Honey fermented cranberries are a fabulous way to use and preserve cranberries when they are in season. Keep your cranberries in your pantry for a year or more with this easy recipe and enjoy them added as a tasty addition to many foods.
What are Honey Fermented Cranberries?
Honey fermentation is done by covering a fresh fruit or vegetable in honey and leaving it at room temperature. This will allow anaerobic bacteria to grow and multiply, changing the environment in many ways.
Honey fermented cranberries and cranberries fermented in honey. You can do plain cranberries or make things more interesting by adding ginger, orange and cinnamon like I do.
What do you need to make Honey Fermented Cranberries?
Honey fermented cranberries use simple ingredients and equipment:
- Glass Jar
- Tight fitting lid
- Parchment Paper
- Toothpick or skewer
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Raw honey
- orange, cinnamon stick, fresh ginger (optional but recommended)
how to make honey fermented cranberries
- Wash and dry your fresh cranberries. Sort and discard any squishy or wrinkly berries.
- Poke a small hole or two into each cranberry with a toothpick or skewer. You can also use a fork or knife. Alternatively you can also crunch the cranberries with the back of a plate, or even pulse them in the food processor. I like to leave mine whole and just poke them with a skewer.
- Place cranberries into a jar that is about twice the size as the amount of cranberries you’re fermenting.
- Thinly slice ginger, juice and zest an orange and add those to the jar along with a cinnamon stick. This is optional, but highly recommended.
- Slowly pour raw unpasteurized honey over the cranberries. You want the honey to just cover them.
- The cranberries will start to float almost immediately. Don’t chase that line with more honey, it’s okay if they are sticking out a bit.
- Place parchment paper over the opening of the jar and screw on a tight fitting lid. Tight fitting is important!
- Flip the jar over so that everything mixes together well.
- Check the jar twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
- At each check, open the jar to let out any gasses that may build up. Then seal the jar and flip it over.
- I keep my jar on its head for 12 hours, then flip it for the other 12. This works well for me.
- Start tasting the cranberries whenever you like! They will soften and sweeten as time goes on. I feel like waiting about a month is best, but the only way you will really know is if you try them often.
Watch my full video on how i make honey fermented cranberries
How does honey fermentation preserve cranberries?
Honey is a great preservative for many reasons. Raw unpasteurized honey is loaded with beneficial bacteria, enzymes and yeast. When given the right circumstances, these yeast and bacteria can work magic in a jar at room temperature. Transforming carbohydrate and sugar into acids and carbon dioxide among other things.
Honey is also acidic, which stops unwanted bacteria from growing. That is why it’s safe to store at room temperature for years and years.
Fermentation by nature preserves foods, but it doesn’t stop there. Fermentaion promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria that have been shown to help the gut (source PubMed) and boost your immune system (source PubMed). Fermentation can even increase beneficial vitamins like vitamin C! This is the most amazing to me. Take milk, fruit or vegetable, ferment it and increases the vitamin B and C (source NLM).
How do I know if my honey fermented cranberries are safe to eat?
You might notice I’m not sterilizing my jars. That’s because it doesn’t matter! Why? Competitive exclusion. Bad bacteria cannot grow where good probiotic bacteria are thriving. We know we’re setting up an environment that the good guys will love, so there’s no reason to worry about sterilizing anything. We want good bacteria! Sterilization would kill the good and the bad, leaving room for the bad guys outnumber the good and take over.
Guess what fermentation promotes? The bacterial process eats sugars and tuns them into acids! Fermentation will also increase the acidity of the food.
Acidic foods are considered anything with a pH of 4.6 or lower. If you’re super concerned and want some reassurance, buy these pH strips and test for yourself. They are cheap and even make for fun home learning projects for kids.
Don’t get stuck in the fearful details, just learn the process and why it works and you’ll do just fine. To learn more about fermentation you can read this article I wrote all about getting started with fermented vegetables or this one about fermented beverages.
How long do fermented cranberries take to ferment?
It’s not a hard fast deadline like with baking a loaf of bread. Your window of readiness to wide and really depends on your preferences. I start tasting my cranberry honey ferment at about 10 days in and leave it in a cool dark place (like a nice kitchen pantry) for a year or even more.
I made lots of fermented honey cranberries last year. It’s been about 13 months and they are still deliciousness. It’s been an excellent learning experience tasting them occasionally during that time and noticing the differences as they age.
What to expect as your honey fermented cranberries transform
Upon visual inspection, some of the first things you might notice are the little bubbles in the jar. That is c02 being produced by the fermentation process. Next, you may see that the honey is becoming thinner and more liquid. That is the juices of the cranberry releasing and thinning things out. You’ll also notice that the honey itself is becoming a beautiful red color.
But don’t stop at just your eyes, take this ferment in with all your senses!
The smell will change. Day 1 will have a honey smell, moving on you will smell the mingling of all the ingredients. Orange, cinnamon, ginger and cranberries will move forward. Did you realize you can also tell the generally acidity of something with your nose? The best way to illustrate that is to give some undiluted raw apple cider vinegar a big whiff! It will make your eyes water, right?! You may also notice a developing acidity when you sniff your jar of honey fermented cranberries as time goes by.
Listen, what do you hear? I love listening to my ferments. As things get going you may hear a slight effervesces. The sound of small bubbles coming to the surface. This is a great sign that your ferment is developing nicely.
Tastes will transform and evolve. When tasting the cranberry honey ferment throughout time you will notice the berries softening, the flavors melding and becoming stronger. You may notice an increased acidity and even taste the gentle bubbles on your tongue.
Feel those little cranberries too! Sure, your fingers will get sticky but licking them might be half the fun. The cranberries will become squishier and the skin will soften. I’ve noticed that they start to wrinkle after many months or become swollen.
This is my favorite way to take in and observe my fermented foods as they develop. Yes, I do all of the above, but also allow yourself to just breathe deep. Hold your ferment close and see how it makes you feel. You might notice the life you sense, I do. It’s amazing, albeit hard to explain.
If you are like many people and you don’t exercise your intuition often, this might be a good place to start. Just quiet yourself and observe the ferment without worry or judgement. Using this tactic, I always know if my ferment is well and healthy, or if there is a problem I might need to address.
Okay, enough of the woo woo.
Honey Fermented Cranberries
- Glass canning jar w/ tight fitting lid Double the size of the amount of cranberries you’re using
- Parchment paper
- Toothpick or skewer or you can use a knife or fork, see notes
- Cutting board
- Fresh cranberries washed, sorted and dried
- Raw honey enough to cover cranberries
- Orange Zest and juice only
- Cinnamon stick
- Fresh ginger sliced thin
- Wash and sort your cranberries, removing any soft or wrinkly ones. Dry them with a towel and add them to your jar, filling it only half way.Fresh cranberries
- Thinly slice an inch or two of ginger and add it to the jar.Fresh ginger
- Zest and juice an orange and add it to the jar.Orange
- Use half to one cinnamon stick and place in the jar as well.Cinnamon stick
- Cover the cranberries with raw, unpasteurized honey to just cover.Raw honey
- Cover the mouth of the jar with parchment paper and screw the lid on tightly.
- Flip the jar over so honey coats all the cranberries.
- Check jar every 12 – 24 hours for the first month, give or take.
- When you check the jar, open the lid to let out any trapped gasses and screw it back on tight. Then flip the jar over. See recipe notes for more detail.
- Choose a jar that is twice the size of the cranberries you want to ferment. I intentionally do not include measurements for this recipe, because I don’t use them. I just see how much cranberry I have and choose a bigger jar. Just make sure you have enough honey too.
- I would use one orange for a quart size jar and 2 for a half gallon.
- If your honey has crystallized you can warm it gently on a double broiler until it is pourable. Don’t heat it over 90ish degrees! It will kill beneficial yeast, bacteria and enzymes that you need for this recipe.
- Fermentation happens at room temperature so store the jar somewhere in your kitchen where you can see it and remember to check it daily.
- After 15 or 30 days you will notice the changes are very slow and there are not any more bubbles, you can then check your ferment less frequently and stop flipping it daily. If I’m not checking it often I leave the lid on looser so that gasses cannot build up.
- You can store the honey ferment at room temp indefinitely. They will taste best starting about about 30 days to about 8 months, in my opinion.
- Questions? Leave a comment, I’m happy to help.
how to use honey fermented cranberries
This is a very sweet treat! I wouldn’t eat this like I do cranberry sauce. I use these as an ingredient. Drizzle a food spoonfuls over yogurt or ice cream, add some to sparkling mineral water for a tasty soda, add some to top brie cheese (bonus if you bake the brie first), it goes great with goat cheese, add to a yogurt parfait, add the honey to your tea or just pop one into your mouth like a piece of candy.