Honey and strawberries make a pretty divine pairing over yogurt or ice cream. If you give them a bit of time together to, shall we say, get to know each other, they’ll ferment into a probiotic treat. Honey fermented strawberries can be spooned onto just about anything from baked goods to fresh yogurt.
With a bit of mashing, fermented berries are just like a healthier version of jam.
Most recipes for fermented fruits will tell you never to use strawberries. According to Nourishing Traditions, they’re too acidic. Other sources say that they’re too soft. Hogwash!
You can ferment pineapple chunks just fine, so I won’t buy that they’re too acidic. They may be too soft, but that’s more of an argument to use smaller, homegrown berries or better yet, a few wild foraged strawberries.
Starter Cultures for Fermented Berries
Most raw fruits and vegetables don’t need a starter culture. You can make sauerkraut with just cabbage, salt and water. No problem.
Fruits are different. They do have naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria on their skin, but they also have plenty of yeast.
Without a starter culture, the yeasts will get the upper hand and you’ll have a bubbly alcoholic ferment on your hands. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I make plenty of small-batch meads.
But…if you’re trying to make a lacto-ferment, you need to give the lactic acid bacteria a little bit of a head start.
The easiest way to do that is with whey. Just 2 tablespoons of fresh whey from a tub of yogurt is plenty to innoculate a pint of fermented strawberries.
If you’re avoiding dairy, you can also use probiotic capsules. Just break open the capsule and mix it with a bit of water first so that it doesn’t clump.
How to Ferment Strawberries
The basic instructions for fermenting berries say to mix the berries with honey, whey, water and a bit of salt. Fill a pint mason jar with strawberries, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace.
To make a brine, mix 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp of whey (or 1 probiotic capsule), 1/4 tsp salt and roughly 3 tbsp of water. Pour the starter culture over your berries, and top with additional water to completely cover the strawberries.
If you’re an avid fermenter, you likely have a mason jar fermentation kit. If you don’t have one, but you plan on doing a lot of fermenting, they’re a great investment.
Strawberries only need a very short ferment, so you can get away with just covering them with a towel on the countertop. Strawberries only need 1-2 days to ferment at room temperature before they can go in the refrigerator. After about 2 days, they can start to become a bit alcoholic and they’ll lose their sweetness as more of the sugars are consumed.
It is important that the berries stay submerged in the liquid, so use a fermentation weight. They come included in most mason jar fermentation kits, or you can try weighing the berries down with a ziplock bag filled with water. It’s much less elegant, but it gets the job done.
Fermenting Berries for Preservation
This quick ferment with water and whey won’t keep long. I’ve kept them in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks without issue, but this ferment isn’t made for preserving.
There’s another Finnish technique that they discuss in Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning that can be used for long-term preservation. That technique has you submerge the fruit in honey. Nothing else, just fresh honey.
It lacto-ferments, but if kept in a cold cellar or back closet, it should keep berries fresh and mildly fermented all winter long. I’m hoping to try this technique with blueberries this year.
You can also make alcoholic berry ferment, like this berry mead. That will preserve the berries for years if done properly.
This quick lacto-ferment adds probiotics to berries, and leaves them sweet and tangy, perfect for topping yogurt or baked goods.
- 2 cups strawberries
- 2 tbsp whey (or 1 probiotic capsule dissolved in water)
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp water (approximate, plus more to fill)
Fill a wide mouth mason jar with strawberries, leaving 1-inch headspace
Combine all other ingredients and mix for a fermentation liquid.
Pour the liquid over the berries, and top with additional water to cover.
Add a fermentation weight to keep the berries submerged.
Close with a mason jar fermentation kit (if you have one) or cover with a towel.
Ferment at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. Once the ferment is complete, close the jar with a standard mason jar lid and store in the refrigerator. Strain to use, or use in the brine.