Sugared Cranberries Inspired by the Charming Christmas Mystery 'The Dead of Winter'

Sugared Cranberries Inspired by the Charming Christmas Mystery 'The Dead of Winter'

Wednesday, 15 December, 2021

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.


The holiday season calls for things that sparkle: twinkling lights, sun glinting off icicles, candlelight dancing on gemstones, and — why not? — cranberries that shine with a coating of sweet, sweet sugar.

The Christmas mystery The Dead of Winter pays homage to golden age manor house murder stories with an appropriately dramatic setting (a mansion on St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall), glamorous guests (a movie star, a socialite), and dire emergencies (a blizzard, a murder). The story begins with all kinds of sparkle and revelry, but murder, suspicion, and fear soon stalk the glittery guests.

Luckily amateur sleuth and writer Josephine Tey (based on the real-life golden-age crime novelist of the same name) is on the case with her sweetheart Marta and Detective Inspector Archie Penrose at her side. Sadly, their holiday is almost ruined by the deadly deeds of the perpetrators, but good humor and good cheer prevail.

Easy to make and so pretty, these sugared cranberries are a frosty-looking garnish on everything you might eat and drink. You can make a batch in just a few minutes of hands-on time, then pretty up your treats:

  • sprinkle on a charcuterie platter or cheese board
  • add to a bowl of granola
  • serve alongside pork chops or roasted chicken
  • toss into a bowl of roasted nuts (or these gingerbread pecans)
  • stir into a bowl of vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt

We’re wishing you a peril-free holiday season that’s burnished with the glow of warm company and all your favorite things.

cranberries dusted with sugar
Photo courtesy of Mr_Mrs_Marcha/Shutterstock.

Sugared Cranberries

Makes about 3 cups. Total time 45 minutes.


  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) water
  • 1-2 cups (200 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 fresh orange (optional)
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) fresh cranberries


Make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the water and 1/2 cup (135 grams) sugar; stir. Use a veggie peeler to remove a few strips of peel from the orange and drop them into the pan. Bring the syrup to a simmer over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the cranberries to evenly coat them with the syrup. Cover with a lid and let them steep for 10 minutes.

Rest the cranberries. Strain the cranberries from the syrup and reserve the liquid for fancy drinks; see below. Place the cranberries on a piece of parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and nudge them apart, so they don’t stick together as they cool. Allow them to cool and dry out at room temp for about an hour.

Make the magic. After an hour, the cranberries should be dry but a bit sticky. Place 1/2 cup sugar on a shallow plate or rimmed baking sheet. Working with a few berries at once, roll them in the remaining sugar until they are fully coated; add more sugar, as necessary. Store the berries in an air-tight container in a cool spot for a week or so (if they last that long).


Cranberry Cocktails

You can use the cranberry-infused simple syrup for delicious boozy and non-alcoholic cocktails.

  • Non-alcoholic: Add a shot syrup with club soda on the rocks, garnish with an orange slice and a few cranberries.
  • Boozy: Mix a shot of syrup and a splash of orange juice with a shot of vodka on the rocks and top with club soda. Garnish with an orange slice and a few cranberries.
  • Fizzy: Add a shot of syrup to a glass of Prosecco or sparkling, non-alco grape juice and garnish with a few cranberries.
  • Warm: Add a shot of syrup to your favorite hot tea. A splash of gin or bourbon can be nice.
  • Old Fashioned: Place 1 teaspoon syrup and a few dashes of Angostura Bitters in a glass; bonus if you use orange bitters. Add ice and squeeze a piece of orange peel over the top. Add a shot of your favorite bourbon or whisky and stir. Garnish with a few cranberries and the orange peel.

Josephine sat forward in her seat, eager for the first glimpse of S. Michael’s Mount, and it didn’t disappoint. The island moved in and out of view between the tall reeds lining the track, and somehow the movement of the train served to emphasize the castle’s solidity, standing majestic and forbidding over the crescent-shaped bay… The tide was out, leaving the causeway clear to cross, but the choppy sea licked at the rocks around the island, and white horses flecked the surface as far as they could see. As they watched, a shaft of sunlight broke through the purple underbelly of cloud, changing the character of the day yet again, and Josephine couldn’t help but feel that the scene in front of them would easily upstage any film set… — Nicola Upson

The Dead of Winter

by Nicola Upson

It’s December 1938, and the menacing shadow of war is casting a cloud over holiday celebrations. But nothing can darken the cheer when friends gather at an estate on St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall to celebrate Christmas. Nothing, that is, except a murder most foul. Cut off from the mainland by the sea and the snow — highlighted by a dramatic attempt to cross the land bridge at the height of the storm — the guests are trapped together with a killer. In this highly charged atmosphere, each person’s true character is revealed as they grapple with jealousy, domestic violence, class war, and betrayal. {more}

This Christmas mystery (320 pages) was published in November of 2021 by Faber Et Faber. The book takes you to a manor house on St. Michael's Mount. Melissa read The Dead of Winter and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it. is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Dead of Winter: A Josephine Tey Mystery


Top image courtesy of Maria Shanina/Unsplash.

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