This relish is so delicious. It also keeps in the fridge for months, allowing us to enjoy our lemon harvest for a long time. The lactic acid, created during the fermentation process, is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. “Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all thriving things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground.” (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions)
There is evidence that Lacto fermented foods are highly beneficial for promoting intestinal health, improving immunity and reducing allergy symptoms. Fermented foods are full of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria. “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions)
Lacto fermenting is basically setting up the right environment to allow the lactobacillus bacteria to thrive, ensuring us a clean tasty ferment full of beneficial strains of bacteria. In order to create this environment let's take a look at three qualities of lactobacilli that we harness to give these bacteria a leg up in our fermentation jars. “If you build it they will come” we need only to create the conditions for fermentation to occur.
They convert sugars into lactic acids. That is to say, they eat carbohydrates and excrete lactic acid. So we first things first they need a food source (cabbage, lemons, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers etc).
Lactobacilli are more salt-tolerant than other forms of bacteria. So keeping our choice of vegetables under a salt brine will ensure that “the good guys” take over our ferment.
This bacteria is anaerobic, meaning we must keep our fermenting food away from oxygen. That is another reason we keep the food under the salt brine, not allowing oxygen to come in contact with it.
The salt guidelines are for self bringing vegetables: 5 tbsp salt for 5 pounds of veg. For nonself brining: 30 g salt for 1 cup of water.
In conclusion what we need for a safe ferment is a clean sterilized jar, a salt brine, or just salt for self bringing veggies like cabbage and lemons, and a lid.
With the information above you can basically Lacto ferment any vegetable. But here is a nice easy recipe to get you started:
Lacto Fermented Lemons:
Mix ¼ cup of salt with 3 tbsp of sweet paprika (or hot paprika if you like spicy foods)
Slice 5 lemons to ¼ inch pieces
Dip the slices of lemon in the salt mixture on both sides, shake off a bit of salt and place in a sterilized mason jar.
Pack in all of the lemons and press down.
If the lemons are not covered in brine add water/ lemon juice to cover the lemons by an inch.
Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the salt/ lemon juice brine.
Allow fermenting for 5 days in the shade. “Burp” (open the lid to allow gasses to escape and close them immediately) the jar daily to avoid gas buildup.
Transfer to the refrigerator and enjoy it!