Lacto-Fermented Orange or other Citrus

Orange/honey/spice mix to ferment-1

by Cat, Nov-Dec 2017 (All photos by Cat)

Fermentation is an ancient process that goes back to early Biblical times. It preserves and augments the nutritional elements of the preserved food. Quality fermented foods are the best probiotics we can consume – far better than supplemental probiotics, as they are fermented with live, local bacteria.

It is recommended to eat 1 – 2 bits of fermented food daily, for a healthy gut. I use fermented orange to add to my morning smoothie for one of my daily servings. But it would also be good on ice cream, or on its own.

My first attempt at fermenting oranges was Marmalade (originally from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig). The orange needs to be cooked to activate the pectin in the white part of the peel, to thicken the mix; I cooked part of the orange mix and left the remainder raw. The result was good but didn’t have the texture of marmalade (spreadable, like a jam). So I used it up by adding a bit to my morning smoothie. I like that so much I decided to just ferment the cut-up orange, without activating the pectin.

I use raw, local honey for the sweetener, for its flavor and also to take advantage of its ability to minimize seasonal allergies. Note that much of the sugar in the honey is converted to lactic acid by the fermentation process, but enough remains to add a bit of sweetness.

Since writing this post, I have also fermented blueberries and also a cranberry-orange relish at holiday time; and I learned how to make Preserved Lemons from a local chef.

Fermented Orange (or Lemon, Lime, Kumquat, etc.) and Peel 

See also Testing Fermented Citrus without Pectin, below. I provide 2 recipe sizes; I started with the 1-pint size to test the recipe; have not yet tested the 2-pint size. I’ve also not tested using powdered culture, so not sure of the amount.

Notes about ingredients:

  • Valencia oranges produce more juice than Naval oranges, but both work well in this recipe.
  • Or use other citrus such as grapefruit (pink grapefruit is the best – see my testing, below). lemon, tangerine, satsuma, clementines, etc. are other options.
  • I prefer to use raw local honey rather than sugar because of the benefits it provides, especially reducing seasonal allergy symptoms, but also because of its flavor.
  • I use Celtic sea salt, rather than Redmond Real Salt because of the insoluble iron in the latter. You could also use Kosher salt, but you’d need a bit more because it is a coarser grind.
  • The optional spices are inspired by Hybrid Rasta Mama recipe for fermented orange rind (4). I’ve been using ginger, cloves and nutmeg. I’d like to try allspice with a mix of orange and lemon.
  • Culture starter options:
    • Brine liquid from a previous batch of fermented citrus – this is the one I use.
    • If this is your first batch: brine liquid from other fermented products:
      • other fermented fruits such as fermented berries
      • fermented beets (this will give a slight red color to your end product unless you use golden beets)
      • fermented veggies such as sauerkraut – you don’t need much so you won’t get that kraut flavor in the final product.
    • Powdered culture (I’ve not tried that), but you should be able to use that (for fermenting vegetables).
    • Liquid whey (from cultured milk) is suggested by some sources, but it leaves a harmless white powder on the top of the fermented product it, that looks like unappealing mold or fungi.

You may wonder why I use the entire peel: not just the zest but also the pith (the white part of the peel). While orange pith is slightly bitter (pith of some other citrus are more bitter), other ingredients in the mixture (the flesh of the orange and honey) minimize that. The health benefits of citrus pith are amazing:

  • from Dr Weil (1): The pith “is high in fiber that may help lower cholesterol levels and contains as much vitamin C as the fruit itself. Pith also contains assorted flavonoids, including hesperidin, which may help blood vessels function better and may reduce inflammation. Another flavonoid found in oranges, including the pith and peel as well as the fruit, is naringenin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and some ability to reduce carbohydrate absorption from the intestinal tract, possibly reducing rapid rises in blood sugar after eating. This could have some beneficial effect on weight management and metabolic syndrome, a combination of risk factors for stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
  • from The Health Site (2) : “Pectin, a form of fibre is present in the pith; … helps relieve you of diarrhoea and control cholesterol. … contains the same amount of vitamin C that is present in the fruit.” Also, “Antioxidants in the form of flavonoids are present abundantly in the pith. This gives a powerful boost to our immune system and is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial in nature.”
  • from Self Hacked (3): bitters “stimulate digestive juices to help the body overcome gut problems such as indigestion, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and more.”

Ingredients & Equipment

  • To make 2 pints: 
  • 2 – 4 Organic oranges, depending on size (or other citrus, individually or in combos)
  • Optional spices:
    • 2 tsp grated ginger-root, or ¼ tsp powdered ginger (optional)
    • 4 – 8 dried whole dried cloves
    • ½ – 1 tsp dried, grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp dried whole allspice
    • ½ whole cinnamon stick
  • ¼ – ½ cup raw local honey (alternately Rapadura or white cane sugar can be used)
  • 1½-2 Tbsp brine-liquid from another lacto-fermentation product (or ¼ – ½* tsp culture starter mixed with a few Tbsp water)
  • 1 tsp Celtic sea salt or Kosher salt
  • filtered water
  • To make 1 pint: 
  • 1 – 2 Organic oranges, depending on size (or other citrus, individually or in combos)
  • Optional spices:
    • ¼ – ½ tsp grated ginger-root, or ¼ tsp powdered ginger (optional)
    • 3 dried whole cloves
    • ½ tsp dried, grated nutmeg
    • ¼ – ½ tsp dried whole allspice
    • ½ whole cinnamon stick
  • Scant ¼ cup raw local honey (alternately Rapadura or white cane sugar can be used)
  • 2 tsp brine-liquid from previous batch or another fermentation product (or liquid whey in a pinch); alternately, ⅛ – ¼* tsp powdered culture starter mixed with a few tsp water.  *
  • 1 tsp Celtic sea salt  or Kosher salt
  • filtered water
  • Equipment
  • bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • Sterilized Mason jars, with lids:
    • 2-pint recipe: 1 quart jar for initial fermentation of the batch, then can be transferred to smaller jars for storage, if you prefer.
    • 1-pint recipe: 1 pint jar for initial fermentation, then can be transferred to 2 half-pint jars if desired.

‘* I’ve not tested using  powdered culture, so not sure of the amount; start with lesser amount and add more if needed.


  1. Sterilize fermentation jar(s) and lid(s), but not rings.
  2. Wash and dry off the whole fruit. Cut up fruit using one of the following methods:
    1. Quarter oranges/lemons, separate peel from pulp, then cut peel into thin strips, about ⅛-¼” wide, then cross-wise into cubes. Chop the flesh of the fruit. This is the method I use.
    2. Slice oranges/lemons (through flesh and peel) very thinly, then cut into quarters.
  3. Place all in bowl.
  4. Optional spices: Grate fresh ginger-root (or use powdered ginger); add to bowl with any other desired spices.
  5. Add liquid whey (or starter culture), honey or sugar (start with ¼ cup and add more, to taste), and ½ cup filtered water. Stir well, then spoon into sterilized jar(s).
  6. Press fruit to bottom with wooden spoon or pounder, removing air bubbles. Add enough water  to cover fruit, leaving at least about ½ – 1 inch of air space at top, wipe neck clean and cap tightly.
  7. Set on counter and cover with a towel. Allow to ferment at room temperature about 3 days. Turn the fermentation jar a few times a day to make sure the citrus at the top is getting washed in the culturing fluid, then press down to remove air bubbles.
  8.  After 3 – 4 days, give it a taste to determine if it has begun to ferment; if not, leave it on the counter for 1 – 2 more days and taste again. If you want it a bit sweeter, add some extra honey or other sweetener, once the citrus is done fermenting.
  9. Transfer ferment to sterilized storage jars, to store in cold place (cold root cellar or fridge). Make sure there is a bit of liquid above the fruit in each jar, adding filtered water as needed.

Serving suggestions: 

  • Add a bit to garnish bowl of ice cream.
  • Add a spoonful to a smoothie, instead of or in addition to raw orange peel – pectin has many health benefits.
  • Serve as a condiment at a meal, about 1 teaspoon full per person.

Testing fermented citrus, without pectin

Orange/honey/spice mix to ferment-2

12/31/17 – 1/6/18; orange:  Made 1-pint size batch with 1 extra-large Organic naval orange, with scant ¼ cup local honey, ¼ tsp powdered ginger, 3 whole, dried cloves and ½ tsp  ground nutmeg; 1 tsp Celtic sea salt; and a mix of 2 tsp brine from last batch with 1 ½ Tbsp water and ¼ tsp powdered culture. The honey is pretty stiff because it’s cool in the house, so set bowl of mixture on top of my pilot-warmed stove (not on the pilot), about 110°F to warm a bit. Packed into a sterilized pint wide-mouth jar; comes about 1 ¼” of top so added no water; screwed on lid, and set on counter, covered with a towel to ferment, 1/1/18, 1 PM. Stirred each day, pressing down again before adding lid. Into fridge on Jan 6. Result: Delicious – not too sweet.

1/27/18; orange: Made 1-pint size recipe as before and set to ferment 1/27. 1/31: signs of fermentation; this batch has more liquid than previous batch, because I chopped the flesh more finely. As delicious as before. Made one more batch but didn’t record.

 4/26/18; orange: Made 1-pint recipe as before, chopping flesh more finely. But I had trouble measuring the honey because it was old, too thick and hard to work with. Mixed and pressed down each day; liquid is quite dark; I think I added too much honey. 5/1: first taste-test; way too sweet, and doesn’t have fermented taste. Will leave it on counter for at least 1 more day. 5/2: It floats to the top of the jar, leaving all the liquid in the bottom; not sure why. The sweetness did reduce a bit, the longer it fermented, but the chance of getting alcohol in the mix was too high, so I stirred, pressed down and placed it in my fridge to slow the fermentation. Result: Too sweet for my taste, but otherwise delicious.

9/4/18; pink grapefruit: I’ve made 2 batches with orange peel since the last recorded test, using correct amount of honey and chopping up the flesh more finely. Today I’m going to test using pink grapefruit, following the same method. used 1 soft-ball sized pink grapefruit (avoiding the seeds), ¼ tsp powdered ginger, 3 whole, dried cloves, ½ stick cinnamon, ½ tsp  ground nutmeg, and 1 tsp Kosher salt. It is difficult to measure the honey exactly because it sticks to both inside and outside of the spoon; I used 3 full and rounded Tbsp – should be between 3½ and 4 Tbsp. Used 2 tsp brine from last batch of fermented orange, and scant ¼ cup filtered water to fill the sterilized pint jar. Mixed well, transferred to jar and screwed on lid, then wrapped in dish towel (to keep it dark inside jar), and set to rest on counter. Will check and stir every morning 9/7: Bubbly, so is making alcohol. Gave a good stir and transferred half to a half-pint jar with lid. It has a sweetened grapefruit flavor, but also the bitter flavor of the peel. Transferred both jars to fridge where will continue to ferment more slowly. 9/10: Tasted again; it is no longer bubbling and it’s flavor is mellowing a bit.

8/2/19; orange: 11 AM: Only had 1 smaller valencia orange but followed recipe for a pint because I plan to add another orange later today. Stirred well, put on lid, wrapped in towel and set on counter. 4 PM: Bought another Valencia, prepped only ¾ of it, mixed with earlier batch & returned to jar with lid (filled nearly to top), wrapped in towel and set on counter. 8/5: quite fizzy, so stirred, and placed jar with lid in fridge, to continue to ferment more slowly. Delicious, as always.

2/14/21; orange: The brine from my last batch had gotten moldy, so will use brine from last batch of fermented blueberry-orange mix. It is a dark purple, so will change color of the orange in this batch. Used 1 very large navel orange, enough for a little more than a pint. Used brine from last batch of fermented blueberry-orange mix; it gives the batch a brighter orange color. Otherwise, as written. Transferred to sterilized wide-mouth quart Mason far with lid, covered with a towel and set on counter. Checked around 4 PM; too much water. 2/15: 10 AM: added ¼ of a large orange (to use excess water). Stirred & pressed @ 4:30 PM; 2/16: 9 AM: Stirred, pressed & tasted – not ready for fridge yet.


  1. Dr Weil:
  2. The Health Site:
  3. Self Hacked:
  4. Hybrid Rasta Mama:

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