How To Preserve Lemons For Years Using Fermentation

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Fermented lemons is a popular method of preserving these delicious citrus fruits. This process not only extends their shelf life, but also enhances their flavor and nutritional value. Lemons preserved through fermentation are good for over a year and can be used just like a fresh lemon!

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citrus fruit preserve

Benefits of Fermented Lemons

Fermented lemons are a rich source of probiotics, which promote gut health by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Additionally, fermenting lemons increases their bioavailability of nutrients such as vitamin C and antioxidants, making them more easily absorbed by the body. Fermented lemons also have a unique flavor profile, with a tangy and slightly sour taste that can enhance the flavor of many dishes.

How to Ferment Whole Lemons

fermented lemons

Fermenting whole lemons is a simple process that requires only a few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Organic Lemons
  • Salt, Any Kind – Be sure it doesn’t have iodine or anti-caking agents
  • Filtered Water
  • A Glass Jar With a Tight-Fitting Lid


  1. Wash the lemons thoroughly in warm, soapy water in order to get as much of the protective wax layer off as possible, and then give them a good rinse.
  2. Make a 3% salt water brine by mixing 1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 cups of filtered water. The amount of brine you need will vary depending on how many lemons you are preserving and the size of your container.
  3. Tightly pack the lemons into your glass jar. The tighter they are packed, they less likely they will be to float to the surface. If you’re not able to fill the whole jar then use some kind of weight (a smaller glass jar filled with water works great) to keep the lemons submerged.
  4. Completely cover the lemons with the salt water.
  5. Seal the jar tightly and place it in a cool, dark place for about a week.
  6. After a week, transfer the jar to a cool location, such as a root cellar.
  7. Use the lemons as needed, just like you would fresh lemons. Use a new, clean spoon every time you remove a lemon from the jar in order to prevent any unwanted bacteria.
preserved citrus peel

How to Ferment Lemon Slices

Fermenting lemon slices does make the lemons taste a bit more salty. These would be great to use in cooking, as opposed to fresh or in sweet dishes. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Organic Lemons
  • Salt, Any Kind – Be sure it doesn’t have iodine or anti-caking agents
  • A Glass Jar With a Tight-Fitting Lid
  1. Wash the lemons thoroughly and slice them, discarding the ends.
  2. Sprinkle salt over the lemon slices, making sure to get some salt on each one.
  3. Place the slices in the jar, pressing down firmly to release their juice. Add more salt if necessary to cover the lemons completely.
  4. Seal the jar tightly and place it in a cool, dark place for about 24-48 hours, shaking the jar every few hours to distribute the salt and juices.
  5. After 24-48 hours, the lemon slices should be fully fermented and ready to use!
lemon preserves

Difference Between Fermenting Whole Lemons and Lemon Slices

While both methods of fermenting lemons result in a tangy and flavorful end product, there are a few key differences between the two. Fermenting whole lemons takes longer, usually around a week, while fermenting lemon slices takes only 24-48 hours. Additionally, whole lemons retain their shape and can be used in cooking or as a garnish, while lemon slices can be used in salads, sandwiches, and as a topping for fish or chicken dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

preserve grapefruit
  1. Can this method be done with all citrus?
    • Absolutely! This method is great for preserving all kinds of different citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges.
  2. Does fermentation change the flavor?
    • When preserving your lemons whole, the flavor of the lemons are not changed at all. However, if you decide to do lemon slices, you can expect a bit more of a sour or salty taste.
  3. What ratio of salt to water do I need?
    • In order to preserve the fruits properly, you’ll want to do 1 tablespoon of salt for ever 2 cups of water used. You’ll also want to make sure the water is completely covering the fruit at all times.
  4. My lemons have a soft spot, can I still preserve them?
    • In order to prevent further decomposition or contamination of the other lemons in the jar, it’s best to use firm lemons free of mold, soft spots, or cuts.
  5. How can I keep my lemons submerged completly?
    • The best way to keep the citrus fully submerged is to fill the jar with enough fruits and using a jar with a lip to keep the lemons pushed down. As you take out fruit to use, or if you don’t have enough to fill the jar, you can use a fermentation weight, a ziplock bag filled with water, or a smaller glass jar or cup to push the lemons down.

Fermenting lemons is a simple and delicious way to preserve these citrus fruits while enhancing their nutritional value and flavor. Whether you choose to ferment whole lemons or lemon slices, you’ll be able to enjoy the tangy and slightly sour taste of fermented lemons in a variety of dishes, all year long. Using this method really helps to keep those lemons from just sitting on the counter or back of the fridge and becoming a science experiment. Citrus is one of the worst produce to buy from the store because they start rotting so quickly! So why not give it a try and see how you can incorporate fermented lemons into your cooking!

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

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