Fermented Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Bog

Cranberry Bog

by Cat, October 2013

Cranberries are closely related to blueberries and huckleberries and are very healthful, being rich in vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants. They also help to prevent urinary tract infections. But did you know that cooking the berries increases the healthful benefits of the berries?  (See also WHFoods.com on cranberries (1) for lots more about the benefits of this fruit.

I have a great holiday recipe for cooked cranberry sauce, with orange, a bit of ginger and sweetened with stevia (see Cranberry-Orange Sauce for recipe). But the more I learn about the health benefits of fermented foods, the more things I want to try fermenting. I’d like to use the basic ingredients of my cooked recipe (without the stevia), for a fermented version. Oh Lardy! (blog) has a good article on fermenting fruits and vegetables: What You Need to Culture Fruits & Vegetables at Home (2).

Researching the fermentation of cranberries

I found the following  recipes:

  • Fermented Cranberries & Ginger (3)
  • Fermented Cranberry Sauce, with Pecans (4)
  • Fermented Cranberry-Apple-Orange Relish (5)
  • Fermented Cranberry Relish (Dairy Free) (6)

Then I adjusted the ingredients of each, for 2 cups (8 oz) cranberries so I could more readily compare them (see comparison of sample recipes, below).

I’ve included honey or sugar in this recipe even though I generally avoid these, because the lacto-bacteria in the whey will digest the sugars to make lactic and other beneficial acids (which is what gives lacto-fermented products their sourness).

Cat’s Fermented Cranberry Relish

Makes about 1 quart; or you can halve it for 1 pint.

Ingredients & Equipment:

Kuhn Rikon Food Chopper

Kuhn Rikon Food Chopper

Food chopper image, right, from pricefalls.com (8)

  • 2 cups (8 0z) organic cranberries (whole)
  • 1 Organic orange
  • ⅓ cup pecans (optional)
  • ⅓ – ½ cup honey Honey or Rapadura/Sucanat sugar, or to taste
  • ¼ cup whey* (or filtered water with scant ½ tsp Culture Starter added)
  • ½ cup filtered water or pure grape juice, or more as needed
  • 1 tsp unrefined sea salt (fine grind), or up to 2 tsp if coarse-grind
  • Optional spices: ⅛ – ¼ tsp each clove, allspice, and/or cinnamon, preferably fresh-ground; and/or 1 – 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • Equipment:
  • 1 quart mason jar (for fermenting)
  • 2 pint mason jars (for storage, optional)
  • food processor, food chopper, hand-held blender with a chopper attachment, or sharp knife
  • wooden pounder, meat hammer, or small potato masher (for pounding down the relish)
  • good quality cheesecloth and string or rubber band

* Note: to make fresh whey, drain yogurt or kefir through cheesecloth at room temperature overnight, collecting the liquid whey that drips out. Save the thickened yogurt/kefir to use like cream cheese.


  • Wash and pick through cranberries to remove soft or otherwise flawed berries.
  • If you don’t want to include the pith of the orange peel, grate or cut off the zest from the orange, then remove the pith to the compost. Cut orange into 4 or more sections (with or without peel attached), then combine with berries and pecans in processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. OR chop each by hand with a knife, retaining juices.
  • Dissolve the salt in 1/2 cup water/juice; add sugar/honey, and stir to combine. Add to fruit/nut mix with spices and whey.
  • Scoop into one half-gallon, or two quart-size wide-mouth mason jar(s) and press down to release juices from the fruit, and to compact the mix below the surface of the liquid. Add more filtered water as needed to ensure the solids are covered.
  • Optional: Weight solids with another jar of water/brine that will fit inside the bigger jar but still stick up above the rim of the bigger jar so you can remove it easily.
  • Cover jar(s) with good quality cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band; let rest on counter at room temperature (70 F is optimal; if cooler than that, it will just take a bit longer to ferment). Check taste after 48 hours. It should be tart and slightly sweet, with only a minimal salty taste. Continue to ferment longer if necessary.
  • When ready, if you used a half-gallon jar, transfer relish to two quart jars. Screw on lids and transfer to refrigerator (or other cold storage) where it will continue to ferment, albeit more slowly.
  • It will keep up to 3 months, refrigerated. After removing some for use, press the remainder down again and add more water if necessary to ensure the surface of the solids are below the liquid surface.


Dec 1, 2013: Mixed up a half recipe as instructed. I don’t have a food processor but do have a hand-operated food chopper, so used that for the cranberries and pecans. It got chopped a bit finer than I intended. I cut up the orange sections with a knife to avoid getting orange juice. Used combo of Rapadura and white sugar; it was too much to dissolve in the small amount of water, but hopefully will dissolve in the final mix. Added light sprinkle of clove, cinnamon & ginger. Scooped into quart jar, pressed down and covered with cheesecloth secured with rubber band. Set on counter. My house is 70F during day but gets down to 62 at night so may need to ferment more than 48 hours. Dec 3, 2013: stirred then gave it a taste. Mmmm. The flavor of clove rather dominates but I’m sure that will mellow. Not too tart and not very sweet. This will be a keeper but I’ll let it remain at RT for a while. Into fridge at bedtime for total 60 hours on counter. Dec 5, 2013: Decided it needs some chunkiness, so chopped up more cranberries, but this time coarsely, then added to the mix and pressed down. Didn’t need more liquid. Left on counter, covered with cheesecloth. Dec 6: Gave it a stir and pressed down again for another day on the counter. Dec 7, 2013: Back to Refrigerator, to wait for Christmas. Dec 31, 2013: I served this with my traditional lutefisk & lefse dinner on Christmas eve – delicious. I’ve been having a little bit each day since then, and shared some with friend Shelli and her boys – they all loved it too!. I call this experiment a success. However, next time, I won’t process them quite as long in the blender – or I’ll use my chopper again – so they will be more chunky. I’d also like to try this with other berry/nut combos.

Comparison of  sample recipes

To get an idea of how to adapt my cranberry sauce recipe for lacto-fermentation, I found four similar recipes, adjusted them for the same quantity of cranberries (2 cups or 8 oz), so that I could compare them. The adjusted ingredients for each is as follows:

Fermented Cranberries & Ginger (¼ recipe (3)):

  • 2 cups (8 oz) cranberries.
  • 2 cups of room temperature water (divided)
  • 1 ¼ Tbsp unrefined sea salt
  • ¼” piece of fresh ginger, peeled or not

Fermented Cranberry Sauce, with Pecans (adjusted for ⅔ recipe (4))

  • 2 cups (8 oz) fresh cranberries
  • ⅓ cup pecans (optional)
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • scant 1 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • ⅓ cup whey OR ⅓ cup filtered water with scant 1/2 tsp Culture Starter
  • ⅓ cup fresh-pressed apple cider
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground clove (optional)
  • Juice from 1 orange (or from ½ orange and 1 lemon)
  • ½ cup raisins

Fermented Cranberry-Apple-Orange Relish (double recipe (5))

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 4 oranges, peeled and quartered, seeds removed
  • 4 apples, washed and quartered, cores removed
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • ½ cup rapadura or sucanat
  • ½ cup whey or water kefir

Fermented Cranberry Relish (Dairy Free)  (adjusted for ⅔ recipe (6))

  • 2 cups raw cranberries
  • 1 navel orange, chopped into large sections
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds, walnuts, or pecans
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup Rapadura or Sucanat
  • ⅓ – ⅔ cup grape juice (you can use any juice)
  • scant 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup dried diced fruit (optional)
  • 1 ½ tsp coarse unrefined sea salt


  1. WHFoods.com on cranberries: whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145
  2. Oh Lardy! article on culturing fruits & veggies: ohlardy.com/what-you-need-to-culture-fruits-and-vegetables
  3. Well Preserved recipe, Fermented Cranberries & Ginger: wellpreserved.ca/fermented-cranberries-and-ginger-recipe-2/
  4. OhLardy! recipe, Fermented Cranberry Sauce, with Pecans: ohlardy.com/fermented-cranberry-sauce
  5. Gnowfiglins recipe: Fermented Cranberry-Apple-Orange Relish: gnowfglins.com/2010/12/20/fermented-cranberry-relish
  6. Oceans of Joy recipe: Fermented Cranberry Relish (Dairy Free): oceansofjoy.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/fermented-cranberry-relish-dairy-free
  7. OhLardy! Fermented Berries recipe: ohlardy.com/lactofermented-berries
  8. Food chopper image: pricefalls.com/product/kuhn-rikon-swiss-vegetable-chopper/28630170

About Cat

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