How to Cook Cranberries It’s almost an American rite of passage to understand how to cook cranberries. One of the few fruits native to the continent, cranberries emerged as a dietary staple in the 1550s, eaten fresh, ground, mashed or baked into bread. Some of the preparation methods may have changed through the years, but one thing has remained constant: the use of a sweetener to balance the berry’s tartness. Sugar and honey are almost always a part of cranberry recipes. Cranberries should be cooked until their skins burst; be sure not to overcook or they’ll become bitter. According to the USDA, cranberries offer one of the highest levels of antioxidants compared to other fruits. Studies have also found they reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, maintain urinary tract health, and possibly even positively affect teeth and gums. Fresh cranberries are available September through December. If you plan on cooking with them during the off-season, simply pop the store-bought bags in the freezer–they will last between 9 and 12 months.