Pear-Cranberry Chutney

fruit chutney

Unlike cranberry sauce, which you can make quickly before dinner, you have to start this chutney at least two days before you can eat it. This gives the microbes in the food and starter time to work their magic. So, if you’re reading this the day before Thanksgiving, bookmark it for dinner next year.

This chutney tastes fantastic—sweet and sour, a little salty, a little spicy and slightly effervescent. I’ll serve this at our Thanksgiving dinner potluck this year, along with with mouthwatering pumpkin dal (click here for the recipe).

fruit chutney
Pear-cranberry chutney

Start with a starter

A starter contains beneficial bacteria and yeast that will kickstart this ferment. Fruit and vegetables are covered in these microbes as well so don’t worry too much if you don’t have a starter. You’d actually have difficulty preventing this from fermenting. Without a starter, the chutney might require an extra day to ferment so plan accordingly.

Ginger bug tastes delicious with this—ginger naturally goes with chutney. But all these starters will kickstart your ferment:

  • Ginger bug. So, if you want to do that and don’t have a ginger bug, you need to start one at least a week before Thanksgiving (5 days for the ginger bug to spring to life + 2 days to ferment this chutney). Here are directions for making a ginger bug.
  • Whey. Strain some whey from good, cultured yogurt.
  • A couple of tablespoons of raw honey. If you add honey, cut the added sugar from the recipe.
  • A couple of tablespoons of lively kombucha. You use only a little so if it is a little vinegary, it won’t affect the sweetness much but taste and adjust as necessary.
  • Because this condiment tastes sweet/salty/savory, you could even use brine from fermented pickles as a starter in a pinch. Add a little at a time and taste as you go.

Or just skip the starter.

Cooked relish versus fermented chutney

We first started cooking chutney after we went plastic-free and needed a cranberry sauce replacement for Thanksgiving dinner. Most stores carry cranberries packaged in plastic. My daughter came up with this pear-raisin chutney recipe as an alternative to homemade cranberry sauce. It goes really well with savory Thanksgiving dishes.

Then I started fermenting everything in sight, including chutney. It’s ridiculously easy to make. You combine the ingredients, stuff them into a jar and wait while microbes “cook” the food for you. You don’t turn on a burner. You don’t heat up the kitchen. You don’t stir the pot—unless you start talking politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table with crazy uncle Bill.

Fermented chutney doesn’t occupy precious space in your refrigerator as it ferments. You simply leave it out on the counter to do its thing. Plus, it’s probiotic!

For this recipe, I used dried sweetened cranberries that I buy in bulk. I usually put raisins in chutney and so figured dried cranberries would make a festive and tasty replacement for those.

Final farmers market haul before thanksgiving

Pear-Cranberry Chutney

I initially named this post “Fermented Pear-Cranberry Chutney.” Then I thought, why keep identifying everything I make as fermented? Everything I make is fermented… I’m obsessed.


This recipe works with other fruit—persimmons, fresh cranberries, mangos, apples, pineapples, plums, cherries, strawberries. Adjust the type of fruit according to the season.

  • 3 pears, peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups dried, sweetened cranberries
  • 1/4 cup strained ginger bug
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chilies or to taste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 cup water or enough to cover the fruit in liquid after packing
fruit chutney
Ready to eat


1. Strain off 1/4 cup of liquid from your ginger bug and set it aside. If you don’t have a ginger bug and want to make one, here are the directions. You can make this without a starter but it may take an extra day or two to ferment.

2. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and combine very well. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

3. Pack your chutney into clean glass jars. Pound it as you pack it to release liquid. You must completely cover the fruit in order for it to ferment properly. Add more water if necessary.

4. Close the jars and set them on plates to catch any drips that may gurgle out of your live food. Keep the jars at room temperature.

5. Burp your jars (i.e. open them) daily to release built-up carbon dioxide and to stir down the fruit. It will start to float to the top after a day or so, and should be submerged.

6. Taste your chutney after two days. It should taste tangy and slightly effervescent and magical. When you like the flavor, transfer it to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation.

7. If desired, strain out some of the liquid to thicken this chutney before serving. Reserve the liquid for your next batch of chutney, use it to flavor kombucha or drink it.

8. Consume within a week as fermented fruit tends to become alcoholic. It is still safe to eat at that point however.

8 Replies to “Pear-Cranberry Chutney”

  1. LOVING the pear/cranberry trend lately! I just made this dessert ( for a Friendsgiving last weekend. Definitely going to do this chutney next!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you for this link. It looks delicious! I’m going to have to try this.

  2. I am in the Southern Hemisphere and have a pear glut – so thanks for sharing this recipe….any other suggestions what I can make???

  3. […] to fermenting all sorts of other foods that don’t require starters—kimchi, dill pickles, chutney, beet kvass, salsa, preserved lemons and limes, mead… Jars of fermented food have taken over […]

  4. Love your recipes! I have a question if you are using fresh cranberries so you suggest some kind of sweetener? We are lucky enough to have fresh unpackaged cranberries at our local co-op
    Thank you so much!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      You’re so lucky! Yes use those and add some sugar to taste 🙂

  5. Hello love your blog! I was curious if you have Any ideas about what I could do if I use fresh cranberries? We are lucky enough that our local co-op carries them unpackaged and I would like to use them but assume I may have to cook them first and maybe add a little sweatener?
    Thank you so much

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Amber. Absolutely you can use fresh. I would add some sugar. Maybe start with a small amount and then taste as you go. Happy Thanksgiving 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

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