Fermented garlic honey is a simple homemade recipe for turning two everyday ingredients into an immune-boosting natural remedy.
Looking for an incredibly easy-to-make home remedy that incorporates ingredients you likely already have in your pantry? Look no further than fermented garlic honey!
A few years back, I saw this tutorial on my friend Colleen’s site and she describes fermenting garlic in honey to have on hand during cold and flu season.
What an incredible idea! I just had to try it myself with our own homegrown garlic.
We grow an absurd amount of garlic each year, planting garlic in the fall, then harvesting garlic scapes in early summer before curing the bulbs to store away in our root cellar. The process repeats every single year, and on average we put up over 300 bulbs each season.
We grow and forage dozens of different medicinal plants and make them into herbal preparations every year, but for some reason, I never really considered garlic “medicinal.” It is, in fact, a potent one with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and immune-boosting properties.
What is Fermented Garlic Honey?
It’s pretty simple and the name more or less says it all. Fermented garlic honey is just garlic cloves that are placed in honey and allowed to ferment for a few days.
Honey already contains yeast, and believe it or not, the bees are naturally attracted to flowers that have natural yeasts present. No one exactly knows why, but I have a sneaky suspicion that they know that a healthy ecosystem needs vibrant microbes.
Garlic has natural lactobacillus on its surface, which are the same microbes responsible for yogurt and homemade sauerkraut.
Add in the natural acetic acid (vinegar producing) bacteria in the air, and you’ve got a recipe for a potent mixture of healthy microbes.
The lactobacillus thrives in quick veggie ferments, in much the same way it does when making Lacto-fermented pickles. Any alcohol produced by the yeast in the honey is quickly converted to vinegar (in a process similar to making apple cider vinegar).
Benefits of Fermenting Garlic and Honey
So why on earth would you ferment garlic in honey?
The fermentation process makes the mixture probiotic, but it also helps make nutrients more bio-available. The same is true when you make fermented turmeric, and the anti-inflammatory compounds in turmeric are much more potent when it’s been fermented.
Honey is already a natural home remedy for sore throats and seasonal allergies, especially raw local honey.
Garlic has a long list of medicinal benefits, and studies show that it can help reduce the duration of the common cold by more than 70%. Beyond that, taking garlic regularly reduces your chances of getting sick altogether, resulting in fewer sick days every year.
Beyond that, garlic naturally reduces blood pressure and lowers cholesterol. There’s even some evidence that the antioxidants in garlic may help boost longevity and combat Alzheimer’s, but that’s research is still in the early stages.
By mixing honey and garlic, you not only make it more digestible through fermentation, you’re also combining two potent medicinals into one surprisingly tasty home remedy.
Is Honey Fermented Garlic Safe?
Anytime you’re promoting microbes in the kitchen, people wonder if it is in fact safe to be doing so.
Lactobacillus, yeast, and acetic acid bacteria are completely safe and it’s really difficult to mess up a homemade ferment. With lacto-fermentation, it’s nearly impossible to make something that will cause harm, as the bacteria quickly outcompete just about everything else and acidify the mixture to prevent spoilage.
Believe it or not, the fermentation process is not at all an issue. The only potentially risky part here is actually the ingredients themselves.
“Honey and garlic can both harbor spores of Clostridium botulinum (the pathogen that causes botulism). The growth of C. botulinum spores is more likely to occur in a neutral pH, a moist environment, or an environment without oxygen. C. Botulinum spores are less likely to reproduce and the risk of botulism is lower in preparations with high acid (pH of below 4.6), high sugar, or high salt content. Honey is approximately 80% sugar, making it high in sugar. Honey is also acidic, with a pH of 3.9. Though many use this recipe as-is, because the honey is diluted by the garlic thus causing the sugar content to lower, some individuals choose to use a pH meter and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to keep the pH levels below 4.6.”
Since you’re encouraging lactobacillus here, the pH should naturally drop as the mixture ferments as well. Still, acting out of an abundance of caution, I add in about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per pint jar (more is fine too).
If you use raw cider vinegar, you’re also incorporating the probiotics from the vinegar mother, which will help quickly transition any alcohol produced to more vinegar (and thus add even more acidity).
Adding cider vinegar makes this a bit more like a herbal oxymel, which is a mixture of honey, herbs, and cider vinegar. Generally in oxymels, the balance of honey to vinegar is more even, and they’re commonly made with a 1:1:1 ratio of herbs:honey:vinegar. Many people make them sweeter, and some use a lot more vinegar, so the ratios are flexible.
(Alternately, you can place your fermenting garlic and honey in the refrigerator. Botulism is inhibited below 40 degrees F, but lactobacillus and yeast will still grow, just slowly. You can make the whole batch in the fridge, it’ll just take about 2-3 weeks instead of 3 to 5 days.)
Be aware that honey is never safe for infants and children under 2 years of age. Their stomach acid isn’t fully developed yet, and their stomach acts as a low acid environment. Do not use this remedy, or any remedy containing honey with children under 2 years old.
How to Make Fermented Honey Garlic
The basic process for making fermented garlic and honey is so simple that it hardly needs a recipe.
Start by peeling the garlic, trimming it to remove any discolored parts. It should be fresh healthy garlic to start, and garlic rarely spoils, but always check.
Slicing or chopping the cloves is optional, and if you’re working with the regular softneck garlic from the grocery store then it’s hardly necessary. Simply press the garlic clove with the side of a knife to gently bruise it, which will make it easier to peel. It’ll also help it release juice in the honey, allowing the ferment to happen more easily.
In my case, I’m using the hardneck garlic varieties that we grow here in Vermont. Hardneck garlic is great because it’s not only more flavorful, but it’s also much easier to peel. Since the cloves are so large it means a lot less peeling, but it also means you’ll have to chop the cloves for this particular recipe.
It has the same medicinal properties as regular garlic, and I have literally buckets of it from our garden, so that’s what I use. Below is a picture of the gigantic cloves in the jar, before I decided to slice them. An entire bulb is often 4 to 5 cloves, instead of the 12-20 cloves you get with soft neck garlic.
A side note here, “elephant garlic” has really large cloves but it’s not technically garlic. It’s different than hardneck and softneck garlic, and more or less a whole different species. It’s much milder in flavor, and honestly, I have no idea if it has the same medicinal properties.
Stick with regular softneck garlic, or if you’re in the northeast, you can use the absolutely wonderful hardneck garlic we grow here.
Once the garlic is in the jar, sliced or not, I’d recommend adding about 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar to the jar at this point. Give the jar a quick shake to coat the garlic cloves with cider vinegar. That ensures that the surface of the garlic starts acidic, which is a precaution against botulism. Likely unnecessary, but you can never be too careful.
(It also helps innoculate the jar with bonus acetic acid bacteria from the vinegar mother, which will boost the good bacteria, so it’s a nice addition even if you’re not worried about contamination.)
Next, add in the honey. I’d suggest filling the jar about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way with garlic, and then topping it off with honey to within an inch of the lid. Be sure to leave space at the top, as the mixture will bubble as it ferments and you don’t want it to overflow.
Cover the jar with a lid and flip it a few times to distribute the honey. Loosen the lid so gasses can escape during fermentation, and let the microbes go to work.
How Long Does it Take to Make?
You should see bubbles beginning to form in the honey after about 24 to 48 hours. After about 3 to 5 days, the activity should be calming down and the garlic should be well fermented.
If your house is cool, it may take around 7 to 10 days for things to calm down.
And of course, if you’ve made it in the refrigerator out of an abundance of caution, you’ll need to wait 2-3 weeks for the fermentation to complete.
After the initial burst of activity, fermentation activity will still be happening. It’ll still be active (just slower) for another month or two as the microbes slowly continue to work. You can eat the fermented garlic honey at any point after the first 48 hours, and really, you could eat it fresh too…it just won’t be fermented.
How Long Does Fermented Garlic Honey Last?
Once the initial fermentation activity is over, you should try to keep your honey garlic in a cool place. A basement works well, as does a back closet on the north side of the house. The refrigerator works wonderfully too, and is more dependably cool. It’s not strictly required though.
This ferment will keep for many months, and really the only risk of spoilage is if the garlic floats above the honey surface too long and starts to mold. (That same thing happens with sauerkraut and other ferments too if the liquid level drops.) To prevent that, just give your mixture a shake every week or so to redistribute the garlic below the surface.
If kept cool, the mixture should be good for several months, or even up to a year in ideal conditions.
How do you Eat Honey Fermented Garlic?
The fermentation process actually mellows the flavor of garlic, making it less spicy and abrasive. Don’t get me wrong, it still tastes like garlic, but it’s milder, creamier, and just more mellow on the tongue. If you like the taste of garlic, but just can’t stand the heat, I think you’ll really enjoy the cloves right off a spoon.
Though mixing sweetness with garlic may seem strange, it’s actually pretty common in cooking. Just look at Asian cuisine, and just about any dish you’d pick up for take-out has a sweet/garlic mix in the sauce, from teriyaki to General Tso’s chicken. Beyond that, any bbq sauce or marinade will likely mix sweet flavors with savory garlic, and many salad dressings too.
Garlic that has been fermented can be eaten right off the spoon or incorporated into any of those recipes.
The fermentation process makes the honey darker and more liquid, and it takes on a mellow flavor of the fermented garlic as well. I think it makes a lovely tonic eaten right out of the jar on a spoon, and it’s especially comforting if I have a respiratory issue (cough, cold, etc) or a sore throat. The honey can also be incorporated into savory/sweet recipes.
If you choose to add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the mix, the subtle acidity will help balance the sweetness of the honey and actually makes it a better syrup. It works well regardless of whether you intend to use your garlic honey as a remedy as is, or in cooking.
Fermented honey garlic is an easy home remedy with just a few ingredients. It can be eaten as-is out of the jar, or incorporated into recipes. Food is medicine!
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 ounces (170 g) honey (raw & local if available)
- Raw Apple cider vinegar (optional, see note)
- Peel the garlic and gently bruise it with the side of a knife. The cloves can be left whole if they're small, or sliced if larger. Place them into a pint jar.
- If using cider vinegar, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the jar. Cap the lid and give it a shake to coat the garlic. This is optional but helps ensure food safety out of an abundance of caution. It also helps to innoculate the jar with the raw vinegar mother microbes to aid in fermentation. A small amount of added acidity also improves flavor. (See article for details)
- Open the jar and pour in about 6 ounces of honey. It should completely cover the garlic and fill the jar to within about 1'' of the top. Be sure to leave 1'' headspace as the mixture will bubble as it ferments. Cap the jar and flip it over a few times to distribute the honey.
- Loosen the cap to allow gasses to escape during the fermentation process, and allow the jar to ferment at room temperature for 2 to 5 days. The mixture can be used at any point during fermentation. After about 5 days, place the jar in the refrigerator or a cool place to slow fermentation.
Fermented garlic honey can be used at any point after the first 48 hours. It'll keep for many months, provided you give it a shake every once in a while to keep the garlic submerged. Keep the cap loose when you're not shaking it so the gasses produced during fermentation can escape. Store in a cool place after the initial fermentation is complete to slow the process down and help maintain quality.
Homemade Herbal Remedies
Looking for more ways to stock your herbal medicine cabinet?
- How to Make a Herbal Salve
- How to Make a Herbal Infused Oil
- How to Make a Herbal Tincture
- Homemade Herbal Shampoo
- How to Make Lotion Bars