Fermentation Crocks – Grow Your Pantry

Fermentation Crocks

by Susan Grey on August 06, 2019
mushrooms_sauteed_in_garlic_delicious

 

What is a fermentation crock? They are jars or earthenware that are used to pickle vegetables by creating conducive conditions for anaerobic bacteria. The lack of oxygen prevents food from spoiling, thus preserving it while it ferments.

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Uses Of A Fermentation Crock

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Traditionally a fermentation crock was used to preserve vegetables and other fresh produce through winter when they were in shortage. In modern days this technique still survives, albeit it has gained new applications, especially in the preparation of specialty diets.
  • Making Sauerkraut

    They are used to ferment finely cut raw cabbage relying on various lactic acid bacteria. This sour cabbage meal has numerous health benefits and will remain fresh in a fermentation crock for a considerable period.
  • Making Kimchi

    This Korean dish relies on lactic bacteria (anaerobic) for preservation.  On top of keeping out oxygen from the kimchi, it also seals in the kimchi odor, ensuring that the dish retains its rustic flavor.
  • Fermenting Dill Pickles

    Some of the best tasting dill pickles are as a result of the traditional fermentation techniques by using saltwater brine and a fermentation crock. The pickles will remain crisp and juicy but with the added benefits of fermentation such as increased probiotics.
  • Brewing Kombucha

    Using a uniquely designed porcelain crock, it’s possible to make kombucha using the continuous brewing method. This slightly alcoholic, sweetened black tea will ferment anaerobically in a porcelain crock.

How Does A Fermentation Crock Work?

fermenting_vegetables

 

A fermentation crock works by supporting the conditions necessary for the fermentation process to take place. This is achieved by allowing the natural anaerobic bacteria in the food to breakdown the sugars. The process results in an acidic environment which prevents rotting. 
It consists of a sizeable vessel with a ring around its top, a heavy lid, and weights. The entire contraption relies on maintaining an airtight seal for fermentation to take place.
When the food being fermented is placed in the crock, it is weighed down with the provided stone weights, and the pot is topped off with the pickling liquid.
The lid is then placed and a little amount of water is poured in between the crock’s ring and the cover to form an airtight seal.
It works by maintaining a conducive environment for fermentation. This can be broken down into:
  • Keeping Out Oxygen

    In order for fermentation to take place, anaerobic bacteria must flourish, this means keeping off oxygen. These natural bacteria then breakdown lactose in the food to produce lactic acid, which gives fermented foods a tangy taste.
  • Channeling Out Carbon Dioxide

    This is one of the byproducts of lactose breakdown. These gas molecules will fizzle their way up through the ferment and collect up in the upper air space. To avoid pressure build-up, it should let the carbon dioxide escape while still keeping out fresh oxygen.
  • Keeping Out Contaminants

    Fermentation relies on natural bacteria to preserve food, and therefore, the vessel supporting the cycle should keep out harmful microorganisms.
 

Variations of Crocks

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Over the years variations of the classic earthenware have cropped up mainly driven by their specific applications.

1. Open Crocks

These consist of cylindrical vessels designed as open-top crocks with wide openings. This variation was majorly used in the old days. Open crocks were filled with vegetables for pickling, and a weight was placed to weigh them down.
While using an open crockpot always cover the top with a cloth to keep out insects and debris while allowing the ferment to vent carbon dioxide. Eventually, you will have to jar your pickled vegetables as they are more likely to spoil or mold while left in an open crock for too long. This is because the open jar is exposed to contaminants such as fungus and mold, which will eventually grow on the crock.
Advantages:
  • The open-top design makes it easy to clean
  • Can fit large/whole vegetables for fermentation
  • Less expensive compared to water-sealed crock pots
Disadvantages:
  • The exposed ferment is prone to molding due to exposure to contamination.
  • The crock can not be used for long-term fermentation as the food will go bad

2. Water Sealed Fermenting Crock with Lid

The classic crock is equipped with a water seal that keeps out fresh air from getting into the pot. This allows anaerobic bacteria to ferment the sugars in the food. The results of this fermentation are consistent throughout and can be replicated even by a beginner. This ease of use makes it a favorite.
These crocks also come with fermentation weights. These keep the fermenting vegetables submerged duration fermentation.  You will need to monitor and top up the seal everyday or twice if you notice that the evaporation rate is high.
Advantages:
  • Supports anaerobic environment for the best fermentation results
  • Easy to use and maintain making it superb for first time fermenting experience
Disadvantages:
  • The narrow opening plus the moat around it make it difficult to clean the pot

3. Japanese Crocks

The Japanese have been working pottery and porcelain art for hundreds of years. This is largely due to the anagama kiln design and Japanese deeply rooted culture that preferred pottery products.
Japanese crocks were designed to support anaerobic bacteria by keeping out fresh air. This is accomplished by filling the inner lip with water and creating an airtight seal.
Advantages:
  • The thick stoneware ensures consistent fermentation temperature which results in a more exceptional flavor
  • Japanese crocks are decorated with fine art making them a welcome addition to any kitchen décor
Disadvantages:
  • The stoneware is more prone to breaking

4. Korean Crocks

The Korean crocks were designed to be buried underground during the winter to prevent the vegetables from freezing. They include flat, heavily built lids to keep off contaminants and oxygen from getting into the vessel.
Most Korean fermentation pots were used in the preservation of kimchi.
Advantages:
  • Specifically designed for kimchi but it can also be used to preserve other meals such as soy sauce and hot pepper paste
Disadvantages:
  • Hard to clean as you cannot use soap and detergent, these usually get into the microscopic holes and eventually end up in the food.

Considerations When Buying

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  • Material

    There are three primary materials used to manufacture the crocks: Glass, earthenware, and metal. Your budget should guide your choice.
  • Weight

    The weight of your crock pot will determine how easy it is for you to work with it. Keep in mind that the more volume will result in weight increase. Always go for the weight that you are comfortable handling to avoid accidental slippage.
  • What You Are Fermenting

    Certain fermentation recipes require specific fermenting conditions which can only be achieved with unique crocks. Always go for the vessel that’s designed to be used for your particular ferment.
  • Size

    The size will determine the amount of food you can ferment at a go. However since the crock cannot not be fully loaded with the ferment to avoid overflow the volume of the food should be 90% that of the crock. So if your crock has a 1L capacity it should produce 900ml of fermented food.


How to Wash and Look After Your Crock:

To avoid the growth of mold, all crocks should be cleaned thoroughly after use. This is best accomplished using a mild detergent and hot soapy water.
1. Scrub the crocks interior but avoid applying too much force which might result in noticeable scratches.
2. After rinsing, wipe the crocks interior with wipe vinegar and leave it to air dry.
3. For long term storage always place scrunched up newspaper in the crock to soak up any moisture that might get in.

Top 5 Tips For Using A Crock

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1. Know which food variety is best fitted for your crock
Each of the crock variations is best fitted to ferment a specific food variety. To avoid undesirable taste and odors always stick to the recommended type of crock for each job.
2. Keep track of your ferments
Fermenting in batches ensures that you have a constant supply of your favorite ferment. However, such a system is bound to get out of hand if you don’t label your crocks clearly and risk spoilage if one batch ferments for too long.
3. Use weights to keep the food submerged
To avoid mold growth during fermentation, the food being fermented should be fully immersed in the pickling fluid.
4. Monitor the airlock seal frequently
If you are using a water-sealed crock or a mason jar with a fermentation lid, you will need to check them regularly and top off the water to maintain the airtight seal. As for the mason jars, if your fermentation lid is equipped with a pressure release to expel carbon dioxide, you should check for any blockages that are caused by brine overflowing.
5. The more airtight a crock is, the better it ferments
They rely on keeping out fresh air and contaminants from the ferment. Therefore, getting an airtight one will ensure that you get the perfect fermentation results.
 

Top 10

As we saw earlier on water sealed fermentation jars have a distinctive advantage over other varieties in that they can keep out oxygen and contaminants while still allowing fermentation to take place. For this reason water sealed will dominate the following list:

1. Ohio Stoneware 3 Gallon Complete Kit (Get Yours Here)

fermentation_crock

Price: $119.95
Capacity: 11 liter
Additional Information: Ohio Stoneware is offering their latest earthenware featuring a minimalist white finish. This stoneware vessel relies on a time-tested design and incorporates a water trough airlock that keeps out air while allowing carbon dioxide as well as other fermentation gases to escape.
The kit includes a crockpot, top lid, and weights and is easy to operate and maintain. The crock will not corrode thanks to the food-safe, lead-free glaze. The flat base is stable enough to support the vessel for storage even in tight spaces but does not place any weight to avoid accidental breakage.

2. Humble House Sauerkraut (Get Yours Here)

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Price: $39.95
Capacity: 1.8 liter
Additional Information: Humble House relies on the traditional German-style crock pot design for this latest offering. Due to its 2-liter capacity, this crock is best recommended for small scale fermenting jobs. It features a water-sealed jar with a fitting top and weights.
The vessel is contrasted of thick ceramic that’s finished with a cadmium and lead glaze. The crockpot can handle all probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut. For secure handling, the crock is equipped with handles on its sides. The kit is available in various colors such as heirloom red, imperial blue, natural white, and traditional brown.

3. Kerazo K&K Keramik German Pot (Get Yours Here)

fermentation_crock

Price: $159
Capacity: 9.8 liter
Additional Information: Kerazo K&K offers this medium-sized German-made fermenting crockpot for all your natural lactic acid fermentation and food preservation needs. The pot is designed with a thick base and walls making it more durable as its less prone to breakage. The broad base also increases its stability, especially during storage.
The vessel is equipped with a top lid that fits in snuggly to the water trough to form an airtight seal. The container can handle up to 10 liters, and its surface is finished with lead-free glaze. The crock is fired at 1260 degrees Celsius to harden it.
 

4. Kerazo Fermentation Sauerkraut Germany Pot (Get Yours Here)

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Price: $129
Capacity: 5 liter
Additional Information: The Nik Schmitt fermenting crockpot is a 5 liter stoneware that’s suitable for fermenting all types of vegetables. The set comes complete with a lid, instructions booklet, and weighing stones.
The water trough is designed to fit with the lid and create an airtight seal once some water is added in the trough. This crock is finished with black glaze, and it doesn’t require special care or storage.

5. Unimet 3205 Brown Crock (Get Yours Here)

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Price: $98.95
Capacity: 10 liter
Additional Information: Bring a new healthy dimension to your diets with the Unimet 3205 brown crockpot. The crockpot has a 10 liter capacity which is perfect for fermenting just about any vegetable. The glaze is lead-free and will protect the earthenware from scratches and corrosion.
Just like other closed-top crocks, the unimet is equipped with a water trough airtight seal, and the kit includes a lid and weights. All these are easy to clean and store due to the glazing finish. The weights are rather small for easy fitting, but they might permit some vegetables to float up, which might lead to molding.
 

6. Kenley Fermentation Crock Jar (Get Yours Here)

fermentation_crock

Price: $45.40
Capacity: 1.8 liter
Additional Information: With the right fermentation crock, you can create healthy kimchi or sauerkraut right in your kitchen and that’s precisely what the Kenley fermentation crock jar does. The pot is made of high-grade food-safe ceramic with a coating to prevent oxidation as well as bad odors which would otherwise form.
The 0.53 gallons fermentation crock is equipped with a burp lid and weighting stones. It is also equipped with side handles for safe handling and the company throws in a pounder to ease up the preparation process before fermenting.
 

7. Mortier Pilon Fermentation Crock (Get Yours Here)

fermentation_crock

Price: $39
Capacity: 2 liter
Additional Information: The Mortier Pilon Fermentation crock features a beautiful design coupled with elegance. The jar has a silicone sleeve and a red elastic band to hold it in place.  The kit also includes a jar lid and a ceramic weight with a veggie pattern. For first-timers, this set will be easy to familiarize with as the brand also includes a detailed guide with each shipment.
The vessel is easy to clean and will only require you to hand wash it with liquid soap and scrub with a sponge before air drying it. The silicone sleeve filter is also easy to remove for cleaning purposes.

8. K&K Fermenting Crock (Get Yours Here)

fermentation_crock

Price: $119
Capacity: 7 liter
Additional Information: The smaller counterpart of number 3 is this 7 liter crock. K&K relies on high-quality ceramic to mold this fermenting crock. The design incorporates a deep and somewhat broad water channel that allows carbon dioxide to get out while preventing air and contaminants from getting in.
The vessel has balanced handles on the sides, and the glazing finish is both lead and cadmium free. The 7 liter capacity will be more than enough for any fermentation task, and the firm includes various recipes which will perform well in this crock

9. Seeutek Fermentation Crock Jar (Get Yours Here)

fermentation_crock

Price: $73.95
Capacity: 10 liter
Additional Information: Seeutek is offering this fermentation crock for all your fermentation needs. From fermenting probiotic-rich vegetables to specialty dishes such as sauerkraut and kimchi this earthenware jar is perfect for all occasions.
The vessel is glazed with non-toxic, lead-free glaze to prevent loss of taste. The crock is also equipped with a ring around the mouth which once filled with water, usually creates an airtight seal keeping off contaminants and oxygen.
 

10. TSM Products 31061 German Style Fermentation Crock (Get Yours Here)

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Price: $73.99
Capacity: 11.8 liter
Additional Information: With TSM products German-style fermentation crock making probiotic enriched foods with natural enzymes couldn’t get any simpler. This crock is rather sizable, and it can hold up to 10 liters of ferment. The ceramic if burnt at high temperature to harden, the cadmium and lead free glaze are applied to make it aesthetically pleasing as well as preventing corrosion.
In terms of cleaning the crock is the best hand-washed, rinsed, and dried with a cloth or paper towels. TSM includes a thick lid and stone weights to hold down the vegetables during fermentation
 

 

 

Interested in learning more about fermenting & preserving?
Check out these articles:
What is Canning?
How Long Does Sauerkraut Last?
What Does Sauerkraut Taste Like?
How Long Does Kimchi Last?
What Does Kimchi Taste Like?
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