Equipment for Making Sauerkraut and Pickles
Sauerkraut can be made with very simple equipment such as kitchen knife, food grade plastic bucket, a clay jar and wooden weight. O course they are professionally made sauerkraut fermentation crocks like German Harsch or beautifully made Polish clay fermentation crocks which recently started to show up in American catalogs.
If you plan on making enough sauerkraut to just meet your own or a small family needs, you can slice cabbage with a kitchen knife. Keep in mind that the cabbage has to be cored and is normally cut into quarters, even if mandoline slicer is employed. A quarter of the cabbage rests firmly on its flat side and you can easily shredd the other flat side with a knife. And if you slice cabbage into 1/16", 3/16" or 1/8" slices who cares? It will still ferment and your sauerkraut will be just fine.
|If you plan on making plenty of sauerkraut it is hard to beat the efficiency of mandoline cabbage slicer. It has been around for hundreds of years and it is one of those design that is not easy to improve upon.||Four fingers on the cabbage, thumb behind the sliding box and the cabbage is shredded in a few moves. In order not to cut your fingers you have to stop shredding when little cabbage still remains. A new cabbage quarter is placed on those remaining leaves and the operation continues.|
The process of making sauerkraut is very forgiving as sauerkraut is one of those great foods that needs very little help on our part and it always turns out great. There is a variety of containers will do a nice job.
Food grade plastic buckets
Plastic buckets are make wonderful fermenting crocks as:
- they can be obtained for free
- they are light and come with a carrying handle
- they have large capacity. Five gallons (19 liters) is a huge container.
Supermarkets get their foods delivered in such buckets. Their capacity is usually 3-5 gallons.
|Three gallon food grade bucket||Five gallon food grade bucket||If you are not sure of the origin of the bucket, you may line it up with a plastic cooking bag. There are general purpose and turker roasting plastic bags available.|
Those buckets have an inside diameter of 11.25" (28.5 cm) and a large dinner plate fits beatifully.
Glass jars are the great solution for people who want to make 1-2 gallons of product or who want to try out different recipes or ideas. One gallon glass jar can be placed anywhere in the kitchen and one can see what happens during fermentation. A wide mouth opening is preferrable as it allows for easy placement of a weight.
Fermenting glass jars should be kept in a dark place.
Clay fermenting crocks
Commercially produced fermenting crocks are usually made from baked clay.
|American open fermenting crocks - 1-5 gallon crocks made by Ohio Stoneware||German closed fermenting crocks such as Harsch. They come in sizes from 5-50 liters (1.3-13.25 gal).||Polish closed fermenting crocks such made in Boleslawice, Poland. They come in sizes from 5-40 liters (1.3-10.5 gal).|
|Fermenting crock, lid and weights.||After packing sauerkraut or pickles the channel is filled with water.||The lid is placed in water on top of the water channel.|
Fermented containers should not be made from regular metals (stainless steel is the exception), as the fermentation produces lactic and acetic acid, which will react with metal.
The main advantage of German Harsh crock and Polish fermenting crocks is that the water channel creates a barrier between product and the outside air. Carbon dioxide gas (soda gas) is created during fermentation and it pressurizes the inside of the crock. Carbon dioxide and air escape from the crock through the water channel. The outside air is at the lower pressure and cannot get inside the crock. As the result there is no air available to any yeasts or molds that might be inside and there is no white foam on top of the product. The lid is not removed during fermentation and only water is periodically added to the water channel. Clay fermented crocks come with clay weights.
A simple yet practical version of a fermenting crock is a 1 gallon glass (or food grade plastic) jar that has a double bubble air lock attached to the lid. This is the same set up that is used for making wine. Shredded cabbage is tightly packed, weighted and the lid is twisted on. When cabbage is fermenting the bubbles are travelling through the air-lock.
After a while there is no air available to any yeasts or molds that might be inside and there is no white scum on top of the product. The lid is not removed during fermentation and when the bubbles stop, the fermentation is completed.
Professionally made glass jars with the air-lock installed in the lid are inexpensive and available on Internet.
Sauerkraut or pickles should be submerged in brine in order to create a barrier between the product and the air above. This prevents yeasts and mold from going on top of the product. Originally wooden covers were placed on top of the fermenting product and the additional weight was placed on the cover. Rocks and bricks were often used.
|An inverted dinner plate makes a great cover and additional weight is placed on it. That could be a plastic bag filled with brine or a glass jar filled with similar strength of a brine.||In most jars the mouth of the jar is narrower than its body and a split weight plate must be used.||For a straight jar one piece weight plate is the best solution. Although the jar pictured above looks small, its capacity is 3 quarts (2.8 l). Such a jar is great tool for experimenting|