We Can Phickle That! Pickled Cranberries!


Yes, I know it’s Halloween and not Thanksgiving.  I’m sorry to be that person, but a fermenter must always prepare.

Happy Halloween!  Although I’m a huge fan of the holiday. When else do adults get to let their creativity shine? I don’t care what Dan Savage says, if you use this day as an opportunity to let your boobs and butts shine instead of your creativity, I don’t think you’re that cool.  Personally, I’ll be pouring myself a heaping cup of blood beet kvass before I head out to show off my halloween spirit at a party tonight.  My husband’s favorite holiday is Halloween, so we tend to do it up.  We have a costume budget and we tend to take the afternoon pretty much off to get our costume details perfected.  It’s fun!

Although I love Halloween, my favorite holiday has traditionally been Thanksgiving.  It’s mellow, and the food is a fall feast.  I get to see my family and just enjoy our traditions.

This year, I’ll be introducing a new side dish to my Thanksgiving table.  I think it’s pretty spectacular.  It will be perfect on a cheese platter and even better mixed into some mashed potatoes (okay, maybe I’m weird).  The tart acidity of these pickled cranberries seems like the perfect thing to cut what can sometimes be a starchy meal.

Cranberries skewered

There are so many ways to serve these!  Drink garnish, cheese board accompaniment, starchy dish mix-in.  Go nuts!

This was a first time experiment for me, and frankly, I wasn’t sure it would work. I didn’t know if the bogs in which cranberries are grown would contain the necessary bacteria, present in the soil, to kickstart fermentation.  They also contain anti-bacterial compounds that are wonderful when you have a urinary tract infection, but could have potentially been an issue for my favorite little lactic microbes.  I thought I’d give it a couple tries and if fermentation didn’t initiate on its own, I’d throw a bit of kefir whey in there to get them going.  No need, though!  Although they took their sweet time getting started, they fermented beautifully once they got going.  So be patient and get started now, unless you’re looking to have them only for the Christmas table.

As always, feel free to change up the seasonings.  If you aren’t a sweet/salty fan, you may want to omit the orange peel.


Fall abundance is my favorite abundance


makes ~1 pint of pickled cranberries.  Easily scalable.

New to fermented pickling?  Check out this pickling FAQ before you get started.


2 cups cranberries (I used organic)

1 tablespoon orange peel (organic), NO PITH.  Make your pieces as large and long as you can, but make sure all pith is removed.  It will impart bitterness rather than flavor.

1 cup of brine (2 teaspoons of salt dissolved into 1 cup of room temperature water)


  1. Place orange peel pieces at the bottom of a pint jar.
  2. Add washed cranberries.
  3. Pour brine over your cranberries and submerge them using a weight. (I used the cheapo jar method)
  4. Mine showed no signs of activity for a week!  Once they started going they were maniacs, and at 3 weeks, they were firm and pickly.
  5. Once they have the acidity you enjoy, place a lid on your jar and stick them in the fridge or eat them.  I find myself snacking on them, so I’ll have to make a pretty big batch for the big day.

Enjoy your ghouls and goblins, tonight!!


    • Amanda says

      Let me know how they turn out, Becky! I’m trying to keep them until Thanksgiving, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely, since they’re my new pickle candy :-).

    • Amanda says

      Very cool Deanna! Thanks. They are simple to make, and very pretty! I’m thinking I’ll save the brine as a tonic for any future friends with urinary tract infections.

  1. says

    These look great! I’m going to try them tonight (in time for Thanksgiving?), but I was wondering what you thought of adding a bit of ginger in addition to the orange. Orange/ginger is one of my favorite flavor combos!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Rachel,

      The addition of ginger sounds fantastic to me! Mine took 3 weeks to get where I wanted them, but you’re pretty close to that at this point. Worst case scenario, you’ll have some lightly pickled, wonderfully flavored cranberries for your Thanksgiving table, and most likely they’ll be perfect. Just make sure to keep them in the warmer parts of your home if at all possible. Let me know how they turn out!



  2. Laura says

    So, I meant to start this weeks ago when I bought cranberries right after I read this. Now I am going out of town. What happens if I start to ferment and then I put them in the fridge? Can I take them out and let them ferment more in a few weeks? Also, unrelated to this, I got a Scoby a few weeks ago but have not found a large container to make my brew in. Is it bad to leave my scoby in a jar? I have heard conflicting reports about it being bad to put it in the fridge. What is the best way to keep it if I will not be able to use it for a few more weeks? Thanks!!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Laura,

      Definitely keep your SCOBY at room temperature. The cold temps can kill of yeast and unbalance the community. If you put it in a jar with a cloth rubber-banded to the top and stick it in a cupboard or on a countertop, it will be fine. Add fresh, sweet (room-temperature) so that it has food. You don’t need a huge container to do this. A quart jar is fine.

      I would personally leave these cranberries out to ferment unless you’re leaving town for a month or longer. They are pretty slow fermenters, and it’s very unlikely to be an issue. Just make sure that your fermentation vessel has some way to release the gasses created during fermentation (if it’s sealed, it could explode) and you’ll be fine. As a last resort you can keep them in the fridge, but it will definitely slow fermentation of an already slow ferment.

      I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

  3. Amy says

    I think 2tsp of salt in 1cup of water is a 4.8% brine. I’m used to using 2%, but I’m pretty new to fermenting. Is there a reason cranberries require higher salinity?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Amy,

      I salt to taste, so unfortunately I can’t comment on percentages. Since cranberries are fruit (although not very sweet) I thought it was a good idea to go slightly higher on my salt here to inhibit yeast fermentation. I also knew these wouldn’t be consumed in large quantities at one go, so I wasn’t overly concerned with them being a touch saltier than my usual.
      Sorry I can’t be more specific, but I do hope that helps!


  4. Maegan says

    Hi Amanda,
    I accidentally made these useing a lower salt content and the problem I have is that some are delicious and others are pre-wine and awful tasting. There is no way to tell in advance what flavor I’m putting in my mouth. It seems about one in five berries throughout the jar are this way. I came to the website today to ask you why this might be. However, after seeing your reply to Amy I think the answer is in the lower salt content in the brine. Do you have any other ideas?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Maegan,

      If you’re getting wine-y berries, that definitely sounds like too little salt. Fruit generally wants to veer into yeast (alcohol) fermentation, but because cranberries are relatively low in sugar for a fruit, you don’t have to do too much to push them into a bacterial fermentation. Salt, however, is a key element. Whenever I lactoferment (as opposed to yeast ferment) fruit, I use a much saltier brine than I would for vegetables for that very reason.

      I hope that helps for next time!



    • Amanda says

      Hi Don,

      I ferment mine for 3 weeks, since it’s slow to get started. Generally speaking a room temperature ferment is better, especially for a ferment like this that kickstarts quite slowly.

      I hope that helps.

  5. Laura says

    So I got lazy and put the cranberries in the freezer when I went out of town. Can I ferment previously frozen fruit?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Laura,

      The very unhelpful answer I’m going to give you is maybe. The freezing could cause a few problems. Depending on how long it’s been in there and how cold your freezer is, the bacteria might be dead and therefore incapable of doing their fermentation-related work. The other issue could be with the potential mush factor. Frozen fruits and veggies tend to thaw soft because the cell walls burst during freezing when the water crystallizes. My best guess is that your berries would get pretty mushy pretty quickly during fermentation.

      As always, I encourage you to experiment, but maybe with an uber small batch!

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Laura says

    Thanks. I was thinking cranberries are so hard to begin it could work. I’ll probably just muffin or sauce them. Totally unrelated question, Is it possible to ferment a low sugar, uncooked jam? Or would that just be gross?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Laura,

      Some people ferment their jams, but you would definitely need to use whey. Sugar + Fermentation = Yeast, aka alcohol, fermentation. If you don’t use a starter, you either end up with a moldy mess or something boozy. Even if you do use a starter, many of the sugars that are present in your jam will be consumed and your jam will not be very sweet.

      I hope that helps!

  7. Frederique says

    Hmm, sounds awsome! here is Quebec we usually eat cranberry sauce with Turkey at christmas. I also love chutney and I saw a fermented apple-cranberry-ginger-orange chutney that looks fantastic. However, they cook the chutney beforehand and than lacto-ferment it using whey for 4 days before its ready to eat. Now that sounds good if you arn’t lactose intolerant. Any insight on how i could make either a raw chutney that would still be sweet without fermenting it into alcohol and without whey OR fermenting a cooked one again without any whey? im looking for the sweet and salty combo here, your version sounds great but id love something i could mash and maybe perphaps could add cooled-boiled-honey (to get rid of its antibacterial properties) to afterwards?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Frederique,

      Yes, you can use just about any other fermented substance as a starter: water kefir whey, sauerkraut juice, live (fermented) pickle brine, etc. They would all work as replacements for dairy whey. However, unless you’re fermenting for a very short time, the majority of the sugars will be converted and you won’t taste them. Fermentation is the conversion of sugars in most cases (certainly in lactic acid fermentation) so the desire to have sweet things that are fermented using means getting some alcohol and using a lot of added sugar and a short fermentation time.

      If you were to use water kefir as a starter, you’d be adding sweetness that way. I would recommend fermenting a chutney in the fridge (something I usually recommend against) and not fermenting for very long to end up with something sweet. For chutneys and jams, I usually just don’t ferment them. In most cases, you’re kind of fighting the nature of the thing to make those into fermented foods.

      I hope that helps!


  8. Frederique says

    Thanks! I think I will look into either a Scoby for kombucha or water kefir grains… i LOVE kombucha and have never tried water kefir but it sounds quite nice. Any advice on which one is easier to make, ferment and maintain alive? Ive only made saurkraut and fractal pickles up to now….


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