Basic Guide To Lacto-Fermenting Vegetables and Fruits with Recipes and Video

Home Food Recipes Appetizers Basic Guide To Lacto-Fermenting Vegetables and Fruits with Recipes and Video

The process of lacto-fermentation is an ancient preservation method used in many cultures that transforms vegetables and fruits into ultra-nourishing foods, full of beneficial bacteria and enzymes.  Proper fermenting methods cause lactobacilli, bacteria that occur on most living things, to proliferate and produce lactic acid that preserves food and inhibits putrefying bacteria.  The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels while producing antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Lactic acid also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the gut. Lacto-fermented vegetables and fruit are not meant to be eaten in large quantities, but as condiments, such as with meat, fish, or properly prepared grains.  Once you master the basic method of lacto-fermentation, the flavor possibilities are endless with various types of vegetables, fruits and spices.

Salt is used to start the fermentation process, but fresh (not dried) whey made from fresh raw milk or quality yogurt will reduce the amount of salt needed, as well as reduce the amount of time needed to ferment and help ensure successful preservation.  Salt may be used alone for vegetable fermentation, but whey is essential for fermenting fruit. (This information can all be found in the book, Nourishing Traditions.)

Homemade Sauerkraut from Real Food Family on Vimeo.

You will need:

  • Wide-mouth, quart-sized mason jars (these blue Ball jars are my favorite)
  • Wooden pounder or meat hammer
  • Quality organic vegetables or fruits (anything that can be eaten raw)
  • Sea salt
  • Whey made from raw milk or yogurt (see instructions below)
  • Flavoring spices (optional- see recipes)


*To make whey, you may start with fresh raw milk, raw milk yogurt, or a high quality whole-milk yogurt.  If using fresh raw milk, let stand at room temperature in a covered container for 3-4 days until it completely separates.  Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dishtowel or cheese cloth.  Pour in the yogurt or separated milk and let stand for several hours until all the liquid strains into the bowl.  Without squeezing, wrap the solids with the cloth and hang by a wooden spoon over the bowl to allow any extra whey to strain out.  When whey stops dripping, store this whey and homemade cream cheese in separate covered containers.  Refrigerated, cream cheese will last for 1 month, and whey for 6 months.

Basic Method:

Place 4-5 cups of lightly chopped vegetables or fruit into a large bowl.  Use a wooden pounder or meat hammer to mash into small pieces, releasing natural juices.  Stir 1 tablespoon of salt into mixture, plus ¼ cup whey or an additional tablespoon of salt if whey will not be used.  Place mashed vegetables or fruit into a mason jar or other airtight container with juices and add enough filtered water (only needed if juice from the fruit or vegetable isn’t enough) to fill contents to one inch below top of jar, leaving enough room for the contents to expand.  Close the jar very tightly with an airtight lid.  Place at room temperature for 2-4 days, then transfer to a dark cool spot, such as the top shelf of a refrigerator, a wine cellar, or other area kept at around 40°F for 10-12 more days to complete lacto-fermentation.  Flavor and beneficial bacteria will increase with time, but fermented vegetables or fruit can be eaten immediately after the initial days of fermentation.  Sometimes lacto-fermented foods can get bubbly or develop spots or white foam on top.  This is no cause for concern, simply remove with a spoon.  A failed fermentation will result in a putrid smell that would be too awful to consider eating.  Successful lacto-fermentation will result in vegetables and fruits with a pleasantly soured taste that remain preserved for several weeks or months in cold storage.

homemade sauerkraut & guide to lacto-fermenting vegetables and fruits ~ Real Food Family


Use these recipes with the Basic Method above as a guide for creating your own lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits. Other ingredient options may include small pickling cucumbers, green beans, whole peeled garlic, or berries. Freshly squeezed fruit juices may be used for fermented drink options, the perfect alternative to carbonated beverages! Check out my recipe for Homemade Pickles here.



  • 1 small to medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey, or 1 additional tablespoon of salt


Gingered Carrots


  • 4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey, or 1 additional tablespoon of salt




  • 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup chile pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • juice of 3 limes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey, or 1 additional tablespoon of salt
  • ¼ cup filtered water (if needed)




  • 3 cups organic tomato paste
  • ¼ cup whey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, mashed

Blend ingredients well using a food processor or blender, then continue with Basic Method, without adding any water.


Fruit Chutney


  • 4 cups various fruit, finely chopped, such as cherries, apples, mango, or peaches
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons or 1 large orange
  • ¼ cup unrefined sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup whey
  • 2 teaspoons of various ground spices, such as coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, or dried herbs, such as thyme or mint
  • ½ cup filtered water

Gently mix ingredients without pounding and continue with Basic Method.


Raspberry Orange Juice


  • 2 ½ cups fresh unpasteurized orange juice (may be from 12 freshly squeezed oranges)
  • 12 oz package of frozen raspberries, pureed
  • 1 cup drinking water
  • ¼ cup whey
  • dash of salt

Mix ingredients in a large jar.  Cover with a towel or cheesecloth for 3 days, then strain juice to remove raspberry pulp and seeds.  Seal with an airtight lid and refrigerate.  Juice will become more effervescent with age, so release the seal every 1-2 days to avoid an explosion when opening.

Check out this post devoted to making lacto-fermented beverages.


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