Sauerkraut Crock: What is it?

A sauerkraut crock or fermentation crock or pot, as it is also known, is the jar in which you place your cabbage to ferment. Of course you can also use your crock to make other probiotic foods such as pickled carrots, beets and/or cucumbers etc. Traditionally and most commonly these vessels are made of earthenware. If you choose this kind of crock be sure to select one with a lead-free glaze. There are also some alternative "crocks" made from glass or plastic, which are now on the market.

Sauerkraut crocks are available in a wide variety of different sizes ranging from the vast 50 liter (13.2 gallons) crock to the small 1 liter (0.26 gallon) container. Be aware that you will need to fill your crock to just below the rim with cabbage (or other vegetables) to eliminate excess air and prevent spoilage so be sure to choose a size that suits your needs. Don’t be tempted to buy a larger crock that is necessary – if you only half fill it, there will be too much air space inside the crock and this increases the chances of your cabbage spoiling.

For more information on making fermented cabbage, have a look at our decicated page on how to make Sauerkraut. Generally speaking and depending on usage, a 1 to 2 liter crock will suit a single person household and a 5 to 10 liter pot, a family.

What Type of Sauerkraut Crock?

There are two main types of fermentation crocks on the market:

  • Closed (anaerobic) fermentation system crocks (such as the Harsch pots)
  • Open (aerobic) fermentation system crocks (such as Ohio Stoneware pots)

Closed fermentation system crocks allow the gases produced during fermentation to escape but crucially do not allow air to enter the crock from outside. Without air, moulds cannot thrive and thus sauerkraut and other cultured vegetables produced using a closed fermentation system are free from the harmless white Kahm’s yeast that typically covers the surface of open fermentations. Ferments produced using closed fermentation system crocks are also less prone to spoilage.

Open fermentation system crocks on the other hand allow air from outside to enter the pot. Unlike the closed fermentation system crocks, they do not have a lid. Instead you simply place a plate and weight over your cabbage mixture. The fermentations made in these pots can be more prone to spoilage but if you ensure that the cabbage is properly submerged in its juices so that it is not exposed to the air, you can minimize this problem.

Generally speaking closed sauerkraut crocks are more expensive but their advantage is that they produce consistent results. We use them and would definitely recommend them for beginners. Open fermentation systems can produce good fermentations but the results are more variable and it may take you some time to get this right. They are however considerably cheaper than closed sauerkraut crocks.

Should I Buy a Crock?

Of course there are numerous cheaper alternatives to a Sauerkraut crock. You don’t have to own a crock in order to make Sauerkraut or other cultured vegetables.

Many people simply use a glass jar for their fermentations. Steer clear of metal containers and those made of non-food grade plastic. Metal can react with the lactic acid bacteria produced during the fermentation process and non-food grade plastic may leach chemicals into your fermenting vegetables.

Glass jars make particularly good improvised fermentation crocks as they come in many different sizes and so you can simply select the size that suits your needs. If you don’t have a spare jelly or preserve jar, then you could always use a wide mouth mason canning jar (a glass jar with an air-tight screw top) such as a Ball mason jar (United States). If you add an airlock to the lid, then you can create your own closed fermentation system very cheaply. We have had some good results from using such a system. You can also buy a ready prepared version of this closed fermentation system such as the Perfect Pickler, Picklemeister or Pickl-It fermenation containers. All will cost you somewhat more than the improvised version but considerably less than closed-system earthenware sauerkraut crock.

Of course you can always use a food grade bucket too. This makes a really cost-effective and simple open fermentation vessel. Use a plate to cover it and place a weight such as a stone on top.

The choice is yours. There’s a range of different vessels that you can use for making sauerkraut so simply choose one to suit your needs and budget!


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