Fermented Oranges

Fermenting foods is one of the best way to preserve your in-season abundance. Or, if you find a deal at the grocer or farmers’ market, simply buy more than you can eat and salt-preserve the rest. You not only preserve it for future consumption, you enhance the food’s nutritional value. Give these fermented oranges a go. Just reading about them has my mouth watering. I think you will agree.

Oranges, lemons and limes have been used for centuries as a source of vitamin C.  As a child, I learned that the British were called “Limeys” because they carried limes with them on their ships, to prevent scurvy.  In my youthful naiveté, I imagined that the fruit was used fresh on-board ships.  But this wasn’t the case.

Fresh fruit bruises in transit.  Mold would have been a prevalent problem in the damp chill of the sea air. Instead citrus fruit was preserved in salt barrels just like pickles, sauerkraut and herring.  Salt not only prevented spoilage, it also softened the peel.  There is as much vitamin C in the peel and pith of an orange as there is in the flesh and juice.  Fermenting the fruit softened the peel and made the peel edible, allowing more vitamin C to be available to the sailors.  Fermenting also removed some of the bitterness in the pith of the orange.

Fermented oranges are versatile.  Any kind of orange can be preserved this way, so take advantage of the Clementines, blood oranges and Seville oranges that have such a short season, by preserving them in salt.

Use fermented oranges in sauces, salad dressings, dips and relishes all year round.  While you can add them to cooked dishes for flavor, you’ll lose the probiotic benefits and some of the vitamin C, so add them at the very end of cooking rather than at the beginning.  Better yet, use them raw in dips or salad dressings so that you get all the probiotics and all the vitamin C.  They are so easy to make that you’ll want to keep a jar of salt-preserved oranges in the fridge as a pantry staple.

Fermented Oranges


• 3 lbs. of organic oranges

• ½ cup of salt

• 2-inch piece of ginger (optional)


• 1 Fermentools kit

• 2-quart wide-mouth jar

• Plate

• Metal ring for the wide-mouth jar

• Sharp paring knife

• Bowl for salt


Place one tablespoon of salt into the bottom of the Mason jar.

Wash oranges well.  Cut off the blossom and stem end of each orange.  Carefully slice each orange into quarters without severing the join on the opposite end.  This allows the oranges to open like a flower at the join.  Sprinkle one to two teaspoons of salt on the inside of each orange and place it in your jar.  If using, peel the ginger with the edge of a spoon.  Slice the ginger very thinly with a sharp knife.  Add the ginger to the jar, interspersed among the oranges.  Fill the jar to within two inches of the top with salted oranges.

Add two tablespoons of whey or liquid from a successful ferment.  This will inoculate your ferment and ensure that you start with the best lacto-bacteria to get a good orange ferment.

Top up the jar with filtered water to within two inches of the lid.

Place the Fermentools glass weight, fermentation lock and lid.  Put the prepared jar on a plate to catch any inadvertent overflow.  Leave it to ferment for a week or two.  Once the active bubbling has stopped, you’ll notice that the orange skin looks a little less orange and a little paler.

Place the jar in the fridge for long-term storage.  It will keep in the fridge up to a year and get better with age, as the flavors meld.

Use them anywhere you would use fresh oranges.

Ways to use fermented oranges

While you can serve up preserved oranges in a pickle dish right out of the jar, here are two of my favorite ways to serve salt-preserved oranges.  They are especially good when blended with white balsamic vinegar, rather than plain white vinegar or cider vinegar.

Orange and basil salad dressing

Make this easy salad dressing with salt-preserved oranges and garden fresh herbs.  Chop one fermented orange into small pieces.  Place in a quart wide-mouth glass jar.  Add a small handful of basil leaves, one small bunch of chopped chives, a half-cup of olive oil, and a quarter-cup of white balsamic vinegar.  Stir in one teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Using an immersion blender, blend the dressing right in the jar.  It will become thicker and creamier as you blend.  Serve over a tossed green salad.

Orange glaze for basting poultry or fish

This glaze serves up the bright flavor of oranges.  Apply the glaze in the last 10 minutes of roasting, for best results.

Blend together one salt-preserved orange, chopped; a quarter-cup of honey; two tablespoons of olive oil; a garlic clove, pressed; one teaspoon of fresh sage leaves, chopped; and two tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, removed from their stems.  You can blend the mixture in the small jar of a blender or with an immersion blender.

Baste this over chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant, rabbit, pork chops, or fish in the last 10 minutes of roasting time.  Roast just until the glaze sets.  Don’t let it burn.

 Your turn:

What is your favorite way to preserve the abundance of citrus fruit in season?


If fermented oranges has you interested, so will the following posts. Check them out and see what you think:


Fermentation and traditional ways of food preservation fascinate Chris. She has been experimenting with microbes since she bought her first San Francisco Sourdough kit in the 1970s. Her repertoire of ferments expanded to include fruit wine and herbal wine making, kombucha and kefir, cheese and dairy ferments, sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as lesser known fermented fruits and vegetables. To feed her fascination, Chris recently took a university course on the Human Microbiome, and gained a new appreciation for the role that lactobacillus plays in human wellness. Chris shares her knowledge with her readers on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com.

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