Lettuce is not something normally canned or frozen, as this water-heavy vegetable does not stand up well to such methods. Fermenting it, however, is a good way to preserve that bumper lettuce crop coming into the garden. Lettuce has a very high water content, so it is a good candidate for dry-salt fermentation. Add any flavorings as desired – minced garlic to fresh herbs to spices – but the pure lettuce-salt combination makes a bright lettuce ferment that is a great addition to those summer salads of peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
INGREDIENTS AND EQUIPMENT AVAILABLE AT CULTURES FOR HEALTH
- Lettuce (as many heads or leaves as need preserving)
- Sea salt
- Water, as needed
- Wash lettuce and remove any brown leaves. Depending on the type of lettuce, there are a few preparation options. For a crunchier lettuce like a romaine or a sturdy leaf or iceberg lettuce, shred it like cabbage for sauerkraut. For a softer-leafed lettuce, cut lettuce into pieces as wide and long as the diameter of your fermentation vessel.
- Because lettuce wilts down, releases a lot of moisture, and reduces in volume as it ferments, an open-crock (or large bowl) method works well. Once fermented for a few days, the lettuce can be transferred to jars.
- Put a layer of lettuce in a large vessel, sprinkle lightly with salt, and repeat. For every quart of packed-down lettuce use 1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp. salt. Mix lettuce and salt layers all up, taste, and add more salt if there is no noticeable saltiness to the lettuce.
- Once layering and mixing is completed, weigh down the vegetables in the large bowl or crock. This can be done with a large cabbage leaf or lettuce leaf topped with a heavy plate that fits just inside the vessel, plus anything that can be put atop the plate to weighh it down further.
- The brine will begin to form from the pressure of the weight, and by 24 hours after the initial salting, the lettuce should be covered in brine. If not, add some brine with a ratio of 1 quart water to 2 Tbsp. salt. The lettuce should be at least 2 inches below the brine.
- Ferment for several days, transfer to glass jars if desired, and move the jars to cold storage.