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Preserving Citrus by Fermentation

By Gerri Boland, Wooragee Landcare member

 If you have excess citrus, and do not want to waste it, you can preserve it to add to salads, marinades and curries.  This method results in a course pasty texture -not the traditional style of citrus segments in brine or oil.

 There are many different types of lactic acid forming bacteria which occur in the wild. In fact they are found on the surface of most fruits and vegetables. The lactic acid forming bacteria convert sugars in the juice into lactic acid which helps preserve the fruit – and gives lacto-fermented foods their classic tangy flavour . The brine is formed by the salt drawing out the juice from the fruit. The ideal temperature for fermentation to occur is about 18 – 21 degrees. It takes about 1 – 3 weeks for the process to be completed depending on the ambient temperature. Unlike the bottling process, fermentation does not require that the food be completely sterile before it is sealed as the salty acidic environment preserves the food.

To make lemon or lime preserves, take about 5 limes or 4 lemons. (Freezing the whole fruit beforehand breaks cell walls, speeding the brine formation, but it’s not essential.)  Chop the limes into quarters and then chop each quarter roughly into quarters again.  Put the chopped limes in a non-reactive container with lid.

Then add salt – about 2- 3 tablespoons.  Shake lemons and salt together with lid on.

Leave in a warmish area. Shake daily. The salt draws out the juice from the fruit.

After a couple of days drain off about a quarter of the juice which has formed. I do this to get rid of some of the salty brine but most recipes recommend that the fruit should always be covered by the juice.  Continue to shake daily for another 1- 2 weeks and/or turn the jar up-side-down every few days, so all the pieces get an equal soaking. The rind will soften and turn paler in colour and the beautiful aroma of fermented limes/lemons will develop.  Add fermented limes to food processor. Add small amount of extra virgin olive oil (roughly 50 – 100 ml). Pulse until desired consistency achieved.

Spices such as chilli or turmeric can be added.  Spoon into jars and leave in ‘fridge or it can also be frozen.