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Lacto-Fermented (Cultured) Honey Cranberries

Why culture your cranberries? Well, why not?

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by Angela Gallardo in Fermented, Recipes, Sides & Snacks

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 sea 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.

Related articles:

My Favorite Sauerkraut Recipe

Kombucha Beginners How-To

Why Fermented Foods are Better for You Than Your Favorite Probiotic

  1. Bridget Wall says:

    If you have a jar of raw honey but it doesn’t specify that it’s unpasturized, can you still use it here? I checked the amazon link and <a href="">a couple of other sources</a> to confirm the actual definitions of raw vs. unpasturized, but I wanted to be absolutely sure before I went ahead and tried this!

    (<a href="">this</a&gt; is the brand I have)

    1. Hey Bridget, it looks like that brand should work. The link you included specifically says it is not treated with heat so the natural enzymes are still present. The pasteurization process uses heat so it damages the enzymes and makes it essentially a "dead" food since there are no living enzymes left. Crystal’s looks like a great brand so you should be good to go!

      1. Bridget Wall says:

        Wonderful! A perfect way to start the new year, start something delicious. Thanks for your help!

  2. Bridget Wall says:

    If you have a jar of raw honey but it doesn’t specify that it’s unpasturized, can you still use it here? I checked the amazon link and <a href="">a couple of other sources</a> to confirm the actual definitions of raw vs. unpasturized, but I wanted to be absolutely sure before I went ahead and tried this!

    (<a href="">this</a&gt; is the brand I have)

  3. Melissa says:

    My dad made this recipe and let it ferment for months. It’s delicious. Have you come across any research into the vitamin content of fermented cranberries? I know the vitamin content of sauerkraut is drastically higher than what is in cabbage, so I wondered if the same might be true for cranberries. I have a cold with a sore throat, so I’ve been eating a spoonful a couple times a day 🙂 Feeling better after 2 days!

  4. JanetS says:

    My jar has been in a cool room for over a month and there are no bubbles yet. I ate some today (good), but should I let it keep going until I see bubbles or can I just refrigerate it now and move on to other things? I made cucumber pickle ferments earlier this year and some didn’t bubble either, but still tasted fine.

  5. Allana says:

    Do I need to burp it? How much room/air should be at the top? I used a bit more cranberries and it’s almost full with all of the honey… Looks delic!

    1. Hey Allana, no you will not need to burp it. It’s an extremely slow ferment so checking in on the flavor every 6-8 weeks will be enough to release any built-up gases.

  6. Carl Russell says:

    Do you think this recipe would work with blueberries? Would it be quicker since blueberries aren’t as dense?

    1. I would imagine so. Although I’d already recommend bursting the berries you use open because the increased liquid volume will help speed things alone quite a bit. Let me know if you gave it a try!

  7. Kari Doolittle-Tullis says:

    all i did was pop the cranberries in my fingers, added cinnamon stick and honey… no pulsing

  8. jon schommer says:

    Are Walnuts a problem in this recipe???

    1. Interesting choice. I don’t see why they would be. They might get quite soft by the time it’s ready but I don’t think that’d be a bad thing!

      1. Jon Schommer says:

        Thanks Angela. You’re probably right, after 8 weeks they probably would get a bit mushy… My mom used to make a great cranberry relish with walnuts, but I’m sure she didn’t let it ferment for weeks!

        1. Yeah :/ This recipe might lend better to adding walnuts: Not quite a relish but it’s very good. And I’ve made a more savory rendition of it with onion added so you could make it a bit more like a relish that way?

          1. Jon Schommer says:

            Looks delicious…May have to give that a shot. Thanks for your thoughts.

  9. Jon Schommer says:

    When will I know that the honey is “done”. What flavor am I shooting for???

    1. Since honey is such a strong preservative, you won’t get the tangy or sour flavor of other fermented foods. How long you let it go is really about how intense a cranberry flavor you prefer in the honey.

  10. Jon Schommer says:

    I’ve been eating this now for about 2 weeks…it’s very good, like candy. I add it to my unflavored, unsugared yogurt. I can tell when I bit into the cinnamon because it tastes like a “Red Hot” candy from back in the day. I continue to make the chutney recipe that you sent me as well…into my second batch of that with just a bit of tweaking…that also goes into the yogurt…thanks for that suggestion as well.

    1. Hey again, Jon! So appreciate the follow up with your experience with the two recipes. Both sound really delicious with the plain yogurt, yum.

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