I once lived on a bog.
Come fall, the bogs of Cape Cod are filled with water. Gigantic wheeled machines agitate the vines, and the cranberries float to the top. Breathtaking is an insufficient word to describe the colour.
My appreciation for the cranberry knows no bounds. I am the rare fan of unsweetened cranberry juice, the kind that makes your face pucker. I brew cranberry iced tea in summer, and I make cranberry edibles. Because of all of that, I suspect I have the urinary health of a racehorse. (I actually have no idea if racehorses have healthy urinary tracts or not, but it sounded like a good flex).
Admittedly, there are a limited number of things you can do with a cranberry. You can juice it. You can jam it. But I rarely see a truly creative application — you won’t find deep fried cranberries on any menu, nor will you find them among the apples as part of a fondue setup. Yet I am always looking for new and inventive ways to celebrate the smallest hero on the Thanksgiving table.
Good news, I found one: Fermenting cranberries in honey.
Why ferment them? Fermented foods are great for you, and fermenting cranberries ups the ante on the underrated fruit’s health benefits. The honey also sweetens the cran, giving it a candy-like quality — popping them into your mouth is quite delightful. The honey can be used on its own, but I prefer eating fermented crans in their honey to any cranberry sauce I’ve experienced.
They look good in slow-motion too:
Now, if you’re with me on this, you need to get to the farmers market or store today and dump them suckers into a jar. The one thing this recipe needs is time, and you’ve only got a few weeks until Thanksgiving (and about eight until Christmas).
The procedure is otherwise very low effort. It’s as simple as washing your cranberries, stuffing them into a jar — packed tight but not crushed — then filling it with honey. Cover it, flip it every day or so, and burp it every few days. It will soon begin to bubble.
Raw honey is your best bet here — runny raw honey, specifically. If yours is not runny, don’t microwave it — you’ll kill the bacteria you need for fermentation. Heat it up slowly on the stove, just enough to get it to run, then pour it into the jar with the cranberries. You absolutely must cover all of the cranberries with honey. As long as they’re in the honey, you’re golden. You can use a weight for to keep them submerged. I like these.
You should only use berries that are in good shape — they can’t be soft or have any bad spots. Firm, ripe berries are your goal. You can add citrus peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, etc., but I keep it simple: cranberries and local honey.
I usually give this ferment two weeks, minimum, before even bothering to taste it; this is a treat that improves with age, which is why starting today is important. Bubbling is a good sign, but even without bubbling, after 3–4 weeks the honey will have infused into the cranberries. By Thanksgiving, it will be delicious, and by Christmas, it will be the star of the show.
If you are someone who gets easily weirded out by the risks of fermented foods (which are low, but present), invest in some pH strips and ensure the pH is within the 3.5–4.6 range before tasting.
Add the honey to holiday cocktails or drizzle it on pancakes, cakes, or tarts. You can also dehydrate the crans after fermenting for an even more interesting snack. This honey is also incredible in tea, extraordinary in lemonade, and transcendent in hot toddies. (And it is hot toddy season.)
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