When you think of honey, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not using it to ferment food. Lacto-fermentation is the more familiar method, using a brine to help create the ideal environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive and simultaneously inhibit the growth of pathogenic organisms. However, it is also possible to use honey, resulting in both a sweetened, preserved food and deliciously infused honey. One of my favourite honey ferments to do in early Fall is Honey Fermented Spiced Cranberries.
Honey has been prized for thousands of years as a delectable sweetener. It has also been used as an anti-bacterial agent and preservative. Honey’s low pH (acidity) and extremely low water content help to kill off any invading microbes. Raw honey has been used to treat wounds, infections and bolster the immune system. Some studies have shown that particular types of honey are effective against certain human pathogens (1) . This probably doesn’t sound like the ideal ingredient for fermentation, a preservation method relying on microbes as the main ingredient!
By simply increasing the water content, honey’s smothering anti-bacterial defence is weakened. Beneficial bacteria are allowed entry and the wild yeasts that were dormant in raw honey are stimulated.
These yeasts kickstart the fermentation process by consuming the glucose and fructose found in the honey (and fructose from the fruit), producing alcohol, carbon dioxide and acetic acid. These fermentation byproducts, along with keeping the ferment in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment, preserve the food and create amazing flavour.