Vibrant with an intense sweet-tart flavor and gorgeous red color, these honey-fermented cranberries are a delicious fermented fruit recipe that you can make with minimal effort. It takes only five minutes of active time in the kitchen plus two weeks of patient waiting while the honey, beneficial bacteria, and berries do their work. And the result is luscious and so worth your patience.
What is it?
Honey-fermented cranberries are exactly what they sound like: cranberries fermented in honey. They have a sweet, lively nature and a delicious taste.
How does it work?
Honey is a well-known antimicrobial substance, so it may seem counterintuitive to ferment cranberries in honey. While honey is antimicrobial, those properties are related to its low pH and its low water content.
When you increase honey's water content by adding water in the case of this mead and this fermented honey lemonade or by adding berries and juice in the case of this recipe, you transform honey into a ready medium that supports the growth of beneficial bacteria.
In other words, by adding ingredients with a high-water content (such as berries and juice) honey ceases being antimicrobial and, instead, readily supports the fermentation process.
Fermenting cranberries in honey is straightforward and uncomplicated. You add your cranberries and other ingredients to a jar, pour in the honey, seal, and wait. Simple, right? But, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure they come out just how you hoped they would.
- Use raw honey. Raw honey contains beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts (2) that you activate when you make this recipe. It also contains prebiotics (food for beneficial bacteria).
- Use runny honey. In order to ferment in honey, your honey must be in a liquid state, so that it's easier to pour and easier to mix. Adding ingredients with high water content, such as cranberries and citrus juice, facilitates fermentation.
- Use a glass weight to keep your cranberries submerged in the honey. Alternatively, agitating the jar daily will also keep your cranberries submerged in honey, and therefore safely fermenting.
- Use only the best, firmest berries. Berries that are soft, squishy, or otherwise compromised may also compromise the integrity of your ferment.
- If you're concerned about food safety, you can test the PH with ph strips. Look for a PH of less than 4.6. Honey has a range of 3.4 to 6.1, with an average of 3.9 (3).
Swap lemon for orange. Orange has a lovely, round sweetness that balances its acidity, but lemon's brightness works well in this recipe.
Add a cinnamon stick or some star anise. I like coriander seed in this recipe as its citrusy top notes complement cranberries and give balance to the orange, but you can use whichever spices you prefer.
Try fermenting other berries. We're partial to this fermented berry recipe.
- Mandal, M. D., & Mandal, S. (2011). Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 1(2), 154–160.
- Ezz El-Arab, A. M., Girgis, S. M., Hegazy, E. M., & Abd El-Khalek, A. B. (2006). Effect of dietary honey on intestinal microflora and toxicity of mycotoxins in mice. BMC complementary and alternative medicine."
- pH and acids in honey" (PDF). National Honey Board Food Technology/Product Research Program. April 2006.