I can’t get enough of fermented foods these days. I’ve joked about fermenting everything before but seriously though, there are so many ways to enjoy this time-old tradition. I’m a sucker for old school so that’s part of the pull–knowing that it’s how everyone did things before refrigerators were around.
But the larger pull is knowing just how great fermented foods are for our gut and seeing firsthand how much they’ve helped me over the past year. With a dairy intolerance, I need just as many dairy-free probiotics as I can get (note: many probiotic supplements contain dairy!) I started simple with salt lacto-ferments, moved to kombucha, and now I feel I’ve graduated to honey. Although it’s really just as easy, it did intimidate me. It’s as simple as understanding the science behind it. Honey, in its raw and natural state, has tons of enzymes. And these enzymes can work to culture, or ferment, if they are in the right environment.
Simply introducing a minimum 20% moisture will allow the enzymes in honey to work their magic. Naturally, raw honey has a moisture content of below 17% and will even begin to crystallize when sitting in your pantry due to the super high sugar content (primarily glucose) and low moisture content. Introducing excess moisture, in the form of cranberries in this recipe, stops the crystallization process and allows the natural enzymes in the honey to work on the lactic acid present in the berries.
Honey is an amazing preservative so ferments will take a lot more time than others. I’ve had mine going for nearly 8 weeks now and I think I’ll be letting it go for another 4. I used cranberries because I love the tart contrast to the sweetness of honey. I wanted something festive to pop open a ways after the holiday festivities have died down. You could substitute other fruits but take note, the higher the water content of the fruit you use, the faster the ferment will go (I.E. berries=slow, citrus=not so slow). Keep an eye on it, temps between 70-80F are best, watch for bubbles as a sign it’s working, and be patient!
Lacto-Fermented Cranberry Honey
6-8 oz fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
12 oz. raw, unpasteurized honey*
Add the cranberries and cinnamon stick to a food processor and pulse a few times until they are roughly chopped up. Add them to a quart-size glass jar and pour the honey over top. Seal the jar tightly (a Fido style jar works best for this type of ferment).
Place the jar in a warm, dark place like a kitchen cupboard. Every 1-2 days, pull the jar out and turn it on its head to mix the cranberries into the honey. In the beginning the honey can sink down below the berries and leave the berries exposed. Continue to do this until the honey seems to thin out, usually after about a week. Once the berries are submerged do to the moisture content increasing, you are free to leave the jar alone for the next 4-8 weeks.
After 4 weeks, taste the honey to see how it’s progressing. This ferment will need at least 8 weeks to fully develop but can be left as long as 6 months (yep!) for continued culturing.
*Do not try to use pasteurized honey, as the heat it is treated with has killed most all the enzymes and it will not successfully ferment.
**Note: I started my ferment without pulsing the cranberries (left them whole as you can see in the top picture) and the ferment was going SO SLOW. I’ve found that breaking them up allows moisture to be released quicker from the berries and gets the ferment at a better rate.