Fresh cranberries are only available from October to December, so many people like stocking up on these sour berries. But, whether you like them fresh, in a cranberry bread, or you’re making juice, it’s easy to buy one pack too many.
If you bought more than you need, you don’t have to let it go to waste. Cranberries have a long shelf life, but let’s get into detail on how you can tell if they’ve gone bad and how you can store them for maximum longevity.
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Do Cranberries Go Bad
Cranberries can go bad, much like all fruits. Once they’re harvested, they require consistently cool temperature, or they’ll go bad rather quickly.
This means it’s probably not the best idea to keep them on your kitchen counter, but we’ll get to that later. For now, it’s important to note that these berries will go bad after at least a few weeks when stored in the fridge.
You can freeze them like you would other berries, in which case you’d get maximum storage life. With that said, remember that shelf life depends on where you keep your pack of cranberries.
How Long Do Cranberries Last
How long cranberries last depends on how you store them and what they’re like at the moment of purchase. In other words, did you go for fresh, frozen, or dried cranberries?
Frozen and dried berries hold up well, whereas fresh ones need refrigerating in order to stay that way for a while.
A bulk of fresh berries will stay good for about two weeks in an open bag you placed in the fridge. Bagged ones remain good for a longer period, but don’t expect longer than two weeks if you open the bag.
You might be able to keep them for longer than two weeks, but make sure to back and remove the spoiled berries.
Pre-packed cranberries usually have a date stamped on the label, so make sure to check for that. Also, it should tell you the estimate of how long you have to go through the bag.
Although red fruits can often hold up a few days past that date, don’t expect much in terms of quality. The longer you wait, the softer your berries will become.
Dried cranberries can last up to eighteen months when stored properly. Frozen ones will stay good for at least a year.
|Fresh||5 to 14 days||/|
|Dried||Up to 18 months||/|
|Frozen||/||Up to a year|
Tips to Tell if Cranberries Have Gone Bad
The first thing to remember is that cranberries are naturally sour, so that’s no reason to throw them away. You might not like the taste of fresh berries, but you could make cranberry juice or sauce to kill the sourness.
Fresh berries are sour, brightly colored, and have firm, glossy skin. They can be red or yellowish-red, but they’re always smooth if fresh. Dried ones aren’t as smooth, but the color usually remains the same.
With that said, it’s relatively easy to tell when cranberries have gone bad. They change color, structure, and taste, so there’s very little room for error.
Here’s what you can do to tell if your cranberries have gone bad:
Check the texture
As we said, cranberries have smooth and firm skin that pops in your mouth when you bite them. Fresh ones look the part, so anything that’s dried out and wrinkled is probably bad. Grab a few berries between your fingers and check if they’re firm or not. Soft ones have gone bad, so throw them away before they get to the rest in your batch.
Check for mold
Cranberries, blueberries, and raspberries are known to develop mold after a while. Those you kept in a bowl in your fridge probably won’t get moldy as quickly as the ones you kept in a closed bag. Nonetheless, they’re all going to be moldy after about a week, if not sooner. Get rid of the moldy ones so that the mold doesn’t transfer to the rest of the berries.
Smell the batch
Cranberries have a sweet smell, although they’re somewhat sour. Once you notice they smell sour, it’s probably time to throw them away. A sour, weird, and moldy scent is a good indicator that your batch of berries has gone bad.
Tips to Store Cranberries
Properly stored cranberries can stay good for a longer time, so this is something you want to pay attention to. The first thing you should remember is that cranberries like low temperatures.
You can keep them in the fridge if you plan on using them in about a week or two. If not, it’s best to store them in the freezer.
Here’s what you can do in terms of storage:
Choose the produce drawer
Berries will pick up on any odor you have going on in the fridge unless you keep them in an airtight container. Since some people like leaving the container/bag opened, the berries might get that weird refrigerator odor.
The best way to prevent this if you don’t want to seal them is to place them in the produce drawer. The drawer itself is somewhat isolated, and your cranberries will be far away from whatever other food you have. Still, make sure no veggies and fruits in the drawer have gone bad.
Dry them off
You might want to wash your berries before storing them, and that’s fine. This kind of prep makes it easier to eat them later, but there’s a catch.
Storing wet cranberries will result in a moldy disaster, so make sure to dry them out well. You can use a paper towel for this or just leave them spread on your kitchen counter to dry on their own. Excess moisture, whether it’s water or squeezed juice, will cause them to go bad quickly.
Consider the freezer
As we said, it might be best to freeze the berries you won’t use in about a week. They hold up well in the freezer, which leaves you enough time to go through the batch.
Store-bought frozen berries have to go in the freezer unless you’re going to use the entire bag right away. Thawing frozen berries and then freezing them again is a bad idea.
Pick the right container
Some people like storing cranberries in an airtight container to limit air exposure. While this is a good idea, it depends on how long you plan on keeping them. In other words, it wouldn’t hurt to let them breathe if you’re going to use them in about a week.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Cranberries
Eating expired cranberries probably won’t severely affect your health if you already have a healthy immune system. If not, you might end up with nausea and diarrhea, but even that won’t last more than maybe a few hours or a day.
It’s fruit, so there’s not much danger if you consume it spoiled. However, you do want to make sure there’s no mold in sight.
Eating mold is never a good idea, especially in large quantities. Moldy food is likely to make you sick, giving you symptoms lasting longer than a few days.
If your berries are soft and wrinkled but there’s no mold, they’re likely still safe to eat. You might not like the quality, taste, and texture, but there’s no other risk.
Can You Freeze Cranberries?
Much like most other berries, cranberries are easy to freeze. They hold up well, giving you enough time to go through the batch you bought.
Store-bought frozen berries should go back in the freezer as soon as you arrive from the store. As we said, you don’t want to thaw and then freeze them again because that will spoil both the taste and texture.
If you want to freeze fresh berries, you can just wash, dry, and chuck them in the freezer. Of course, sort out the bad ones and use a freezer bag.
Another thing you can do is dry freezing, although this method is slightly more time-consuming. The first step involves prepping the cranberries.
Wash the batch, remove the bad ones, and place the rest on a cookie tray. Make sure they’re spread in a single layer and not on top of each other.
Place the tray in the freezer and let it do its magic for a few hours or overnight. Once they’re solid frozen, you can transfer them to a container or a bag since it’s more convenient to keep them that way.
Frozen cranberries can stay good for about a year, but make sure to label the package.
Cranberries are packed with antioxidants and have many health benefits. This makes them ideal for snacks, oatmeal, milkshakes, muffins, bread, and many more recipes.
Best of all is that they hold up well when stored properly. But, of course, how you store them depends on whether you’re using fresh, dried, or frozen ones, so make a decision based on that.