lacto fermentation

Back in the days before refrigeration and processed foods, folks preserved their vegetables through lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a pickling process that uses beneficial bacteria to keep food from rotting. Believe or not you’re probably already acquainted with this process. Lactobacilli are used to make make yogurt and sauerkraut. Remember these guys from a few posts back?


So it goes down like this:  you soak vegetables in salty water or you cover them with salt and this creates an ideal environment for lactobacilli. The lactobacilli do their thing, consuming sugars and producing lactic acid as a by product. This creates an acidic environment which kills off the bacteria that spoil food.  These bacteria are pretty good for you too; they help you digest the vegetable and promote a healthy flora in your intestines.

Lately, I’ve really been getting into lacto-fermentation. Since I’ve joined a CSA, I’ve had an abundance of veggies in my fridge and making pickles has helped me save them for later. This is essentially what our ancestors did whenever they had a harvest. So far, I’ve made diakon radish pickles, kimchi, preserved salted lemons, and yogurt.

veggies and milk

You can use this process to preserve any firm vegetable or fruit that doesn’t have too much water. So radishes and carrots are in; watermelon and tomatoes are out. You can add any spice you want, or throw in garlic and ginger if it strikes your fancy.

The kimchi and diakon radish pickles are wonderfully tasty. I’m really looking forward to trying the preserved salted lemons. They take a few weeks to ferment. I’ll let you know how they turn out!  In the meantime, if you want to make some for yourself here’s the basic guidelines:

Preserved Salted Lemons:

  1. Gather enough thin-skinned lemons to fill the jar you’re going to pickle in. (Citrus is ripe here in the Bay Area – I foraged the lemons I used from trees on my walk to work.)
  2. Wash the jar and clean the skins of the lemons.
  3. Quarter the lemons and liberally coat them in sea salt.
  4. Smash the lemons into the jar, sprinkle more salt between layers.
  5. When the jar is full, squeeze additional lemon juice into the jar to cover the slices.
  6. If you want to spice it up, add a cinnamon stick or a few peppercorns. Heck, why not both?
  7. Screw the lid on tight and sit in dark space for about a month.

preserved salted lemons

When it’s done, you eat the rind and use them like olives. Check out the Sprouted Kitchen’s beautiful post about preserved salted lemons. She has a more detailed how-to and links to recipes.  Happy Pickling!