This post walks you through the easy process of making homemade fermented cranberry sauce. This is an easy recipe that can quickly become a holiday staple. I start making this recipe in mid-October when the seasonal ingredients are available and continue through December. This cranberry sauce has an addictive sweet-tangy flavor, be warned!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce | An Easy Fermentation Recipe
Read on to learn all you need to know about the lacto-fermentation process and health benefits. Continue reading to take a deep dive into the cranberry, a seasonal fall food that is uniquely American. Finally, you will get to the recipe for my homemade fermented cranberry sauce.
In a hurry, simply scan to the bottom for the recipe card!
Be sure to visit the Seasonal Living Resource Library to download my list of 5 crazy-cheap Tools I use with every ferment I make.
The Seasonal Living Resource Library holds a collection of FREE resources to help you become a pro in the kitchen and the garden. In the library, you’ll find tips and tricks for creating a seasonal kitchen, a 4-season kitchen garden, and lots of printables and downloadable for your seasonal life! Membership also comes with my weekly newsletter offering unique content not found on the blog. Not a member? Click here to join!
Lacto-Fermentation | the technique and its benefits
Lacto-fermentation is an age-old food preservation technique. It uses salt and an acid environment to eliminate harmful bacteria from the preserved foods while providing a hospitable environment for the good ones. Preparing foods this way does not require a lot of fancy equipment or special kitchen skills. We’ll learn more about the technique when we dig into the recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. Right now, I want to explain why fermentation is such an essential skill in the seasonal kitchen.
Salt and Acid
The salt-loving and acid-loving probiotics found in fermented foods (yes, like yogurt) are called Lactobacillus. These friendly bacteria convert the sugars naturally found in your fruits and vegetables into lactic acid. The lactic acid creates an inhospitable environment for bad bacteria. All the while it is perfectly preserving your seasonal ingredient’s flavor and nutrition.
Eating foods preserved through the lacto-fermentation process aids digestion by naturally providing probiotics to the gut. It makes the nutrients in your food more readily available to the digestive system. These foods are anti-inflammatory and help regulate moods. Numerous studies have revealed the tremendous health benefits of fermented foods. You can read more here.
Watch for the Bubbles
As the lactobacillus break down the sugars in the ferment’s ingredients, gasses are released. Seeing the bubbles is the best sign that your fermentation is working. Here’s an example of how effervescent the process can be. It’s my fermented hot peppers.
This blog has a number of easy, basic fermentation recipes. Here are links to a few more:
Cranberries | A distinctly American seasonal food
Cranberries are a part of the earliest accounts of the European arrival in North America. Wikipedia has an insightful timeline of these accounts and you can read more here. The world didn’t begin when the Pilgrims arrived in North America. Native peoples used cranberries as food, a tobacco substitute, a dye, and in medicines for generations prior to meeting Europeans.
One intriguing way the first peoples used cranberries was in a kind of energy bar of the time called Pemican. They ground cranberries with meat and fat to make a food source that was stable for long journies and winter months. You can read more about Pemican and this ancient fruit of the America’s in this National Geographic article.
The Cranberry Harvest
Cranberries are the fruit of an evergreen shrub that grows in acidic bogs. The shrubs have a pink flower that is open-pollinated and produces a round fruit. At first, the fruit is green and it becomes red when ripe in September. When the fruit is ripe, the cranberry bogs are flooded and the fruits break from the plants and float to the water’s surface. Cranberries are then harvested in a manner that does not damage the plants.
Here is a cranberry harvest in New Jersey.
Cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse with both essential vitamins and minerals and body-healing phytonutrients available to us all. 1,000 grams of cranberries offer 18% of the Vitamin C we require on a daily basis and are known as an antidote to scurvy. They also contain 16% of the daily requirement of manganese, a trace mineral essential for the creation of certain enzymes in the body.
There are 9 categories of phytonutrients, plant-based nutrients, in cranberries. These nutritional components of cranberries provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents to the diet. You can read more about this here.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce | An Easy Fermentation Recipe
OK, with the basics behind us about fermentation and cranberries, it’s time to get cookin’!
Well, there’s no actual cooking involved in this recipe, but a good bit of chopping. Chopping, mixing, packing, sealing, waiting, and eating.
Here’ are some supplies that will help you quickly learn and use basic fermentation skills. These are Amazon affiliate links to products I personally use and recommend.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce Ingredients
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 ounces or 3 cups)
½ cup honey or pure cane sugar
1 tsp sea salt
Apple, cored and diced
Juice and zest of one navel orange
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-quart jar with lid
Plastic lid for mason jars and/or Easy Fermenter
Fermentation Process for Homemade Cranberry Sauce
First, we need to sort and break up the cranberries.
Rinse your cranberries in a colander and allow to drain. Then, sort through the berries, removing any cranberries that are soft. Throw them in the compost or feed them to your chickens. To mash them, you can either pour them into a glass bowl and use a potato masher, or you can pulse a couple times in a food processor.
Chop and Mix
Add the chopped/mashed cranberries to the glass bowl. Fermentation is best made in glass dishes and stirred with wooden utensils. This keeps unwanted elements like plastic BPA from your ferments. For more about the whys of fermentation, click here.
Chop and add the remainder of the ingredients to the bowl and stir together with your wooden spoon. Pour the mixture into your glass mason jar. Stir again and pack the jar to remove any air bubbles. Then, the ferment needs to be covered in a way that allows the CO2 to escape while not allowing contaminants into the mixture. I use plastic caps made especially for mason jars or the Easy Fermenter, see below. Set the jar at room temperature in a location free of direct sunlight.
Prevent Mold by Stirring
If you do not use the Easy Fermenter mix this daily to eliminate the risk of mold growing on top of the ferment. Taste after 5 days to begin gauging the level of sour/tanginess you desire. When you have the flavor you enjoy, refrigerate. The longer the ferment sits, the more the flavors will mature and mingle. I would leave at least 2 weeks for refrigeration, but it is ready after 5 days.
The cranberry sauce has a one-year shelf life once refrigerated, but I bet it won’t last that long!
- 1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 ounces or 3 cups)
- ½ cup honey or pure cane sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Apple, cored and diced
- Juice and zest of one navel orange
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1-quart jar with lid
- Plastic lid for mason jars and/or Easy Fermenter
- First, we need to sort and break up the cranberries.
- Rinse your cranberries in a colander and allow to drain. Then, sort through the berries, removing any cranberries that are soft. Throw them in the compost or feed them to your chickens. To mash them, you can either pour them into a glass bowl and use a potato masher, or you can pulse a couple times in a food processor.
- Add the chopped/mashed cranberries to the glass bowl. Fermentation is best made in glass dishes and stirred with wooden utensils. This keeps unwanted elements like plastic BPA from your ferments. For more about the whys of fermentation, click here.
- Chop and add the remainder of the ingredients to the bowl and stir together with your wooden spoon. Pour the mixture into your glass mason jar. Stir again and pack the jar to remove any air bubbles. Then, the ferment needs to be covered in a way that allows the CO2 to escape while not allowing contaminants into the mixture. I use plastic caps made especially for mason jars or the Easy Fermenter, see below. Set the jar at room temperature in a location free of direct sunlight.
- If you do not use the Easy Fermenter mix this daily to eliminate the risk of mold growing on top of the ferment. Taste after 5 days to begin gauging the level of sour/tanginess you desire. When you have the flavor you enjoy, refrigerate. The longer the ferment sits, the more the flavors will mature and mingle. I would leave at least 2 weeks for refrigeration, but it is ready after 5 days.
- The cranberry sauce has a one-year shelf life once refrigerated, but I bet it won’t last that long!
Get yourself some smaller jars for gifting the fermented cranberry sauce. This is a welcome gift at Holiday meals and open houses.
I use 4-ounce mason jars with plastic caps. The acid in ferments can corrode the traditional metal caps of mason jars and should be avoided or covered with plastic wrap. Write a label with ingredients and tie it to the jar with twine for a decorative presentation.
Speaking of gifts, here’s my shopping guide for the essential items in a seasonal kitchen.
The Easy Fermenter
After several years of fermenting, I developed a fairly routine process for covering the ferments. I either used the plastic caps, as mentioned above, or I used an airlock for the countertop fermentation period. I have also tried glass submersion disks, but they are not appropriate for this recipe as there is no excess liquid.
The Trouble with Contaminants
I had troubles as a beginner fermenter. In the summer months, when I am busy and the kitchen is hot, my ferments often spoiled because I did not check on them daily. I wrote about this problem in our Facebook Community (please join!) and a member asked if I had ever used the Easy Fermenter. I hadn’t and asked other community members about this top to mason jars specifically designed to keep mold and other contaminants at bay. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so I ordered a kit. Now it is my default lid for countertop ferments.
How it Works
The lid is an airlock system that comes with a plunger designed to express out all excess air in the jar. It creates a vacuum that can express the CO2 from the fermentation process without allowing in mold or bad bacteria. I was a little worried about this recipe because it is very thick and there’s really no way to have the brine above the solids. After 5 days on the countertop, I had no mold. I stirred the sauce before tasting. It was perfect.
Ordering Your Kit
When you order the kit, make sure you get the one with the pump. If you decide you want more later, you can order just the lids without the pump.
November Seasonal Eating
Each month I create a whole host of resources for the kitchen and the garden. One of them is a list of seasonal foods for that month. the list comes with detailed information about a featured fruit of vegetable and recipes! If you move around the site, you’ll also find monthly garden tips, reading lists, Spotify playlists, and other seasonal tips and tricks. Here are hotlinks to my November seasonal posts. Enjoy!
Be sure to check back for December posts. I’m creating my garden planners and will be posting them soon. Let’s get our vision set for the best garden ever in 2019!
There’s a member’s page full of limitless resources to help you create your seasonal life. We offer recipes, planners, garden quick guides, food preservation quick guides and many more freebies and downloads. Use the form below to sign up as a member of the Resource Library today. It comes with my weekly newsletter full of unique content for members only!
Seasonal Living Resource Library
Become a pro in the kitchen and the garden!
Sign up for access to our exclusive Seasonal Living Resource Library. it's full of free downloads and printables to help you create your seasonal life. Supported by a weekly newsletter with original content for subscribers only!