Fermented Fennel Cranberry Chutney :: Recipe from Farm to Fermentation Festival

Fermented Fennel Cranberry Chutney

The Farm to Fermentation Festival in Santa Rosa, CA is near and dear to my heart as it is the first fermentation festival I had a chance to go to. In 2011 it was called the Freestone Fermentation Festival, which I wrote about extensively on this blog—the symposium, the feast, and the fest. The event has changed but is at its core still a wonderful way for people to explore the wonderful world of fermented foods and libations. 

It was delightful connecting with old and new friends in the fermentation community, including Kate Payne and Nora Chovanec who will be hosting me at the Austin Fermentation Festival in October. As many of you know I am working on a new book. I met Lisa whose story will be included in the book as she makes a mean fermented Sriracha sauce. It was also delightful to meet Nicole of FARMcurious and Karen who designed the Kraut Source fermenting lid.

The best part—always—is meeting and teaching you, the people, how to ferment vegetables.  I taught a class where we made fermented Fennel Cranberry Chutney. This recipe is in Fermented Vegetables but I made a pint size version for the class that I want to share here. 

This ferment is mild, sweet, and delicious and a friendly flavor for those who are less sure about fermented vegetables in their diet. This is particularly good with poultry—as an addition to a chicken salad or along side grilled chicken.

Fermented Fennel Chutney
Makes 1 pint

This version uses optional pure cranberry juice. The juice adds a little more flavor complexity, pink color and brine. The recipe works either way.

1 bulb fennel, sliced finely, tough parts of core removed
1 small to medium sweet onion, slice finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons raisins
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure cranberry juice (the kind with nothing added)

Remove the fennel stalks (save for adding to soup stock) and any tough parts of the core. Slice the fennel and onions as thinly as possible; mince the garlic and place in bowl. Sprinkle in the salt and massage it in to release the juices. Add the cranberries and raisins. At this point you should have a moist mixture. Press into your favorite fermentation vessel. Follow the instructions that come with that method. Otherwise choose a jar that is just the right size.

Press the vegetables into the jar; there will be only a small amount of brine. Don’t worry if it “disappears” between pressings. As long as the relish is damp, you have enough. At this point you can add the optional cranberry juice—it will give you more brine and a nice pink color.
When you have pressed the chutney into the jar releasing air pockets, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, again without trapping any air. Screw a lid tightly on the jar.

Put this in a corner of the kitchen to cure. Watch for air pockets forming in the paste. If you see them, open the lid and press the paste back down. If the lid starts to bubble up, simply open the lid for a moment to “burp” the ferment. 

Allow to ferment for 7 days. You will know it is ready when the color of the ferment has become dull and there is a slight pickle-y flavor.

During storage, the less airspace above a ferment the longer it will last, so fill the jars to the rim and transfer the ferment to smaller jars as you use it. Keep a small round of plastic wrap or wax paper directly on top of the paste to prevent evaporation and contamination. Tighten the lids and store in fridge. This ferment will keep refrigerated for 6 months.

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