A Cranberry a Day...

Relish this chevre log

Cranberry relish might just be more American than Apple pie. (Gasp!) Let me tell you why I think so. Cranberries, Vaccinium macrocarpon and Vaccinium oxycoccus L., are one of the three commercial fruit crops that are indigenous to the North American continent. Wild cranberries are found from Maine to Wisconsin, along the Appalachians to North Carolina. Cranberries are now an introduced crop in the Northwest–Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The Native Americans used the cranberry extensively. This tart berry that is found growing in bogs and marshes was a significant food source and a strong medicine.  The native peoples ate them raw, they used the berries as an ingredient in pemmican, and they made a poultice for blood poisoning. They also prepared them in a way we might recognize today–sweetened with maple syrup.  It is widely agreed upon that cranberries were on the first Thanksgiving table, as the colonists had begun to incorporate cranberries into their diet.

We should also be including cranberries in our diet on a regular basis. Cranberries have a long list of health benefits; they are full of antioxidants, they are anti-inflammatory, they are thought to protect against food poisoning and various cancers. By fermenting them you will get all these benefits unadulterated by the sugar and other juice additives.

With fermentation you also have the advantage of buying them now, while they are fresh, in season, and regularly on sale because of their prominent spot on our holiday tables.  Once fermented they are preserved and you can continue to enjoy this tasty condiment throughout the year. 

I had fun creating these recipes, which debuted this year on our Thanksgiving table. The positive reception and the empty bowl at the end of the meal assures they will be back.

The first recipe is a  simple conversion of the traditional cooked cranberries with oranges to a raw fresh fermented recipe. I did not want to ferment with sugar and  found that adding juice-sweetened dried cranberries balanced out the tartness of the fresh ones. If this is not sweet enough, simply splash a bit of maple syrup or honey into the relish before serving.

For a festive holiday cheese log ladle the relish over log of plain chevre.

Cranberry Orange Relish

Makes a little more than a quart

2–8 oz. packages fresh cranberries

1 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

2 oranges–zest of one orange, and sliced sections of both

½ teaspoon salt

Wash the cranberries. Place in food processor and pulse a few times until they are slightly chopped. Put these in a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Press this into a small crock or jar, making sure all of the air pockets are pressed out. The brine will be a little thick from the oranges; this is okay. Follow it with plastic wrap and the weights from your crock, or water-filled jar that fits in your jar.  Allow to sit at room temperature for 5–7 days. Refrigerate when done.


Another variation of this recipe is to add: 1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger.

Chopped cranberries ready for fermentation

The second relish is a surprise if you are used to the spiced citrus cranberries. It is bold; the cranberries and horseradish work together to make a relish fit for pulled pork or prime rib.

In the first attempt at this recipe I thought I would sweetened it with apple slices. I thought the apple would soften and the sweetness would balance the tart of the cranberry. The apples stayed crispy, which was nice, but they soaked up all the tartness of the cranberry, which was a little overwhelming.  I salvaged that batch for consumption by drizzling a few tablespoons of honey into it, but I won’t be repeating it. I made a second batch with fruit juice-sweetened cranberries. It was perfect.

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

Makes a little more than a quart


2–8 oz. packages fresh cranberries

1 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh horseradish root

(note: if you have never worked with horseradish root, work quickly, as the volatile compounds released can make you cry)

½ teaspoon salt


Follow the same procedure as above.

See previous post for:

Pickled Whole Cranberries