The cranberries and turkey stuffing are what I most look forward to each Thanksgiving and therefore also what I hoard when it comes time to divvy up the leftovers. Besides a few other dishes, I am always in charge of making the fresh cranberry relish–otherwise there is no guarantee it will show up. And I am pretty sure most years the family rolls their eyes when they see my giant bowl of relish. I’m telling you it’s not just a condiment!
Since I am working on expanding the types of fermented foods we eat, and how often we eat them, now seemed like the time to go beyond the world of fermented beets and cucumbers and ferment something new. My answer: the Thanksgiving cranberry relish. Maybe no one else in the family would miss it overly much, but since I stocked up on fresh cranberries as soon as they appeared in the store, I need a way to use them. Bonus: while you are enjoying your holiday foods, might as well get some good bacteria in your belly, right?!
If you are wondering what this whole fermentation thing is, here’s a brief bit of background. In the simplest terms, lacto-fermentation is a traditional method for preserving food; through the fermentation lactic acid is produced which both to preserves the food and gives you all that healthy bacteria that your gut needs. While a lot more could be said, that is the basic principle. For more in depth information, I recommend Cultures for Health and a 3-series post on Nourishing Days, both of which I found incredibly helpful.
When we started GAPS, and I began to understand the importance of incorporating fermented foods into as many meals as possible, I felt completely overwhelmed (a few tears may have been involved—starting GAPs was a little overwhelming). The reality is, however, that it’s really not crazy or difficult to ferment foods; with a little planning I can get veggies or fruits ready for fermentation while dinner is cooking or while I’m starting a batch of kombucha (and if you’re not making kombucha-do it!) We’re still working on the getting-everybody-to-eat-some-at-every-meal part…
Lacto-Fermented Cranberry Apple Ginger Relish
2 large apples
16 oz fresh cranberries (if they are frozen, thaw and drain extra liquid)
2 tsp cinnamon (I used Ceylon cinnamon which is generally less “spicy” so you may want to use a little less)
1 tsp of ground ginger or grated fresh (fresh is best but use what you have)
1 tsp of sea salt
Half-gallon mason jar
“Kraut Kap” optional, but recommended by me! A note about kraut kaps: While it is possible to ferment without using these, I haven’t done it. If you want to ferment just using a jar, you need to be careful to keep everything submerged and use a weight of some sort. There are a lot of resources to learn techniques to ferment without the kraut kaps, but I haven’t tried it. The kaps I used are these from the Primal Kitchen Company.
Once you have gotten your ingredients lined up, you have already conquered half the battle! Gently wash your produce. You should be using organic, so don’t go crazy. You want the naturally occurring bacteria, so don’t wash it all off.
Cut and core your apple, leaving the peel on, put it in the food processor and give it a rough chop. You can chop it finer if you want as well, mine is pretty fine because my kids and husband prefer mush and nobody around here really cares what I like. Ha!
Add the cranberries and give it another whirl. When it’s at a consistency you like, dump them into a mixing bowl. Add the ginger and cinnamon and mix well.
Next you want to make a brine, which is just sea salt and water. Obviously in this recipe we want to be careful how much salt we use, I used just under a teaspoon. You may also buy a vegetable starter (see Cultures for Health for one). However, this isn’t necessary to ferment, but gives it a “boost”. You can use the naturally occurring bacteria on your fruits/veggies with the same results. You may also add whey,which I have done in other ferments, but didn’t here.
To make my brine I mixed my sea salt with a small amount of water—about ½ cup. Then tossed it in the mix bowl and stirred really well. Besides stirring you’ll find you want to sort of “mash” your ingredients into the brine.
Next, you are going to add this all to your mason jar. Pack it all in tightly, smush it with a spoon, do what it takes! The idea is to make sure you don’t have a lot of air pockets. Your liquid should rise to the top. You may need to add more water so that the relish is covered. I added close to another ½ cup. The amount of liquid will vary on how juicy your cranberries and apples are. Make sure you relish is covered with liquid.
Last, assemble your kraut kaps and store your jar in a dark area at room temperature. Ferments will take a varying amount of time, but since this is fruit it will ferment fairly quickly. I fermented mine for three days. The warmer the temperature, the faster the ferment. How can you tell it’s ready? When it’s fermented you should start to notice some very small bubbles. Give it a little nudge if you can’t tell. When it’s ready move it the fridge. That’s it!
This relish won’t be super-sweet but I think it is delicious! For my taste, this could have done well with a little more ginger so if you like the ginger-cranberry combo you could up the amount you use. I purposely kept it mild for the family.
That’s it– I’m currently serving this batch up with baked chicken and generally just eating it by the spoonful. I’ll be making more before the big Turkey-day and with the next batch I think I’ll add a little orange too.
Now on to the stuffing… 😉