Quick Pickling or Lacto-Fermentation: Which Food Preservation Method is Right for You?

Both methods are a fantastic way to add delicious fruits and vegetables to your diet and a great way to preserve your harvest.

article image
by Flickr/Mark Angelini
Fermented sauerkraut.

Last month, I wrote about some very common and useful food preservation methods.  Just like everything, each method has its pros and cons. This installment will address some more of my favorite preservation methods: lacto-fermentation and quick pickling.

These two methods have been around for ages. Who really knows when they were first used? From what I’ve read, pickling has been around since at lease 2400 BCE! Lacto-fermentation has also been around for thousands of years.  If something is still being used after that long, then it is probably worth taking a look at in our kitchens.


Basically, pickling its preserving a food in acid, such as vinegar — most often in white or apple cider — or salt water. I use vinegar in my pickling. You can pickle a ton of foods, from relishes, cucumber pickles (obviously), to pickled eggs and pickled pigs feet (that one’s probably not for me). Find a good pickling recipe for the food you want to preserve. Prepare your produce by chopping into uniform sizes. Make sure you are using quality produce. Wilted, over-ripe, or diseased food should be avoided.

If your recipe calls for a brine, prepare this and allow your food to soak in it for the required time. Then drain and add the hot vinegar, salt, and water mixture as directed. Put the brined food in jars and allow to sit for specified time. Then, either refrigerate or can your creation for long-term storage.

I often take peppers (hot or sweet) and slice them in even slices before placing in a jar. After packing, I fill with the jar with vinegar and put a lid on and refrigerate. These are absolutely delicious in place of store-bought pepper rings or pickled jalapenos. If you want to store them out of the fridge, you will need to water-bath can them 10 minutes. They’ll keep in your refrigerator for months just as they are, though! You can also prepare onions like this and use a refrigerator cucumber pickle recipe too.


Lacto-fermentation is a bit different than the quick-pickling method. To lacto-ferment, you will need your vegetables, quality salt, a weight, jar or crock, and something to keep bugs and pests out. I like to use a system called Fermentools, which is an airlock, weight, and seal all sold together. I tried these out on my blog and loved them so much I bought another half-dozen! I use them all the time.

For cabbage to make sauerkraut, you would shred your cabbage (I use a food processor), then mix it with salt. Pack this tightly into jars or crocks. Make sure your liquid comes over the top of the cabbage. Place a weight on top. Then place on an airlock or plastic wrap and a towel. Check your food every day to make sure it is under the liquid. If it is not submerged fully, push it down or add more brine.

My basic recipe is 1 1/2 tablespoons salt to one large head of cabbage. If I add liquid, I use the ratio of 1 teaspoon salt to 2 cups cold water and pour until its covered.

You can lacto-ferment so many things. Some of my favorites are cabbage, peppers, and cauliflower. I tried potatoes, but whew! Those were like a strong alcohol and were a no-go in my book.

Storing and Enjoying

I personally store my ferments in the fridge but if you have a cool storage location, you can use that instead. It’s also a matter of personal taste how long you let them ferment. A good rule of thumb is to check after three days and see how you like the flavor. If its too “green”, let your fermentation go longer. If the sourness level is right, then take off the weight and start enjoying.

Both methods are a fantastic way to add delicious fruits and vegetables to your diet and a great way to preserve your harvest.

Jenny Underwood is a homeschooling mom of four who lives on a fifth-generation homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, where she gardens, forages, hunts and preserves food for her family. Connect with Jenny at Our Inconvenient Family.

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