Pear-Cranberry Chutney

fruit chutney

The bad news about this recipe is that you have to start it at least two days before you eat it. So, you can’t make it for thanksgiving dinner this year.

The good news? This chutney tastes fantastic—sweet and sour, a little salty, a little spicy and slightly effervescent. I’ll serve this tomorrow at our thanksgiving dinner potluck, along with with pumpkin dal (I’ll post that recipe soon…OMG it’s good…).

fruit chutney
Pear-cranberry chutney

Start with a starter

While you can’t prepare this in time for your feast, if you start it now, you can enjoy it with your leftovers. Well, that’s if you have ginger bug going… (Here are directions for making it.)

You can use whey as a starter if you don’t have a ginger bug. Just strain some whey from good, cultured yogurt. A couple of tablespoons of raw honey would work too. Choose raw honey as it contains naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts—the microbes that will kickstart your ferment. Because this condiment tastes sweet/salty/savory, you could even use pickle brine as a starter in a pinch. Add a little of that at a time and taste as you go. 

These starters will all work but the ginger bug tastes SO delicious. Ginger naturally goes with chutney.

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


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.

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.

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.

3 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. […] 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 […]

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