One of the benefits of cooking with fresh ingredients is that you can preserve unused leftovers for a future date. We had ‘extra’ cranberries that were leftover from the holidays and decided to preserve them; had we bought sauce (or ‘jelly’), there would have been few options to preserve it as it is, essentially, an end product.
I decided against making sauce; we just don’t have enough occasions to eat it and I really enjoy making it the day we use it. We had a fair number of cranberries left and wanted to take them in a different direction – so we decided on fermenting them (this ‘recipe’ takes about 10 minutes of active time).
We had 2 pounds of cranberries. Enough to easily fit in a large (2 quart) mason jar. I love the 2-quarts (which may be tough to find in the US) as they are large – and wide-mouthed. This makes using another jar as a ‘weight’ easy. The key to fermenting is ensuring the product is completely submerged by the brine so we place a jar filled with brine on top of the cranberries as a weight and pack the jar just enough that the smaller jar can sit inside the larger while ensuring the tops of both jars are more-or-less level to assist in removing the smaller jar when needed.
If you can’t find a large mason jar, using a crock r a 1-quart jar is fine (just use a 1-cup or half-cup jar as your weight) and cut the recipe in half (or use two jars).
Before sharing how to make this easy recipe, let’s share some ideas on what to do with the finished product. I should mention that I’m jumping the shark a little bit here as we are about 6 days into the fermentation and, while it’s not complete, we had our first tastes last night and think we know where it’s going and what we’ll do with it:
- They can be eaten as-is. They are less bitter than you imagine a cranberry to be and have become sour like you would expect with fermentation (i.e. a kosher pickle). Treated as a relish (you could also add some lemon confit) this could be ideal with a strong fish.
- They can be rinsed (removing some of the salt profile) and added to salads or even a stir-fry.
- They could easily be added to stuffing (rinsed or not).
- I added maple syrup to a small dish of the berries and maple syrup and it was delightful as-is or could be added to yogurt.
- I keep thinking of placing a few of these in a bottom of a shot glass, covering it with vodka, waiting a few minutes and… Well, you get the picture.
- 2 pounds of cranberries (or as much as you want). Inspect and pick out any ‘bad’ ones
- 7 cups of room temperature water plus 1 cup of room temperature water
- 5 tablespoons salt
- Ginger – we used a solid hunk, about an inch wide. I leave the skin on but you can peel if you prefer.
- If your water source is chlorinated you want to measure it out as soon as possible – let it sit in the widest vessel you have for 30 minutes or so to let the chlorine evaporate (I’ve always believed this to be important but don’t have the scientific proof this works, would love to know if anyone does).
- Combine the salt and 1-cup of water and heat until dissolved (stirring will help). Once it’s diluted, add to the 7 cups of water (this will help cool it which is important to the process).
- Finely chop the ginger (I put it in the food processor and chop it well).
- Chop the cranberries. I use a food processor (if you do the same, only add a bit at a time – you still want large chunks and if you fill the processor more than 40 or 50% you’ll have a lot of very fine pieces).
- Pour the cranberries into a large wide-mouthed mason jar. Once the water is at room temperature, cover the cranberries with it – remembering to leave room for the ‘weight jar’ that will sit on top.
- Jiggle the jar to allow the liquid to settle through the fruit.
- Add the weight jar, fill it with brine. The extra brine will be useful if you have any spilling during fermenting.
- Store in a warm place, covered with cheesecloth. Know that fermenting like this can cause the liquid to overflow (which is why we don’t use a lid as this would cause excessive pressure) so place it somewhere that is 70 degrees plus and won’t be ruined if it overflows (I keep it on a plate on the counter).
- Check every day – if there’s mould (there likely won’t be) on the surface, it’s ok to skim it and set it aside.
- Check after 3-5 days (sooner if it’s hot). Check by removing the weight jar and tasting. If it’s too salty, rinse.
- When the pickles reach the flavor and texture you want, remove the weight jar (this will leave room for expansion; don’t worry about adding all the extra brine if things are covered) and store in fridge (this will slow fermentation).
- Let us know what you think!
How do you like to preserve cranberries – or how would you like to?