Where to Buy a Quality Sauerkraut Crock (Cheap!)

sauerkraut-crock

Elena and I shredded, salted, and packed raw cabbage into our new sauerkraut crock yesterday. I had been using a large ceramic bowl before, and let me tell you, this works ten times better! A very nice reader let me know that you can buy sauerkraut crocks at  Ace Hardware Store . I can’t find her comment on my site anymore (it’s lost in all of the comments, I think), but I did take her advice and looked into it. Thank you, dear reader!

Whenever I looked into buying a crock before, I was unable to find a place locally to buy one, other than a used one at a garage sale or second hand store. And, being pretty careful about things, I wanted to make sure that the one I bought was certified lead free (as you will remember ferments get quite acidic which can pull lead out of crocks or glass jars). I became a little paranoid about lead in crocks after reading about someone who got lead poisoning from making kombucha in a crock. So I personally wanted to buy a new, lead free one.

But the big problem with buying crocks online is the shipping price!

crock

These beauties aren’t exactly lightweights so it costs a fair amount to ship (sometimes it would even double the price!). Each and every time I looked into buying one, the shipping price inevitably changed my mind.

Ace Hardware doesn’t carry them in stock, generally, but they will gladly ship one into the store for you to pick up. They sell them (right now) for $19 (a one gallon) to $100 dollars (ten gallons). This is a really a great price and it’s without a shipping cost!  You can check here to see if you have any Ace Hardware Stores in your area (we had a bunch that I didn’t even know of!).

So that’s my frugal tip of the day!  I really like the taste of sauerkraut made in a crock best (here’s the recipe I use), so I was so happy to find an affordable price on a crock. Thank you, whoever you were, for telling me where I could buy one!

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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!

Comments

  1. Andrea says

    THANK YOU for that tip!! I’ve been wanting a crock for a long time but haven’t wanted to spend the money. I just ordered one from Ace!

  2. Betty says

    Some of the pricey crocks I’ve seen come with a lid and a stone to keep the cabbage below the brine. How do you ferment with these crocks? We’ve got an ACE hardware very close. Thanks.

    • KimiHarris says

      Hi Betty,

      They ferment the same way, but you don’t have to worry about washing off the plate and weight everyday. I’ve heard they are great! When I have the $$$ I want to get one myself. :-)

  3. Lisa Imerman says

    I purchased my Harsch Crock which has the weight stones and the lid with the water channel for air free fermenting online and it was no shipping at that time, but maybe there is now??

    Canning Pantry dot com

    If you are in SE MI, Diane at Rocky Gardens carries the crocks (she doesn’t always have them in stock but usually gets them each season) and they are much cheaper than online!!! rockygardens dot com

    • Lisa Imerman says

      Rocky Gardens is in Davisburg, MI and you would have to pick it up there, just to make that clear.

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Lisa,

      I think I did see several places offering free shipping on the more expensive Harsch Crock’s. (They better with how expensive they are!). I was referring the crock’s like the one pictured above, the old fashioned kind. :-) There maybe be some place offering free shipping on these, but I was never able to find one.

  4. Tammy says

    Yah! Thanks for the great tip! Found a store only 10 miles away :) So I take it then that you researched these and they are certified lead free?? I am paranoid about that too!

  5. says

    I LOVE Ace Hardware. They are my favorite hardware store! I buy almost all of my mason jars and canning stuff there, but I’ve never seen crocks. I will HAVE to order a few before summer . . .

    Also, I’ve been keeping this link for when I do buy crocks, but it might be helpful for you too – lids!
    http://www.lehmans.com/store/Home_Goods___Barrels__Kegs_and_Crocks___Wooden_Lids_for_Crocks___10125?Args=
    You can also get them (on the same site) with holes in the top for sauerkraut.

    Best,
    Sarah

  6. Youthful One says

    I’m confused.
    You said they work the same way as those with a lid. But I’m very new to this – these from Ace don’t come w/a lid, right? So, how do you keep the veggies below the brine?

    • says

      For Canadians – Home Hardware has them now at a reasonable price.
      Prices range from $29-$110CAN for 2 to 10 gal crocks.
      Lids are sold separately at $22-$35CAN.
      They are the same “Ohio Stoneware” ones listed above.

  7. says

    Ooh… I’ll be ordering some of these – maybe then I can use my big glass gallon jars for something else this summer. :)

  8. says

    I’ve been wanting one. Thank you so much for the tip….will be heading over to my local ACE hardware later this week to check it out.

  9. Kelly Scanlon says

    Wow perfect timing…I have been researching them but the shipping has stopped me also! I still do not understand, even though this question was asked, does it come with something to weigh it down? Do I have to have a special sized plate to fit inside? Thanks for the info!

  10. Vicky says

    Kimi, this is perfect timing! I have been really wanting a crock but cannot afford to spend the money on the pricier ones. And we have an Ace Hardware right in town. :)

    What size did you order? I am just curious what size to get that will fit a batch of sauerkraut. Thank you! :)

  11. says

    As far as the questions regarding the lids for the crocks, you are buying just the crock by itself. You don’t really need a lid (the “weight” I use goes above the top of the crock so I couldn’t use it while fermenting anyways). However, some people buy sauerkraut boards which help keep the sauerkraut down. I simply use a plate that fits snuggly inside. You can buy one here. http://www.lehmans.com/store/Home_Goods___Barrels__Kegs_and_Crocks___Wooden_Sauerkraut_Boards___10311?Args=

    One caution, one reader bought one (I don’t remember from where) and it got bloated from the liquid and got stuck inside the crock. :-(

    I just bought the crock by itself, found a plate that fits inside, and weigh it down with a water filled jar. I cover this with a towel so that no dust gets inside.

    For those wondering, I got a gallon size which works great for about 5-7 pounds of cabbage.

    • Johanna says

      I am trying to build my Ace order now for store delivery [free] and didn’t know which size to get, so I thought I’d re-read this post. Thanks for the tip!

  12. Elizabeth says

    I purchased the 7.5 liter Harsch Crock from wisementrading.com and it was well worth the price $119.95 + $12 shipping. Using this size I am able to make 6 quarts of sauerkraut. Easy to use and clean.

  13. says

    I’ve found a great jar/system for kraut and other fermented goodies. It is called the Pickl-It. The system is designed so that your ferments are oxygen-free. The kraut comes out crispy and delicious. I’ve also fermented some awesome Italian Lemons that I’m using whenever I want to perk up a recipe with some a tangy citrus flavor. The website is http://www.pickl-it.com. Enjoy!

  14. says

    I have a question for those of you who are in the know: would the possible presence of lead be a concern if I were to use an inherited crock as a bread-rising/storage container?

    • -K says

      I would say yes just to be safe, lead leaches into food over time so if you are storing something in there you might be at risk. :-(

  15. says

    Thanks for this! I just did a google search for Australia, and the first to come up was the exact one you recommended. Very surprised and very happy :D

  16. brassfrog says

    I find that a 1/2 gallon mason jar will hold a medium cabbage when shredded and packed, and that’s about all the sauerkraut I need until I start the next batch.

  17. says

    Kimi, I tell you, when you tell me to buy something — I do it! Usually because I have been searching for the same thing. I picked up my specially-ordered crock today from Ace and am excited to start a batch of Kraut. I am curious to see how different it tastes from my normal mason jar method. Thanks!

  18. Bill says

    I have a crock like this with a wooden lid. I wish I could use the lid, but it swells up and gets stuck. Plates leave space for air to get in, so I would prefer to use the lid. I’ve searched the web and can find nowhere where anyone explains how you can get the lid back out. It has small holes in it, but using a coat hanger does not work very easily. I probably spent an hour or so using one to get the lid off to check it. Presumably, people have actually used these wooden lids, no? The company that sold it to us wouldn’t reply and everyone we’ve asked just says to use a plate. I’m doing that, but it would actually work much better to use the lid if we could only get it back out! Anyone know how to do this?

    • CoachT says

      Very late to the reply but someone may be reading. The wood won’t swell so much unless it’s very dry to begin with. If the wood is sufficiently hydrated then it doesn’t need the moisture from the vat. Oil it with a quality fine grade butcher block oil and make sure it never goes into a dishwasher or sits in the heat where it will dehydrated.

      Drying is also what causes them to crack and split.

  19. says

    I was delight to purchase my new crock at Ace Hardware and begin my first batch of Saurkraut last week. I tasted it today and it seems to have begun to ferment a bit but it is INCREDIBLY SALTY!!! I used the no-pound recipe you recommended from the Russian Cookbook and followed it carefully. Does it get less salty as it ferments in your experience or have you found a way to reduce the salty taste to make it more palitable? HELP!!! I was so excited about making it and looking forward to eating it but I am afraid it will be too salty to enjoy. By the way I love salty foods so salty to me is pretty salty! Thanks for any feedback!

    • Kevin says

      I used Alton Brown’s recipe available at FoodTV and it was not salty and the best kraut I have ever had.

      Good luck!

  20. Kate says

    FWIW, people never fermented in open crocks. All crocks had tight-fitting lids. You just don’t see old crocks with lids because they either rotted (made of wood) or they broke (made of clay).

    Fallon & Enig wrote a good article on fermentation and said: “Be sure to close the jars very tightly. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product.”
    http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/501-lacto-fermentation.html

    http://feedmelikeyoumeanit.blogspot.com/ compares two anaerobic systems

    All you’re doing when you use open-crock fermenting is creating the wrong kind of bacteria and acetic acid which is how you create vinegar. It has nothing to do with real lacto-fermentation.

    • KimiHarris says

      Kate,

      It’s true that it’s an anaerobic process when lacto-fermenting. However, the open “crock” method IS anaerobic because all of the sauerkraut is submerged under liquid (meaning it’s not exposed to air). So yes, this method is “real lacto-fermented”. :-)

      • Kate says

        Sorry, Kate. That’s a modern myth loaded with magical thinking that somehow lactic-acid bacteria, which are anaerobic, are able to survive as well as they would if you gave them the environment for which they were created – that of no oxygen. When you want to create vinegar, you let the oxygen pour across the brine. When you want nutrient-dense lactic-acid foods, you shut out the oxygen. That’s why traditional societies buried foods, or used porous sealed jars, etc. Lactic acid bacteria is weakened by oxygen and needs an air-tight, low-oxygen environment. Personally, I bought the snake oil all those years with a low-fat diet, no red meat, soy is good, and people who are perpetuating this myth are doing just as much harm. Read your microbiology: http://microbiology.suite101.com/article.cfm/difference_between_aerobic_anaerobic_bacteria

        • KimiHarris says

          Hey Kate,

          Thanks for the reply. I’ve never heard of anyone raising this concern with crock made sauerkraut before. Sally Fallon, whom you quoted, recommends and wrote a forward to the well respected, “Wild Fermentation” book by Sandor Ellix Katz, who helped heal himself using fermented foods. The recipe I use for sauerkraut is based on his recipe and method. My understanding is that it is indeed considered a low oxygen environment as long as plenty of liquid is covering the vegetables. (Air cannot get through the liquid to the vegetables, it seems to make good common sense to me!). The link you provided was interesting, but I wasn’t convinced by it that an submerged ferment was not anaerobic. Though I did think that this was interesting from the article, “Aerotolerant Anaerobes: These microbes are not affected by oxygen. They cannot use it, but are not harmed by it. Lactobacillus bacteria that are part of the normal gut flora are aerotolerant. ”

          We are all continuing to learn and expand our knowledge, whether it’s me or Sally Fallon, or another person reading and experimenting at home and I am certainly interested in new information of what could be a better way, I just haven’t seen any real proof yet. :-) I would actually love a Harsh crock, which is sealed, when I can afford it. But until then, I find my good old crock works fine, unless someone really convinces me that oxygen is getting through 2-3 inches of brine, I am not too concerned.

          • Kate says

            Hi, Kimi!
            Thanks for being so willing to discuss this. The “open crock” idea is not at all traditional. Crocks always, always, always came with covers. I don’t know why new, modern crocks don’t have a cover. Maybe it is because people buy them and as long as there is a market, they will keep selling crocks without covers.

            The issue isn’t the oxygen getting through 2-3 inches of brine. The issue is that oxygen is loaded with acetobacter, mold and yeast spores. They weaken lactic acid bacteria. LAB that are on the surface, will be pummeled by the acetobacter and will be neutralized. Layer after layer of LAB will be defiled, until eventually, it is the acetobacter that are turning the brine into vinegar, and NOT into a lactic-acid brine.

            Home-brewers and wine-makers are really good people to study. They use good-science, good-techniques in creating their products. What might happen if they took the mind-set that the anaerobic-portion of their fermentation would be just fine and that they no longer had to create their initial ferments in a tightly-closed, oxygen-free environment? They’d create nothing but vinegar – the exact opposite of what they are trying to create. They recognize that oxygen is loaded with acetobacters and they are the enemies of healthy products.

            God’s created world isn’t one of chaos, but one of order. There are many great research publications on the topic, and because there’s a huge accountability in His eyes when we teach, it is good to show ourselves approved workmen in all facets of life. Here’s a good beginning if you’d like to learn more: “Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods”. Google Books has quite a bit of this book available online.
            P. 308 13.2.1 “Factors Affecting Fermentation”
            “Lactic acid fermentation spontaneously occurs as soon as organic matter is enclosed in a limited space where access to oxygen is restricted…..”
            P. 309 discusses traditional methods of burying food, removing oxygen, providing air-tight environments
            P. 345 Sauerkraut: “It is of utmost importance to exclude air in order to support the subsequent lactic acid fermentation and to prevent mold and yeast growth. Finally, the surface of the filled containers must be covered carefully in order to exclude oxygen and microbial contamination.”

            You will never, ever find any credible piece of science/research that discusses some type of magic layer of protection over the top of the brine when there is an open airspace. THAT technique is ONLY for the making of vinegar – acetic-acid production.

            P. 309 of the HFFF book, reviews numerous traditional lacto-fermentation techniques – all of them involving sealed, oxygen-free vessels or closed, oxygen-free pits.

            As far as you not being aware of people being concerned about open-crocks, here is a good example of people nonchalantly skimming off mold, but the interesting part are the comments that follow – especially those who are appalled. There is a growing movement of people who want the real science and want the truly traditional techniques and they’re starting to wake up to the idea that there are ways that seem right to some, but they have nothing to do with truly traditional food…..

            Fallon urges the use of whey. Why? Because it is like a starter – speeding the pH/acid of the brine, adding LAB, etc., because it is not going to happen naturally – not when there’s oxygen around.

            http://boingboing.net/2009/01/12/making-sauerkraut-is.html

            -Kate

          • Jim Brewster says

            Kate, I think you have some misconceptions about the process. Lids and covers, whether tight-fitting or not, are not to exclude oxygen, but to a)hold the ferments under the brine, or b) to minimize dust and flies. Fermentation does indeed happen without a tight seal and without a whey starter. The yeasts present will consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, which will tend to displace the air in the headspace of the vessel. Unless you are mixing or stirring the contents, they will be anaerobic, with the possible exception of the very surface of the brine. BTW beer and wine makers often start with open vessels as they are easier to observe and skim.

        • says

          Sorry to be so late to the conversation.

          Kate, I think you have a great point here, but I’m not sure how much it applies to most people experimenting with fermentation in the Western World these days. I think if the big difference is that the traditional closed vats are used for long term storage fermentations, whereas most home fermentations (in the West) have a shorter fermentation time before being put in the fridge.

          For example, if I’m making something like Kimchi which I ferment for taste rather than preservation, it ferments for only 2 to 7 days before being put in the fridge. For these short ferments, a tightly woven cloth will keep out a fair amount (not all) of yeast spores and other contaminants. Most people use a cloth of some sort to keep the flies away. This can (depending on container and other factors) also help limit air circulation to the top of brine, allowing the CO2 to settle on top of the surface and reduce its’ exposure to O2 (qualified of course, this depends on many other factors like activity of the culture, hight of sides of the container vs surface area, &c. But for the every-day person just having some fun with sauerkraut, this tends to be the case). So there is some measure or protection, albeit, not enough for long term storage.

          If I have a large harvest of something like beets or cabbage that I would like to preserve for several months, then I will go the more traditional closed vessel rout that you describe. I don’t have a good place to bury it, so I use a vessel with an airlock, or other system that will exclude air getting at the brine.

          Thanks for listing some of your research in the comment below. I haven’t read Handbook of Fermented Foods yet, but it looks like a good read. As someone who’s looking to go fridge-free in the near future, I’m always interested in works like this.

  21. charlie says

    Thank you! I’ve been looking for a crock for a while and have only seen them at second hand stores for ridiculous prices. I hadn’t even considered the lead issue.

  22. Alan says

    I’d like to add my 2-cents on the ‘anaerobic’ discussion.

    Unfortunately an open container (even cloth covered) is NOT anaerobic even if the food is submerged. The reason is oxygen is absorbed in the water, and continues to absorb into the water through a process called diffusion. If the surface is instead blanked by CO2 (and other heavy gases) no new oxygen is introduced into your brine.

    As a fermenter of many things, including beer & wine, I use an airlock because I don’t want the surface of my ferment exposed to oxygen or I’ll get vinegar! Also, I don’t want foreign yeasts/molds/spores/bacteria to be introduced creating inconsistent, unfavorable or even dangerous results.

    There is a myth being spread by “Wild fermentation” that you can use any container, which is wild indeed! Far too many crocks and crock-pots have dangerous heavy metals in their glazes, including lead.

    With an anaerobic container (airlock or harsch) you give the beneficial bacteria the absolute best environment to thrive to drop the pH faster to have a safe, healthy, consistent result.

    Can you ferment in non-aerobic container? Yes.
    Will you get the best possible results? No.

  23. Bil says

    I’m not quite sure why everyone seems to think the Harsch crocks are so expensive. They do cost a little more than other containers, but not that much and it’s certainly an excellent investment. As well made as they are they could be useful for many generations. The sauerkraut that I’ve made using the Harsch crocks have been consistantly very, very good. It’ll keep in the crock for months provided cool temperatures and there’s almost no maintenance.
    What’s not to love?

  24. jack hall says

    The best crocks around are the Harsch I love the one I have. Last time I checked Wisementrading.com had the best price. I also think I saw they had another brand made in Poland that used the same design and were a little cheaper. I also love there Picklemeister
    (Jar with bubble on top to keep air out) they have. I can make smaller batches and make several different kinds at a time, great Idea. I like the pickles out of the picklemeister better, and sauerkraut out of the Harsch better, but both are great.

  25. Kraut Larry says

    We make our kraut in a 5 gallon crock and use a wine bladder from boxed wine (refilled with water) to cover the brine, it makes an air tight seal and in 60 days you have delicious kraut with no mold.

  26. Kelly says

    I’ve never heard of lead being pulled out of a glass container by acidic foods. Do you have any references or studies that confirm this?

    Thanks!

  27. dav says

    Thank you thank you thank you!!!!! I have been wanting to start making sauerkraut the old fashioned way but crocks are hard to find and often cost prohibitive. I just ordered one–such a great deal! I really appreciate the tip.

  28. Michele says

    I went up to my Ace Hardware store and found that they do not carry them
    in the store (in ours at least) but that they can order them and have them sent to the store for me in a few days. Taking the advice here to let them do that…and save shipping costs I ordered two 1 gal. crocks. The one gallon ones seemed to be the only ones white within and without, not that that is important I imagine (but pretty)…so thought I would start with two of those.

    Interesting to read the discussion here on how to handle having the product covered. Hope more people will share what they have learned.

    Cabbage is decidedly a late summer to autumn crop…so intended it would seem to be a bit of ‘safety’ for people to make it though the winter with something wholesome stored away before there were grocery stores and freezers. My mother and my husband’s grandmother were farm girls that raised large families…and I assure you they would not have left food dieing on the vine…it was their safety crop…and needed to be stored.
    Lots of canning went on…but I would not be surprised if ‘crocking thngs’ did too especially in the grandmothers day…where they had a natural spring in the stone basement…and could put crocks and milk cans onto the stones in the spring …water then went out under a door…and on down the mountain. During the depression this simple farm family with 9 children…including 4 boys in WWII…were able to feed themselves others as well. All the boys came home …but one.

    • Noel says

      I am curious about inside coating of Ohio Stoneware sold at Ace Hardware. Only 1 gallon crock inside coating is white, rest all are brown. Anybody knows if I should stick to White only or brown is OK too. I am extra-ordinarily careful about artificial colors and materials that may seep into the food. Recovering for a lot of ailments by just cleaning up food, don’t want to add the troubles.

      Thanks in advance.

  29. Sonny says

    We have several of the large Ace Hardware crock jars that are made in Ohio. BUT, they do not have handles. Does anyone know where we can buy a band for them with handles? Or, does anyone have plans for fabricating a band with handles? I could easily make them if I can find a design.

  30. trish says

    Just found this post about the pots, went to Ace Hardware & they have them. But question, what do you cover the crock with?

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