last that long once you taste these!
WHAT DO PICKLED CRANBERRIES TASTE LIKE?
In a weird way that only pickling can accomplish, pickling the cranberries somehow exaggerates their tartness while simultaneously making them taste sweeter.
It’s hard to articulate but it’s almost like the two best qualities of the cranberry become intensified by the process.
Your lips will pucker but then they finish with a subtle sweetness that makes you equally as excited about eating with cheese on a cracker as it does topping a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
I know it sounds weird, but they can effortlessly swing in either direction!
But, if you just can’t get down with something tangy on your sweet dessert, this bourbon cranberry sauce recipe might be more your style.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND TIPS
If you prefer to use a less refined sugar, coconut sugar can be swapped out for the regular sugar in this recipe.
I typically use coconut sugar while baking but for pickling, I like to stick to good old granulated white sugar.
Feel free to also play with the spices. If you have whole allspice berries they can also be added to the sachet.
*Note that while it may look festive to keep a cinnamon stick or two in the jars, overtime the cinnamon will start to go rancid and impart a bitter stringent taste on the pickled cranberries so it’s best to discard before spooning into the jars.
CAN THESE BE TRADITIONALLY CANNED?
Yes, absolutely. If you prefer a longer shelf life for the pickled cranberries, you can definitely go through the hot water bath process of canning the jars.
I’ll be honest, I’m a huge quick pickle, refrigerator canning proponent because I just never make the quantity that necessitates canning in the traditional sense.
That said, these would be such a great recipe to batch prepare and enjoy all season long until spring if you can them properly.
MORE FESTIVE SPREADS TO TRY:
- 1 pint jar
- 8 ounces fresh cranberries
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1/2 ” piece of fresh ginger
- Sterilize glass jars and tops by boiling in a large pot of water for 10 minutes. Remove with tongs to a clean surface.
- Place cloves, peppercorns and ginger in a piece of cheesecloth and tie in sachet using kitchen twine. Set aside.
- Combine apple cider vinegar, water and sugar in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Add cinnamon stick and spice sachet to the mixture and let simmer an additional minute.
- Add cranberries, bring mixture back to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes until cranberries begin to soften and pop. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the spice sachet and cinnamon stick from the pot.
- Spoon cranberries into the prepared jars then pour the brine into each jar leaving a small amount of space at the top.
- Let cool to room temperature before affixing the lids onto the jars and storing in the refrigerator.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.