Fermented Whole Cranberries. Photo by Shannon Stonger.

Fermented Whole Cranberries. Photo by Shannon Stonger.

By Shannon Stonger
Health Impact News

Sitting down to a big meal with family and friends can be a source of great joy and wonderful memories. The meal itself can leave you feeling light and nourished, just as the company does, instead of heavy and tired. By adding fermented foods to your table you provide enzymes and probiotics to aid in the digestion of those ubiquitous and comforting Thanksgiving foods.

The microorganisms in these foods are wonderful; and the flavors created through fermentation are unparalleled. Layering the meal with these foods, or simply adding one or two, keeps things both easier on the belly and more interesting for those unfamiliar with the practice of home fermentation.

There are many ways to incorporate these foods into your Thanksgiving meal, from the smallest tweak in a recipe to a tray full of fermented goodness.

Fermented Beverages

Wine is an obvious choice but there are other fermented beverages that are both delicious and festive. Kombucha and water kefir can be flavored in a matter of days just for the occasion. Performing a second fermentation using apples and cinnamon, cranberries, or pumpkin and spice creates a festive, carbonated beverage for your feast table.

If you don’t have kombucha or water kefir in your current culture repertoire, whey strained from live yogurt or kefir can be used as a culture starter to create a fermented soda. Just combine ¼ cup organic brown sugar, apple slices and cinnamon, and ¼ cup of whey in a quart-sized airtight bottle. After a few days sitting in a warm space in your home it will begin to carbonate and will be teeming with beneficial microorganisms.

Sourdough Bread and Stuffing

Dinner rolls are often passed around at the Thanksgiving table and, served with grass-fed butter and made with sourdough, they can be a delicious and nourishing addition. Or, trade the rolls in for slices of artisanal sourdough bread and serve them with a fermented fruit spread.

Stuffing made with sourdough bread has a depth of flavor that cannot be replicated with commercially-made bread. The tang of the bread layered with the richness of butter and the comfort of poultry seasonings creates an unforgettable side dish.

Fermented Relishes

In many cultures, fermented foods are added in small quantities to most meals. This can include a flavorful fermented relish made with fruits and vegetables, spices, and herbs. A relish can be fermented in just a few days when you combine shredded beets, shredded apple, allspice, and a few tablespoons of whey strained from homemade kefir or yogurt.

Fermented Vegetable Platter

We’ve all seen the vegetable trays full of pickles and carrot sticks at the table. Trading these in for real cultured pickles, sauerkraut, and fermented carrot sticks adds a more flavorful and cultured touch.

A flavorful dip can also be made utilizing fresh yogurt or milk kefir, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs.


We often forget that many of the foods we know and love are already cultured in some way. A cheese platter, filled with raw, grass-fed cheeses is full of culture. Pairing them with the above fermented relishes, fresh fruit, and a sparkling fermented beverage creates a wonderful appetizer or low-sugar end to the meal.


Sweet treats are prevalent this time of year and many of us will spend a bit of time baking during this week of Thanksgiving. There are a few ways to add culture even to the dessert table.

Sourdough pie crust can be made by replacing some of the water in the ingredients with a couple of tablespoons of fresh sourdough starter. Allow it to culture at 65-75 degrees for 12-24 hours. Before rolling out your crust, chill the dough for an hour in the freezer. This re-solidifies the fat and makes for a flaky, flavorful crust that can then be used as you would any pie crust.

Using cultured dairy in desserts is fairly straightforward, but cooking kills the culture. Instead of whipped cream you can top your dessert with crème fraiche sweetened slightly with raw honey. Or, create a raw and cultured pumpkin cheesecake that is both low in sugars and high in culture and nutrient-dense fats. This recipe can successfully be prepared without a crust or with a prebaked sourdough crust. Raw honey­­ can also be used in place of the sucanat by simply cutting the amount in half.

Fermented Whole Cranberries

Fermented Whole Cranberries. Photo by Shannon Stonger.

Fermented Whole Cranberries. Photo by Shannon Stonger.

Cranberries are ever-present at the Thanksgiving table. But many commercially produced sauces and jellies are full of sugar. Furthermore, conventional cranberries are full of undesirable pesticides including carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and honeybee toxins.

These fermented whole cranberries can be made quickly and simply with just a few chemical-free ingredients. Pass them around as a pop-in-your-mouth appetizer or add them to your fermented fruit and vegetable platter. Either way, they are full of flavor and culture.


  • 1 slice fresh ginger
  • ~.5 lb. fresh, organic cranberries
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons whey or brine from a batch of previously cultured vegetables


  1. Place the slice of ginger in the bottom of a pint jar. Pour the cranberries in the jar, filling it to within 1” of the rim. In a separate jar, combine the warm (but not hot) water with the salt and raw honey. Whisk with a fork to dissolve.
  2. Pour the water-honey-salt mixture and the whey or fermented vegetable brine over the cranberries until they are completely submerged. Weight them down using a fermentation weight or heavy cabbage leaf or root vegetable slice.
  3. Cover the jar and allow to ferment in a warm place for 2-3 days or until bubbles begin to appear. Serve alongside your favorite Thanksgiving meal.