More on Fermentation Methods and Equipment

ng_picklesI’ve been promising to continue my series on lacto-fermentation for the last few weeks, but somehow got waylaid by desserts and sweets! I thought it was time to get back into this important topic (for more information read, Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation and Methods).

When I discussed the different methods of fermentation, I didn’t talk a lot about the different equipment you can buy and use, so I thought I would do that next. If you have had any experience using any of these products, please tell us your experience!! I know that there are many ways to lacto-ferment and I will only be touching a few of them. So please feel in the gaps!

Mason Jars

First, one of the easiest and cheapest items to buy is a simple mason jar. I like the wide mouth ones especially.

You can use this for whey, salt, and saltless ferments.

For a more traditional method (and one which I prefer for taste), you can use a crock. Truthfully, I have been using a bowl with a plate. You can also use a food grade plastic bucket with a plate (and some type of weight), which I’ve also done. But I hate using plastic, even “food grade”. I feel that my bowl and plate method works okay, but for long term use, I want to buy a real crock. There are a few options out there.

A Traditional Open Crock

You can buy and see what they look like here . You need to make sure that you buy a lead free crock, as ferments are preserved in a very acidic environment which would leech out lead from your crock (in years past, there were several women who got lead poisoning from making kombucha in a crock which contained lead). For this reason, you may not want to buy a crock used.

Advantages include the fact that they aren’t too expensive (about 25 dollars for the smaller size). You will need to find a plate that fits neatly inside to hold the ferment under the water, or buy a specially made wooden board. This is how ferments have been made for hundreds of years.

However, I’ve been tempted to go ahead and buy one of the most wonderful crocks out there!

The Harsch Miracle Crock

These crocks use an innovative system by creating a water seal which allows gas to escape without exposing the ferment to air. This eliminates the needs to wash the plate/board everyday that you use in the traditional crock, and you don’t have to skim any scum off the top of the ferment (something you also have to do with a basic crock). Basically, you just fill it up, use the weighted plates to hold the ferment down, put on the lid and you are done! You check back in a few weeks, and you have lovely sauerkraut. We are seriously considering buying one of these, so I would love to hear your feedback on them.

Pickle Maker

And finally, there is one more item worth mentioning, which is a contraption made out of a gallon glass jar with a water seal put into the lid. See one here. They are significantly cheaper at only $25-35 dollars and are supposed to only take a few days to ferment (though you will probably remember that I don’t like the taste of short ferments). I do wonder if they are a bit overpriced, as it’s simply a gallon jar (which I buy for a couple of dollars) and a simple water lock seal that also only costs a few dollars. I wonder if you could make it yourself?

So there are a few of the options that I am interested in. I would love to hear what you like and use. Please share!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday!

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. says

    I’ve been thinking about using the crocks that come with my crock pots. Any known reasons on why I should NOT use them??? Or does anyone else use them for fermenting? I’d be curious to know your thoughts as well as others. Thanks!

    • Ryan says

      I know this is an old post, but if I found this page searching for information, others may also. Right now target has a round 4quart croc pot for $20. The ceramic removable croc is perfect for sauerkraut as it is already food safe, and a coffee saucer fits just fits inside to sit on the fermenting cabbage. The fact that it comes with the heating part and can be used as an actual croc pot is just icing on the cake!

  2. Emily says

    Well, these posts have inspired me to try making a batch of kimchi. My brother lived in Korea for a while and introduced me to it. It is so wonderful in soups. I am planning on using Mason Jars, since that is what I have on hand. The instructions say to seal the jars. Is there any danger they will break?

  3. says

    I use mason jars, the wide mouths are the best. I keep asking on Freecycle for more jars, but no luck. I wonder if everyone else is using their jars this year??

  4. says

    Motherhen – a lady I know who works in the Goodwill store in our area said that people have been snapping up any and all jars that come through – apparently, the general idea is that everyone is going to be “saving” money this year by putting food up. … we’ll see how many end back up at the Goodwill come November though! 😉

    Kimi – I use the Mason jars because that’s what we have… I’ve also used the gallon glass jars with fairly good success… I was wondering about the “Miracle Crock” myself… I’ll be looking forward to seeing any of the feed back you get on it.

  5. KimiHarris says

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for the comments!

    What’s Cooking,

    I’ve read that a lot of our crock pots contain lead in them. That would be the big concern with using it for ferments as it could leech! I hardly even use my crockpot any more because of the risk!

  6. says

    I have been making my sauerkraut in a 2-quart mason jar using the whey method. I leave it out for 5 days and then refrigerate it for 2 weeks; I think it tastes better that way. After reading your post, I think I’m going to use leftover sauerkraut “juice” for my next batch and leave it at room temperature for the entire fermentation time instead of using whey.

    I don’t see why you couldn’t make your own airlock that lets gas escape by drilling a 1/4″ hole in your lid, putting some 1/4″ aquarium tubing in it and adding a check valve to the end of the tubing so that CO2 could get out but no air could get in. None of the plastic would have to touch your fermenting food. I’m not sure if I thought that through correctly, though (someone will have to let me know).

    I’m looking forward to reading future posts. I have only made 2 batches of sauerkraut and a batch of fermented green tomatoes so far, so I am pretty new to this. I am going to try ketchup and salsa next.

  7. says

    I’ve been trying to decide which kind I want every time I go to Lehman’s. I’m leaning toward a traditional crock since they’re made locally, and I love it when I can find something I need that’s made within 100 miles. But those german ones with the water seals are quite nifty.

  8. Matt says

    I have successfully used mason jars for kraut, ginger carrots and kimchi. After fermenting (with whey) on the counter for 3 days, they go in the fridge (have not had any explosions on stuff that is even 6 months old).
    I just recently obtained a Harsch crock and will try kraut in it soon.

  9. says

    We use the one at Raw Diet and it’s worth every penny. I LOVE it. I don’t find that it takes only a few days, maybe that’s true if you add a starter culture. I’ve never had a bad batch with that maker.

  10. Darla says

    We have the Harsh Miracle Crock and love it. It makes wonderful sauerkraut and is very easy to use and clean.

  11. Jessica O. says

    Are you saying that regular crock pots can leach lead just cooking normal foods too…meaning I cook a roast in it for the day…is there a chance it can leach? If that is the case is there a crock pot out there that anyone knows of that is safe for everyday cooking?
    Jessica O.

  12. Jessie says

    With regard to equipment – I have just started lacto-fermenting & so far am using mason jars. I suppose if it really goes well & my husband and I like it, we’d consider the crock. But space is at a premium – hard to justify one more thing 🙂

  13. Jenny T. says

    Hello! I just made my own Kimchee and it is so good! I used mason jars and it was really easy. I used sea salt and let it set out for 3 days and it tasted just like the expensive store bought stuff. I did learn that you need to leave a little head room because it expands, we were all wondering what the weird hissing noise was coming from the stove area! 🙂 I would love to eventually get a real crock as I think this is a great way to store some of your veggies. But for now I am happy with my simple way.

  14. Heather says

    Hi Kimi! We have tried several of the fermented vegetable and fruit recipes from Nourishing Traditions. I use both Mason jars and crocks. We keep the sauerkraut recipe on hand. Yet our absolute favorite from the book (even the children love) is the cherry chutney. I can’t make enough of this.
    The neat thing is is that once you learn the principles of fermentation you can adapt other favorites. Our main example of this is my homemade BBQ sauce. My family doen’t care for the NT ketchup but loves my BBQ. They can’t even tell it’s fermented! Thank you for your wonderful posts. Heather 🙂

  15. Lisa Imerman says

    I have 2 Harsch crocks. One is a 10L and one is the 15L. I originally got the smaller one when we really started getting into ferments as we had so many jars going and I found that I really prefer the sauerkraut made in the crock. It is very easy (little maintenance) and you can make a good size batch at one time as well as the fact that it does take longer to ferment, but has better texture and flavor than the Mason Jar kraut (in my opinion). I got the larger one so we could make 2 ferments at once, but i find we mostly use the 10 L.

    I still make Kim Chi in the mason jars (I get the half gallon ones) as it doesn’t take as long to ferment and we don’t seem to ever have enough ingredients to make a crock full of Kim Chi at once. I might try it this year in the crock however.

    For recipes I use Wild Fermentation, we have tried different recipes (NT, the book that came with the crock, etc.) and find that Wild Fermentation is the most consistent and best method and recipes!!

  16. Theresa says

    Hi Kimi,
    Oops! I just sent you a commet regarding the airloc and beet kvass, but I forgot to fill in my name and email. Did you receive it, and if so, do I need to resend it?
    Theresa 🙂

  17. tina says

    I have the pickle, saurekraut and kimi glass maker (it’s suppose to make all three of these fermented foods within a few days) and I believe I’ve wasted $25. I used it once for saurekraut and didn’t like it at all. I will try pickles this summer and I hope they turn out.

    I’d love nothing more than to get a crock to make saurekraut but they are so darn expensive! I’ll have to save for quite a while before I can afford one.

    BTW, I love your website! I’ve been reading it for a while. I really appreciate the time you take to give us the recipes!

  18. KimiHarris says

    Wow, thanks everyone for the great comments. Very helpful.

    (Theresa, your comment didn’t go through! Sorry)

  19. Emma Kung says

    I bought the Hausch crock. So far I have only made 1 batch of sauerkraut, but it came out really godd. It tasted almost just like the Cultured brand I had been paying $8.50 per jar for. I liked not having to deal with scraping scum. I think it might turn me off to eating it, plus I have a 17 month old and would probably forget to check it.

  20. Betty says

    Hi Kim, Did you ever buy the crock? How did it go? I’ve been toying with GAPS for a year now, following it with a few exceptions. I try to not eat grains (though I might take a bite of brown rice that I serve the kids), and I don’t use sugar (just honey), though I do occasionally have some good dark chocolate or some Bryer’s ice cream. I have celiac and chronic fatigue and blown adrenals. I’ve been consulting with Dr. Neville at Clymer for a while now. How are you doing? What things have brought the most healing for you? I looked at your links about food intolerance. I’ve had blood tests done before but don’t know if they are really reliable. I can’t focus on the food intolerance (I reacted to 50 foods) AND gaps. So, it’s easier to focus on GAPS. What do you think?

    • Christine says

      Betty- I’m thinking you already came up with an answer to your question (since you asked so long ago). Hopefully you are even healed by now! But for anyone else with a similar question, I wanted to comment, since I too have numerous food intolerances and sensitivities and needed to go through a severe elimination diet before I could start reintroducing healing foods. It would have been absolutely pointless to try any diet with the hopes of healing my gut if I were not paying attention to the foods my body reacted negatively to. As much as it would have been easier to just focus on one or the other, both following a proper diet and avoiding certain foods were necessary to do at the same time. Best of health…

  21. says

    i am using a wooden chest for fermentation of Beet kvass. i have arranged one bulb 5watts, two small holes(15CM dia) with mesh cover for air circulation, one fish aquarium heater with suitable water jar(temperature max 30digrees). I am getting very good fermented Beet kvass. Please suggest me any extra provisions for my fermenting chest.

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