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Large inexpensive nonplastic fermenting vessels  RSS feed

 
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Wondering whether any here have experience to share with using either wooden barrels or any other large nonplastic vessels of comparable size? I am looking into doing lactofermented veg on a medium scale, and would like to do so without having them in contact with plastic if at all possible.

With barrels, I would be interested to learn about how barrels with different previous uses might affect the fermentation, i.e. beer/wine/whiskey. A conversation with a friend came to the conclusion that whiskey barrels might be safest from the point of view of not importing unwanted microbes. I see that Brooklyn Brine ("We do primary fermentation in the oak bourbon barrels for our sauerkraut. It adds many layers of flavor.") and likewise Puckers Gourmet are doing sauerkraut in whiskey barrels. I have also come across the opinion that due to their being charred, whiskey barrels may not be so great. Don't yet know how these producers prevent bits of charcoal getting in their kraut.

I also have some concerns about gluten - it seems some producers put the distilled whiskey back in contact with gluten-containing substances, so one would need to check with the given distillery as to whether or not this is the case. Beer barrels are probably going to be a no go for this reason as well as potentially harbouring nondesirable microbe populations I speculate? Wine likely the same I would think, likewise one would have the problem of sulphur unless natural winemakers' barrels are used? If that were the case then would wine barrels be viable? I understand that they are toasted on the inside, which is to say they are a few stages short of charred...

Finally, my topic title encompasses other nonplastic containers that I may not have thought of. There are of course ceramic crocks but these are going to be rather expensive if I were to buy them in any quantity. So if there is some unusual product of the modern world that people have adapted to the purposes of fermenting vegetables which I have yet to hear of, and that is relatively inexpensive to obtain, please do share!

Plastic free kraut visionary
 
gardener
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Would you consider a stainless pot? Some turkey fryer pots are pretty large and cost considerably less than my german crock.
 
Adam Ormes
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Robert Ray wrote: Would you consider a stainless pot? Some turkey fryer pots are pretty large and cost considerably less than my german crock.



Robert,

I have yet to do any proper research into fermenting in stainless steel. I have some vague apprehensions about it, likely based partly on what I have read about acidic things leaching the metal, and partly on the fact that the water at my school, which was kept in steel jugs and drunk out of steel cups, tasted metallic. Of course, using stainless steel would be much easier for the food safety people to swallow. Now presumably there are different grades of stainless steel. Only that 'food grade plastic' doesn't exactly fill me with confidence! Anyone know of any research? Although, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence...

These guys are doing their fermenting in steel. "We ferment all of our foods in stainless steel fermentation tanks originally designed for wine production."

http://www.fireflykitchens.com/products/

Also, I am thinking more big whiskey barrel size rather than crock size, so a turkey fryer pot would probably be rather too small for my purposes. Now need to investigate these wine fermentation tanks.
 
Adam Ormes
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Organic cider barrels could be good, too...
 
steward
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you could always take up cooperage and make some yourself. I believe that miso vessels were (are?) made of sugi, a softwood that would be much easier to work with than oak. I think the hoops are made of bamboo put on green so that it tightens up a bit as it dries. lots of barrels and buckets like this all over Japan used for all sorts of things.

I don't think you would have to worry about charcoal with bourbon barrels. a quick scrub with something bristly and a rinse would take care of any issues.

I also wouldn't worry about barrels that might still have live yeast in them. remember that you're using a lot of salt and those organisms aren't likely to be adapted to that.
 
pollinator
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Glass jars.

My neighbor reuse commercial glass jars with their lids. Of course you need a lot...
Or you can buy the ones made for sterilizing and keep vegetables and fruits.
Still not as big as a barrel!!
 
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tel jetson wrote:you could always take up cooperage and make some yourself.

Rather than learning to be both a cooper and a wainwright, it might be easier to contact a large Science Supply firm that can sell you a wide variety of glass flasks and bowls. One advantage is you can order them graduated, that is with measuring amounts indicated on the glassware. They are built to withstand the effects of acid so there would not be any leaching, however this would also avoid drawing in a good many flavors that you might get if you did actually use barrels.
 
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Just this year, Northern Brewer introduced a glass carboy with a big lid:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/big-mouth-bubbler-6-5-gallon.html

It's a $45 glass jar, so I'm not sure exactly what your definition of cheap is, but it's got to be less than oak barrels. The top is plastic, but this would not be in extended contact with your foodstuff, and I'm sure an ingenious person could come up with a solution...

Sounds like an exciting endeavor, good luck!
 
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Why would you not want to repurpose a 3, 4 or 5 gallon plastic bucket. I know they are available locally at a grocer. I bet you could even find them use that have had pickles in them if you check with a larger deli.
 
gardener
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Sandor Katz mentioned in "The Art of Fermentation" that Ohio Stoneware makes lead free crocks and ships them free if you buy them from Ace Hardware. Typically the shipping costs as much as the crock in a big crock. I got a 5 gallon one for $59, which is cheaper than Craig's list and lead free. That's where I got mine and it's a great deal. I use it all the time. I also bought some large enamel covered metal cooking pots at Bi-Mart, a discount store here in PNW. I don't have any financial interest in any of these.
John S
PDX OR
 
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If you are ever in Ohio Lehmans has alot of different crocks http://non-electric.lehmans.com/search#?p=KK&srid=S6-USESD01&lbc=lehmans&ts=ajax&pw=Sauerkraut%20Crocks&uid=107603699&isort=score&view=grid&w=Pickle%20Crocks&rk=4 They are cheaper and have a larger selection in the actual store than what you can see online. Also no shipping. I live an hour from there. Also if you want something pretty unique you can call them. They have contacts with alot of small Amish buisnesses that might have what you need.

If your trying to think of something different than a large wooden barrel or crock what about making something out of stone. I know it sounds crazy but I was thinking of large 2'x4' cut stones used for patios. As long as you don't need to move it. Get 3 of those and two 2'x2' flat stones for the ends and build a rectangular box. Strap it together and somehow seal the edges. Make a light weight top and it might work. I had thought about concrete but I bet the lime in it would be a problem. Just an idea, trying to think outside the box. I actually thought of this idea reading Katz book because I have 2'x4'x2" stones for my patio now but my wife will never let me dig them up, lol.
 
Steven Feil
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You would want the stone to be absolutely inert and would not dissolve AT ALL. I am thinking GRANITE or some other similar stone. Aquarium silicone and plenty of cure time as well.
 
John Saltveit
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One potential downside to a really huge one, like a barrel, is that the kraut can start to get too soft after awhile, like after months. I think the 5 gallon one is big enough for me. THe four gallon enamel covered metal ones were only like $14 or so. I worry about chipping if they are going to be cooked in all the time, but these will be just for fermenting. I seem to recall someone saying that Target or some other large store had just 1 or 2 gallon glass containers for pretty cheap, like $10-15. You can use plates to cover them. I usually use river rocks that are flat and wide from when I go canoeing to keep the plates down.

Keeping the workers down is another matter.
John S
PDX OR
 
Luke Burkholder
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I just saw Anchor Hocking glass cookie jars, one, two, and mabye even 3 gallons in the $15 - $25 range. Sur la Table and Amazon, probably lots of other places, too. Nice squat cylinders with wide openings, great for fermenting. Totally transparent, so you'll want to keep them away from too much UV light.
 
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I use glass jars from everyone's favorite store, Mal-Wart.

I just stocked up on fermenting vessels. 1/2 gallon for $4.50. 1 gallon for $7.something. 2 gallon for $10.

Glass jars with glass lids. Clear, wide-mouth. I used to use mason jars, till I noticed how bad the brine would affect the lid and rust with even slight contact.

EDIT: Just checked the labels on the glass and it is Anchor Hocking, made in USA. I thought it would be a knock-off import.
 
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I’ve been living on the central California coast For the past two years. There are a lot of wine barrels for sale all over the place at the different vineyards. They run about $40 each. One of the olive Orchards up here  uses the wine barrels to brine olives.  It’s a good option if you have a lot of product to ferment. It’s also non-plastic and  a reused container  with a hint  of the vintage for flavor.
 
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FYI, I have been a happy repeat customer of StoneCreekTrading.com for high quality, traditional ceramic fermenting crocks and similar gear.  Most of theirs are the advanced kind with built-in "air lock" via water-filled rim.  Specifically, I have bought their factory 2nds sale items and been pleasantly surprised with the results more than once.  Good company, good packaging, good customer service, and a retail web site easy enough to navigate.  Not to mention, the solid glass crock weights they sell are brilliant!  Why didn't anyone think of that sooner?

To be sure, even the factory 2nds will be too expensive to serve the original poster's purposes.  Sorry.  But for everyone else, get your high quality imported German crocks (actually these are Polish) at StoneCreekTrading, and I think you'll find they're consistently cheaper than on Amazon.  Get on their email list and you can count on a 10-20% discount code a few times a year; enough to at least cancel out shipping on these heavy items.
 
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Since childhood I have been using gallon pickle jars. In high school, I used to get them from the local bar before they got tossed. Now, thirty years later, I use them for everything--brandy, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, eggs, pickles, vinegars, infusions, culturing butter, veggies and small batches of wine. I also use 5 gallon carboys. I have three oak barrels that are only used for cheesemaking.

I won't use steel for fermenting; the acids leech nickel out of the metal, and tend to turn whatever your making funky colours with funkier tastes that should not be.
 
Miki Shiverick
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By the by, you can use any pickle jar lid to fit any airlock. Just drill a hole, coat with foodsafe sealant, and insert your airlock. Most homebrew supplies places carry the gasket seal you need for the opening.
 
Miki Shiverick
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Johnny Niamert wrote:

Glass jars with glass lids. Clear, wide-mouth. I used to use mason jars, till I noticed how bad the brine would affect the lid and rust with even slight contact.



Lids are usually superfluous for most fermenting. If you really want lids, then buy Tattlers, which do not rust. Most of the time I just use cotton floursack tea towels tied with garden twine.
 
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Inexpensive is relative to duration of use In my opinion.  A crock will be something that can last well over 100 years.  They also stabilize the temperature inside and have been used for a few thousand years for storage and fermentation
 
Miki Shiverick
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thomas norris wrote:Inexpensive is relative to duration of use In my opinion.  A crock will be something that can last well over 100 years.  They also stabilize the temperature inside and have been used for a few thousand years for storage and fermentation



That's great...if you actually plan on living a hundred years. I'm still using the same carboys that belonged to my grandparents on the farm, and the same jars I was collecting as a kid (some of which belonged to them, too). I do much of my fermenting in the basement, which is where the cistern spigot is, and use straw and old blankets as insulators and light shields for stability. Only once have I ever broken a carboy, and that was whilst racking carelessly. But I've dropped several crocks in my life, including my grandmother's favourite seven gallon pickling crock; it couldn't be replaced, but jars are easy.

You need to pick your battles. At 50 and farm raised, I'm personally not willing to waste money on what can be easily done without.
 
Miki Shiverick
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Apologies.
 
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I dont want to sound harsch, nor to seem that I cant spell, but the good ones are kinda expensive. Here's just an example from a cursory search (mainly to see if i got the spelling right https://www.harvestessentials.com/fermenting-crock-pots.html
Mind you, i do feel that getting good at pottery is very permie and can keep costs way down to even less than nothing.

Edit: https://www.cabelas.com/product/Harsch-Fermenting-Crocks/715378.uts
 
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I'm in the low budget re-use things category, and I use the gallon glass jars (been scavenging them for years) and the crocks out of dead crock pots. Not sure if they are best, but they are the best I can currently afford. Not huge, but easier to pack than gallon jars. If you drool over the lovely stone crocks but can't afford them, crock pot crocks are cheap at thrift stores and yard sales.
 
Nick Dimitri
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Oh, and som'n else i forgot to mention, harsch fermenting crocks have cool, built in air locks in a to-be-filled-with-water moat-like well the lid sits in. Harsch i believed is a style of crock. Disclaimer: Apologies if it's a trade name. I dont mean to advertise, only inform. OgreNick
 
pollinator
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I use the crock pots for no knead bread baking.
Even if the crock is not removable you can still take it apart with a little force.
You will find a crock with bare copper wire glued to the exterior.
Scrape all of that off scrub with steel wool or brush, and bake it in the oven as high as you can go for an hour.
I've used them for year, they bake great bread.
They even come with glass lids.

A note on stainless  steel.
Someone suggested that strong acids would leach nickle out of steel.
Was that in reference to stainless as well?

 
Miki Shiverick
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William Bronson wrote:

A note on stainless  steel.
Someone suggested that strong acids would leach nickle out of steel.
Was that in reference to stainless as well?



Yes, it is. In years past, I've tried making sauerkraut in both my Revere Ware stockpot and my giant Ball Premiere line canner; in both cases it ended with grey, slimy cabbage that tasted like metal. Not long afterwards, i read a USDA article at the ag extension that said that even the allegedly nickle free stainless leeches in high acid. I'll try to find the article.
 
Nick Dimitri
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Wow Miki, thanks for that, confirming within the category of our worst fears.

Then regarding BPA-free plastic I hear they replace it with another devil, som'n I heard called BPS. I doubt what I heard was BS
 
Pearl Sutton
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Stainless steel isn't all the same formula, which gets weird. I thought it was, until I learned that some of it is magnetic, and some is not. So if it's good quality stainless steel vs cheap crap, how can you tell? 18/8 stainless seems to be best, but it's hard to find in big items. And then brushed aluminum looks a lot like stainless and can be mistaken for it, and it DEFINITELY leaches, and leaches toxins. I assume all stainless or shiny metal is going to leach. Seems easiest. Maybe I'm a paranoid, but I don't trust the stampings on the bottom either.
 
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Be careful about crazed (dark lines inside and outside, cracking of the surface) fermenting crocks that are often found at thrift stores for approx. $5.  A friend of mine wanted to make kombucha and thought they had found a great container.  But the crazing of the finish allowed bacteria/fungus, whatever it was, to lurk in the cracks and the bottom became moldy on the shelf.  Not sure what people do to make these craze, unless they try to cook in them or freeze them, and the expansion causes the problem.   He gave me his crazed crock (which held liquid just fine, so it's deceiving) and I couldn't even hold water in it for a few weeks, there was always slimy stuff showing up.

I use new fermenting crocks and they are fine, have no crazing.

The large glass beermaking carboys are great, and have the right kind of caps for releasing gases, which keep them from exploding.  Been there, done that!  No solid lids on a fermenting substance, because the gas build-up is extreme, and when one of those glass containers explodes it can be lethal.  Shards, just like spear heads fly at top speed and embed into anything nearby, so cover with towels and old blankets when in storage.
 
William Bronson
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Thanks Miki for confirming about stainless steel.

The funky, used fermenting crocks, I wonder if they could take the heat of an oven as  a way to kill the funk.
Even boiling water could do the trick.

 
Miki Shiverick
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All old ceramic and stoneware glazes craze after a time; it's just a normal part of aging. The way we used to clean them on the farm was to soak them in vinegar and thrn sit them out in the sun to dry. I wouldn't bake them, though. When the glaze is brittle enough to craze, extreme temperature fluctuations will just exacerbate the problem.
 
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