This post walks you through the easy process of making homemade fermented cranberry sauce.
It’s an easy recipe that can quickly become a favorite for the holiday table.
I start making this recipe in mid-October when the seasonal ingredients are available and continue through December.
This homemade cranberry sauce has an addictive sweet-tangy flavor, so be warned! It won’t last very long…Jump to Recipe
This post contains affiliate links of products I use and recommend for winterizing garden beds. I hope you find them useful! As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce | An Easy Seasonal Ferment
Read on to learn all you need to know about the lacto-fermentation process and health benefits. Then, 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.Jump to Recipe
Lacto-Fermentation | The Techniques and Benefits
Lacto-fermentation is an age-old food preservation technique. It uses salt and an acid environment to eliminate harmful bacteria from 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 homemade cranberry sauce recipe. 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. Numerous studies have revealed the tremendous health benefits of fermented foods. You can read more here.Jump to Recipe
Watch for the Bubbles!
As the lactobacillus breaks 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 Seasonal Ferment
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.My Amazon Picks
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, fermentation weights, 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!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce | An Easy Seasonal Ferment
- 1-quart mason jar
- Easy Fermenter, glass fermentation weights, plastic bag with brine, or a plastic lid for jar
- Glass Bowl
- Wooden Spoon
- 1 bag fresh organic cranberries 12 ounces or 3 cups
- 1/2 cup honey or pure cane sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 naval orange juice and zest
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: you can mix this daily to eliminate the risk of mold growing on top of the ferment. Beginners often have this concern.
- 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!
- Serving Suggestions: this homemade cranberry sauce can be used just like any other version of cranberry sauce, as a side or a sandwich condiment.
You can ferment so much more than cranberries!
If you like approaching your kitchen and meal planning this way, I recommend signing up for the FREE 5-Day Food Preservation eCouse! It’s a series of 5 emails delivered to your inbox that help you learn quick, easy, safe and affordable ways to preserve vegetables, fruits, and herbs from the kitchen garden and farmers market!
Quick Guide to 6 End-of-Summer Food Preservation Techniques
The Quick Guide to 6 End of Summer Food Preservation Techniques with Recipes from Lorrie Season and Stony Ridge Farm is a 14 page eBook with 6 DIY kitchen projects to preserve the best of summer flavors for winter meals. It is a seasonal living must-have resource.
The Quick Guide to End of Summer Food Preservation includes 6 recipes using each of the basic techniques described The Traditional Methods of Food Preservation post. Lorrie Season is a learn-by-doing resource. The best way to practice traditional food preservation is to begin using the techniques at the end of summer when food is so plentiful and affordable using these safe and simple techniques. Get the eBook and use the recipes to learn how to:
- Acidify with Vinegar
- Use Oil
- Make Alcoholic Cordials
You’ve worked hard all summer in your garden, with your farm share, and managing all those farmers market hauls! Now, make sure you get to enjoy the results with these simple and safe food preservation techniques!
Let’s get seasonal!
If you enjoy seeing life through the lens of the changing seasons, I invite you to stay connected. This is a community of activist-oriented gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.
If you want a loving community to be a part of your seasonal life, please do anyone (or ALL!) of the following:
- Sign up for the newsletter and get my herbal teas and tisanes recipe book for FREE! Tea is always a welcome addition to any time in the kitchen.
- Join our FREE Facebook group where we’re always talking gardens and kitchens.
- Follow me on Instagram and watch the seasons unfold on my 5-acre homestead in Harpers Ferry, WV.