Fermented Cranberry Relish

Fermentation is the secret to this fresh sweet and sour cranberry relish. If you haven’t yet made a cultured food, let this foolproof recipe be your gateway to tangible kitchen magic. Yes, you can effortlessly transform the flavor and healthfulness of basic ingredients into a superior product.

Fermented Cranberry Relish
Fermented Cranberry Relish

I delight in the simplicity of this recipe and most often make it with just three ingredients. But I also enjoy embellishing it with ginger or other spices and by adding up to 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts. The just mixed ingredients taste tart, bitter and sugary. But fermentation reduces the sugar, heightens the berries’ own sweetness and gives the relish a feisty tang. There is no need to add a starter.

Yield: 3 cups

16 ounces (4 cups) fresh organic cranberries
1 organic orange, seeded and chopped; reserve 1/2 of the peel
2/3 cup honey or 3/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon chopped ginger (optional)

Pick over the cranberries to remove any possible spoiled ones; wash and drain well. Place the berries, orange, orange peel, and honey in a food processor and coarsely chop (do not reduce to a puree). Add the ginger and/or nuts, if using.

Pack tightly into a clean wide-mouth jar. Cover and leave out at room temperature for 1 day. Taste it and use it now or, to increase its zesty flavor, let it ferment for an additional day or two. As it ferments the color deepens to a dark red. Periodically taste it (always with a clean spoon so you don’t introduce unwanted bacteria into your culture) to appreciate its increasing vibrancy. When the taste suits you, cover and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

72 Responses to Fermented Cranberry Relish

  1. Hello Rebecca!
    We’ve gone through nearly a GALLON of the cranberry relish since November (I’ve given it as gifts to many of my holiday guests)

    Wondering if this would work equally well with Blackberries?
    Do cranberries have any inherent qualities (acid, or otherwise) that make it especially suited for fermentation? Or will any berry combination do? Thanks in advance.

    • Deb…it’s just the best, isn’t it! For those of you who haven’t tried this relish yet, it really is that tasty and a good year-round condiment. Fruit left at room temperature either ferments or rots. Fruits with a higher percentage of sugar and/or water (like blackberries) turn faster than those with less (like cranberries). So monitor your experiment by tasting it and reduce the fermentation period as necessary.

      I tried combining cranberries and blueberries and neither myself or grandkids were happy with the result. But experiment and let us know your findings.

      • Thanks for your quick reply Rebecca.
        I just started a batch of 50/50 cranberries and blackberries. I used a lemon instead of the orange to try to tone down both the liquid and the sweetness.
        I’ll post my results. Fresh out of the processor, it tastes fantastic. Finger’s crossed.

        • Well I just refrigerated this and it turned out wildly wonderful. I think my favorite batch thus far!
          10 oz cranberries
          6 oz blackberries
          1 lemon
          3/4 cup sugar.
          The only adjustment was to add the blackberries last and only pulse a couple of times so as to leave them a little bit chunky. I let this ferment about a week.
          It’s divine and a gorgeous dark purple color.

  2. I also tried this with pomegranates (frozen pomegranate seeds) and blueberries. Equally delicious, although—perhaps because they were frozen, it came out more as a drink.

  3. I had 2 cups of fermented chopped cranberries left from making cranberry vodka. Will add the sugar and oranges from your recipe to see what we get!

  4. Can the maple syrup / sugar / sweetener be omitted? Will the naturally occurring sugars in the fruit be enough to sustain the fermentation?

  5. I don’t have access to cranberries, only dried ones.

    Will this recipe work with different fruits, such as blueberries, raspberries and so on?

  6. Does it need to sit out in the open in lit areas or does it need to be in a dark space such as a closed shelf?

  7. I can’t wait to try this recipe! I am wondering if I could use frozen cranberries, as I already have some in my freezer (I would thaw them first, of course).

  8. I am in LOVE with this relish. Used your basic recipe, added crushed cardamom seed from about 4 pods, couple handfuls of chopped pecans and chopped celery. Just scrumptious . Thank you.

  9. I read instructions for my water kefir that fermenting with honey isn’t good because of it’s antibacterial properties which slows the fermentation. Also for low carb diets or diabetics, this needs to ferment longer to reduce the grams of carbohydrates from that much sugar.

  10. This is the first time I’ve used my Vitamix for something other than a smoothie. The chopping worked beautifully and the relish looks and smells amazing! I’m so excited to see how it ferments overnight, and share it with my family tomorrow for Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  11. You don’t specify raw honey, but I’d assume it should be? I’ve got some local but not raw which we were given and I’d like to use up, so it would be nice if it didn’t! 😉

  12. Thanks for the recipe. I only received 2 cups of organic cranberries from my CSA, so I cut the recipe in half. With the smaller volume, it only fills the jar 3/4 of the way full. Do I need to put it into something else / pack it down in some way for it to ferment properly? How does the air exposure change the process? Thanks!

  13. Hi, I’m getting ready to try your recipe but noticed a typo- you call for “16 oz (4 cups)” of cranberries, but 16 oz is really just 2 cups, so my question is should I use 16oz/2 cups or 4 cups of berries?

  14. I made my batch just tonight. Organic cranberries, fresh tangerines from a friend’s tree & local tupelo honey. Perfect timing as Thanksgiving is just next week. Thanks!

  15. I am just wondering if you cover it with the metal lid and screw top? Does it need to be burped? If so how often? Thanks

  16. I’m allergic to citrus. Can I skip the Orange? Sounds great otherwise. My daughter keeps wanting to get some fresh cranberries from the store.

  17. I think I’ll make this, but it’s going to have to be with conventional cranberries. Organic ones are just outrageously expensive. I do buy organic produce when I can. Should I do the vinegar soak on my cranberries (since they’re conventional) prior to getting this ferment going? Are the nuts added during the ferment or just prior to eating?

    • As possible, favor organic. For non organic, consider the H2O2 bath as per the directions in my book, Bugs Eating You. Add nuts with other ingredients.

  18. This looks great! Going to try it for thanksgiving this year. I am curious, do you know why some fermented cranberry sauces require whey or kombucha and some don’t? I was wondering if you need to introduce a culture?

  19. Love this recipe. Great way to eat cranberries. Do you have a recipe for fermented pomegranate seeds? Thank you and happy new year!!

    • I was so happy to find fresh cranberries last week and so just made another batch myself! What will we do when cranberries are out of season? And perhaps you have the answer–pomegranate relish. It should work just fine. Let us know.

  20. I have a cranberry relish that was in the refrigerator for over 2 weeks, and I saw it had a greyish mold like stuff on top when I took it out this evening. Is it bad? It does taste good!

    • Trust your taste! Yes, it’s still good. Surface growth is common and not cause for alarm; simply remove and discard this so-called kham yeast. Next time be sure to scrape down the interior sides of the jar well to reduce oxygen exposure. Also if you’re going to keep it beyond several weeks, occasionally use up the top layer.

  21. I’ve made this and it’s delicious and I just read on another site that you should not use honey since it is anti-bacterial! Do you agree?

  22. I made this on Saturday, and kept it out on the shelf above the stove for 3 days. I put it in the fridge last night. It’s very very delicious! I didn’t read the comments, so didn’t see your comment about what kind of cover to use, so I used cloth for the first day and then the regular mason jar lid for the last two days. This was my first success at fermentation! Thank you for the recipe and inspiration!

    • Cover the fermenting berries to keep flies or dust out with a covering of your choice–plastic, metal, paper, a bamboo sushi mat, cloth, etc.

  23. Hi, I just made your recipe with organic cranberries and oranges and it already tastes yummy. Do we have to add more sweetener to keep the ferment going longer? If someone wants nuts in there, would I add them before fermenting or when serving? Thanks!

    • Isn’t it just great! Once fermented to your liking, it will keep refrigerated for weeks (with or without extra sweetener). I ferment it with the nuts.

  24. This recipe sounds Fab! Whenever I reference New Whole Foods Encyclopedia or read your blog I feel better. “Well nourished.” Giving Thanks for Rebecca Wood’ s steady wisdom, bounty of knowledge, and genereous spirit.

  25. Do you know if maple syrup could be substituted for the honey? I’d expect it could, with a related change in the flavor profile, but thought I’d ask . . . 🙂


    • Sure, you could substitute a grapefruit instead of an orange. You could also use (organic) orange peel for the flavor. Basically you’re fermenting cranberries with sugar and adding flavoring ingredients to taste.

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