Date: October 15, 2017

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 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.


2-week old honey fermented 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 helps 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.

Adding raw honey to pierced cranberries

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.


  1.  A bowl of these ruby gems makes a stunning and delicious side dish to any Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner.  Serve them unheated to retain the beneficial bacteria (probiotics).
  2. The honey will become very runny and infused with a delicate, cranberry essence. Drizzle it on your favourite dish in place of plain honey for extra flavour.
  3. Serve the berries on a cheese platter (best paired with washed rind cheeses, brie, camembert, goat cheese)
  4. Eat the berries whole!  The cranberries become infused with the honey and retain a slight tartness.
fresh cranberries, ginger, star anise and cinnamon sticks

Wash cranberries, lightly mash or pierce skins
Completely cover cranberries with honey
buoyant cranberries: berries are wrinkled, juices released in honey


Recipe by Jody GowansCourse: Fermentation, Recipes

Fermentation time: 1 – 2 months


  • Fresh cranberries 

  • Unpasteurized honey

  • Fermentation container

  • Fermentation weight* (optional)

  • Optional
  • Spices- (cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, fresh ginger)

  • Citrus juice (orange, tangerine, etc) and/or zest


  • Wash and dry cranberries, discard any berries showing signs of rot
  • Poke a few holes in each berry, or use a masher to slightly break open the berries’ skins.
  • Add berries, spices and juice (if using) to fermentation container, leaving a 1″ space to the top of the container
  • Add honey making sure to cover berries completely.
  • Add fermentation weight (if using) and close container.  
  • Place container in a bowl or plate to capture any excess spill over during fermentation.
  • Leave to ferment out of direct sunlight at room temperature (ideally 55-75?F (18-22? C)) for 1-2 months.
  • The berries are naturally buoyant and will float for most of the fermentation period.  Make sure to give the container a shake every other day to ensure all berries are covered by the honey, and use a weight to help keep them submerged. 
  • If you are not using a fermentation weight, you can invert the jar on a dish or bowl to ensure the berries are submerged in the honey.
  • Keep in a sealed container for long-term storage

26 Responses

    1. ?
      !Hola Gracias por su inter?s y pregunta! No necesitas agregar ning?n l?quido adicional a la miel. Los jugos de las bayas son adecuados. Aseg?rese de perforar las bayas antes de agregarlas a la miel para acelerar la liberaci?n de los jugos de las bayas en la miel.

  1. Hi Jody, I?ve just made a jar of your lovely spiced cranberries.
    I have put in a glass weight but I was wondering if I would still use an airlock? Being undecided I put one one the mason jar.

    Thank You

    1. Hi Shirley-thanks for your interest and question! This is an easy and delicious ferment! No need for an airlock- this ferment doesn’t produce a lot of carbon dioxide. If you see the lid of the mason jar buckling, loosen the lid (do not remove it) to release the built-up CO2. Enjoy!

  2. I don’t have any weights that I can use in a jar to hold the cranberries down. I left some headspace in the jar, but the berries float to the top. I keep them coated by tilting the jar upside down and back so they stay coated, but the cranberries are not submerged in the honey. Do I fill the honey to the top of the jar and put the lid right on top of it? I’m using pint canning jars. If it’s better to use weights, where would I get weights for jars? Thank you

    1. Hi Kate-you can either keep flipping the jar to keep the berries coated, or you can add a weight. A weight can be anything that is “food grade”- I use glass discs depending on the size of the jar I am using. the easiest method is with a Ziplock bag- the small freezer bags are best as they are very sturdy- after placing your ferments in the jar put a ziplock bag on the surface. make a fist and push the ferment down under the brine, add water or a brine to the ziplock, until the ferment is submerged. lid the jar.

    1. Hi Leah- Alcohol is present during all ferments that include fruit, however it is minute a few months into the ferment. I found that a 3-5 month ferment was good- beyond that the alcohol was too dominant and overpowered the other flavours in the ferment. I am more concerned about the flavour profile- remember that this is a condiment, so you are consuming small portions at a time and should not be affected by the minute amount of alcohol in the portion.

  3. hola quiero agregarle un gramo de levadura y de especie quiero agregarle la canela, y la pregunta es la canela la tengo que triturar o la dejo normal en el envase.
    muchas gracias desde Colombia-bogota

    1. Hola David! puede añadir canela en polvo o una rama de canela, a su elección, no afectará al fermento. No es necesario añadir ninguna levadura – hay levadura en la miel, en los arándanos y en el ambiente

  4. Hai Jody,when the process is done. Is it contain an alcohol? Or become a honey vinegar?
    I’m Indonesia. Thank you for answer.

  5. Hi! And thanks for the recipe! Do I close the jar tightly when I set this to ferment, or should it just be loose? Don?t want exploding jars!

    1. Hi Laura- you should close the jar tightly and burp the ferment daily (loosen, then tighten the lid) to expel any built-up carbon dioxide. After a few weeks, the ferment will calm down and you will not have to burp it daily.

  6. Hi Jody, im trying easy ways of fermenting and im new in this. Will the cranberries soften if i forget to crack them. 🙁 thank you!

    1. Hi Teresa- thank you for your interest and question. The cranberries will still ferment, but very slowly. Their skins are very tough, which is why it is advisable to pierce them.

    1. Hi Lora- thanks for your question! I like to add the honey fermented cranberries to yogurt, ice cream, as a garnish to poultry, and I add it to my cranberry sauce recipe. I sent out the recipe in my last newsletter and have added it here:

      This is my go-to recipe for cranberry sauce. I have been making it for over 10 years, and it never fails to please at Thanksgiving and Christmas! I have adjusted the recipe slightly to incorporate Honey-Spiced Fermented Cranberries (which I started adding a few years ago). I like to freeze the leftover sauce in small containers to use on cheese platters, in wraps and salads, etc.

      (serves approximately twelve)

      2 cups strained fresh orange juice
      3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
      1/4 cup maple syrup
      1 cinnamon stick
      2 star anise
      1 tsp grated orange zest
      1/2 to 1 cup Honey Fermented Spiced Cranberries

      1. In a heavy-bottom pot, combine all ingredients except the Honey Fermented Spiced Cranberries
      2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer.
      3. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened , about 30 minutes.
      4. Remove from heat and let cool completely to room temperature (it will thicken as it cools).
      5. Stir in Honey Fermented Spiced Cranberries.

      Store in the fridge, serve at room temperature

  7. Hi first time trying this I used good honey not store bought but not raw does it matter I hope it is not wasted I made a quart

    1. Hi Tracy- Thanks for your question. Yes, raw honey is even better than store-bought. The main goal is to use unpasteurized honey, so your raw honey is definitely great to use and you are lucky to have it- it’s very hard to find! Good luck and enjoy!

  8. How long term is the storage for these? I had done this before with marvelous results but was concerned about how long I should be keeping them. Does the sealed container need to be air tight? Are there any other requirements? Does refrigeration interfere with this process? Sometimes we like to eat this cold.

    1. Hi Teresa- thanks for your interest! Your question comes at a good time. I just inspected a jar I made last year that I have been storing in my cupboard. The cranberries and honey are still well-preserved with no signs of mould. The alcohol level has gone up (as would be with a fruit ferment) and the honey is very watery. The pH is approximately 3. It still tastes amazing. I used an airtight Fido jar. Refrigeration slows down fermentation and would make the honey thick, but it will still be living.

    1. Hi Debbie, thanks for your question. I wouldn’t recommend dried cranberries. One of the keys to this ferment being successful is the introduction of liquid into the honey (in this case from the fresh cranberries). Not sure where you are located, but fresh cranberries are in season in North America right now and readily available in grocery stores at least until February/March.

    1. Hi Olga, thanks for your question. I haven’t used frozen cranberries for this ferment. While this type of ferment is based on wild yeasts and bacteria, they might be viable on your frozen berries (if they’re organic, microbes can survive freezing temperatures)It might be worth a try. Sorry, not sure where you are located, but cranberries are coming into season in Eastern North America- this would be when I would start .

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