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- NATURE’S PRESERVATIVE
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!
USING HONEY IN FERMENTATION
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.
HOW TO USE HONEY FERMENTED CRANBERRIES
- 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).
- 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.
- Serve the berries on a cheese platter (best paired with washed rind cheeses, brie, camembert, goat cheese)
- Eat the berries whole! The cranberries become infused with the honey and retain a slight tartness.
HONEY FERMENTED SPICED CRANBERRIESCourse: Fermentation, Recipes
Fermentation time: 1 – 2 months
Fermentation weight* (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