Special equipment: a candy thermometer
Combine the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and, without stirring, cook until the syrup is golden amber or until a candy thermometer reads between 250 to 265 degrees F (hard-ball stage), about 10 minutes (see Cook's Note*). Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat.
Working quickly, drop 3 cranberries into the caramel. Use 2 forks to coat the cranberries completely in the syrup and pull together into a cluster. Place the cranberry cluster on a waxed paper lined baking tray. Repeat with the remaining cranberries. Reheat the syrup briefly over low heat if it starts to thicken. Let the clusters cool to harden.
Melt the white chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl over barely simmering water. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula until the white chocolate is almost completely melted. Be careful that no moisture gets into the chocolate, or it will harden. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow the white chocolate to cool slightly.
Dip the bottom of the cranberry cluster into the white chocolate and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to set for approximately 20 minutes. Place clusters in paper candy cups and store in an airtight container.
To determine hard-ball stage without a candy thermometer, remove the pot from the heat and dip the bottom of the pot in water to stop the mixture from cooking further. Carefully spoon a drop of the hot syrup mixture into ice-cold water. It should mold easily into a ball in the water and should retain its shape when removed from the water. The ball should be sticky and fairly resistant to pressure outside the water but not crunchy.
Recipe courtesy The Cookworks, 2003