Lacto-Fermentation versus Canning and Pickling

There are a varied number of ways to preserve food. Canning, freezing and drying are just a few. Fermentation is another way. In this post Mary discusses the pro’s and con’s of different ways of food preservation so that you can make an educated decision.

Recently, among friends, I shared my love for fermented foods. While explaining the process of fermentation these questions came up, “Why can’t I just can the foods? What’s the difference?” Great questions. So, I’m here to explain the differences of lacto-fermentation versus canning and pickling for those of you who may be wondering the exact same thing.

Lacto-Fermentation versus Canning and Pickling

First let’s explain the basic concepts of each.

What is Canning?

Canning is a great way to preserve food for long-term storage. Could you just home can fermented foods? Well, in my opinion, not really. Canning uses a high amount of heat that kills the good bacteria that you receive from fermentation. That means your food loses all of those glorious nutritional benefits.

What is Pickling?

Pickling is the process of preserving foods, such as cucumbers, in vinegar to create “pickles”. This process helps to keep foods from spoiling. It does not preserve the bacteria found in lacto-fermented foods, however.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

The Oxford dictionary defines fermentation as the “chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.” Simply put, lacto-fermentation is the process of adding a salt brine to promote good bacteria and prevent bad bacteria.

Which do you choose?

Well, the choice is yours. I always prefer fermentation over any other source of food preservation and the more that I study the health benefits surrounding it, the bigger of an advocate I become. In my post Improved Health with Fermented Foods, I shared many wonderful health benefits.

The most important health benefit to fermented foods is the added probiotics and improved gut health one receives. According to an article in Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter:

It makes sense that fermented foods might improve digestive health. In fermentation, whether for yogurt or beer, bacteria or yeast feed on the natural sugars in foods. These microorganisms create compounds such as lactic acid or alcohol, which help preserve the foods. The fermented foods also wind up filled with “friendly” bacteria such as those touted in probiotic products, as well as helpful enzymes.

Additional benefits of Lacto-Fermentation:

  • Easy – Creating probiotic-rich fermented foods is incredibly easy. The Fermentools starter kit makes it even easier. There is no need to go in and periodically “burp” your jars because the kit contains a handy little airlock. I don’t know about you, but sometimes creating healthy, home-cooked meals can feel like a chore. Life is busy and I’m always looking for ways to simplify. This is another reason why I will always choose fermenting over canning, it is so much simpler.
  • Delicious – Among my family’s personal favorite recipes are a simple sauerkraut, Cortido, or fermented jalapenos. Scroll through the Fermentools blog for many other great fermented food recipes.
  • Handy – Fermented foods are packed full of flavor and they make great additions to so many recipes. Whether you would like to add them as a side dish or prefer to eat them as a condiment, they are sure to make your meal very tasty. Add some fermented jalapenos to your scrambled eggs, simple sauerkraut with your Polish sausage, or Kimchi with your Pho. There are so many possibilities!

Getting started with fermented foods is very simple, and the added benefits make it my first choice over canning and pickling any day. Give this simple sauerkraut recipe a try.

Sauerkraut Recipe


  • 1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1-3 tablespoons sea salt


  1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Use a wooden meat pounder on cabbage for about 10-15 minutes to release the juices.
  3. Place cabbage and juice into clean mason jars and press down firmly with wooden spoon.
  4. Ensure that the cabbage mixture is below the brine and add your glass weight to ensure it remains there.
  5. Assemble the rest of the fermenting kit. Gasket, stainless steel lid, ring for your mason jar, stopper and airlock. Fill airlock half way with water.
  6. Allow to ferment for about two weeks at room temperature. Or until you reach your desired flavor.
  7. Once finished fermenting, use a refrigerator safe lid and move to cold storage.


If you are new to lacto-fermentation, look no further. Fermentools has plenty of recipes here for you to try. Easy, starter ones and ones for the more experienced fermenter. You will also find all the tools you need in the Fermentools Store.


Mary is a city girl from L.A who reluctantly married a real life cowboy, gave up the life and career she knew for a simple, rural life in Nebraska. Here they raise three young children, several goats, chickens, ducks and guineas. They focus on natural living, healthy eating, organization, minimalism, simplicity and their traditional Catholic faith. Mary blogs at Boots and Hooves Homestead.

Leave a Comment