I love my Grandma Helen and especially love her cooking, but one thing she never makes from scratch is cranberry sauce. In fact, her grandchildren chuckle about the fancy serving dish that is always filled with the signature can-shaped glob of red. Maybe your own family stirs it up a bit to disguise the origins, but I’d venture a guess that most cranberry sauce served with Thanksgiving dinner comes from a factory. I’d like to offer a fresher, more healthy alternative that is easier than you think and can actually help you digest your big meal. If your family likes their traditions, serve this one alongside the can-shaped glob and see what happens. As a bonus, this one can be made with some local ingredients, including a natural sweetener like raw honey or maple syrup.
If you are new to fermented foods, let me briefly describe the benefits. (I get so excited about ferments that I’ll try to reign in my enthusiasm and keep it simple.) People have been using fermentation to preserve foods and make them more digestible for thousands of years. Fermentation produces beneficial acids and enzymes that not only preserve the food but make it more digestible and even help you digest other foods. That’s right. A raw, fermented condiment alongside your mostly cooked dinner will provide extra enzymes to help break down the carbs, proteins and fats in your meal. If these foods also taste good, it’s a win win situation. On top of that, raw ferments are full of probiotics. To purchase some of my favorite health promoting ferments, click on this link.
If you are scared to try fermenting your own food at home, this recipe is a good place to start. It uses yogurt whey as a starter culture to make sure that the right kinds of beneficial bacteria are available to start right away at digesting sugars and producing the acids that preserve the food and give it that distinctive character that fermentation enthusiasts crave. Don’t worry, this sauce will still be sweet and spicy after it’s fermented. Some fermented foods take some palate training. This isn’t one of them.
Raw, Fermented Cranberry Sauce
- 1 pint fresh cranberries
- 1 large apple
- 1 medium organic orange
- 1/4 cup whey drained from plain yogurt*
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup raw honey (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (more if you like)
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
First, wash the fruits and cut the apple and orange into chunks, removing the seeds but not the peel. If you are not a huge orange peel fan, remove the peel on just part of the orange. Leave some of it on, though, because it really adds to the flavor in a positive way. Place the fruit in your food processor. (Click this link to see my favorite food processor.) If you don’t have a food processor, it’s alright to chop it in a bowl by hand. My mom has a chopper that is very effective and even fun when used in a wooden bowl. (Click on this link to buy a chopper.) Pulse to chop everything into a fairly fine mush. Don’t demolish it. You will probably still want to see the separate chunks of fruit. Then again, it’s your sauce. Make it as fine or chunky as you like.
After you have finished chopping, move the fruit to a bowl. Crush your cardamom in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. (Click the link to buy a spice grinder.) or with a mortar and pestle. (Click the link to view a mortar and pestle.) I enjoy crushing it the old-fashioned way with a mortar and pestle. That way you get to inhale the sweet smell and do some physical exercise. I suppose you could buy your cardamom already ground, but this way has more flavor. Try it and you will see what I mean. Stir in the raw honey (substitute maple syrup if you like), ginger and cardamom. At this point you will want to taste it for sweetness. Do you taste some tartness from the cranberries along with the sweetness of the honey and the bitterness of the orange peel? Do you want to add more ginger? Go ahead and make it your own! Just don’t go too crazy with the sweetener because too much sweetener may ferment into alcohol in the final product. You could just serve it right away at this point or you could go on to create fermentation magic!
Next, dissolve the salt in the filtered water. Add the salty water along with the whey and mix well. Pack it into a wide mouth mason jar and press the fruit down so that none is sticking up above the liquid. Make sure there is about one inch of air space. Cover the jar and let it ferment for 2 – 3 days on your kitchen counter. You will see tiny bubbles start to form. When you open the jar to check it after two or three days, it may pop a little. Spoon it into a serving dish for your holiday meal or refrigerate and enjoy a few tablespoons here and there with your dinners. It will keep for about two months, but you’ll probably eat it up well before it expires.