I read Sandor Katz' book "The Art of Fermentation" and was hooked. I tried to buy sauerkraut at the store, but I realized that it had sodium benzoate in it and vinegar, which means that it is not real fermented sauerkraut and it turns into cancer-causing benzene in my stomach. Then I bought Bubbie's , which is really good but expensive. I figured I should be able to make this myself.
I needed to start fermenting. To ferment, I needed a vessel. Many people talked about using tiny jars, so that you are fermenting things very frequently and get maybe one or two meals out of it. That didn't make sense to me.
Sandor mentioned that Ace Hardware had a deal with Ohio Stoneware, which makes lead-free American made crocks. If you pre-pay for it at Ace, they will ship it for free. This is an amazing deal, because typically, the cost for the shipping is equal to the cost of the crock. I looked for old ones, but I really worried about lead and other toxins in the makeup of the crock. I looked for them on Craig's list, but people were typically selling old maybe lead filled crocks for the same price as new ones. I bought the crock from Ace and Ohio Stoneware. It came in like 4 days. I love the 5 gallon crock. I can pack a ton of food in it. It's especially great for making huge ferments in the winter time. My big problem with it is that it is huge. In the summer, I don't want to make huge ferments because they ferment so rapidly. I also need a smaller vessel for the summer, because fermented vegetables are so healthy and yummy I want to eat them every day.
On this site, permies. com, I saw someone post that they liked their crock from a company called Harvest Essentials. I noted that they had one with a water seal that was not large and that was at a good price. I bought it online. They said I'd have to wait a bit. I said ok. They kept asking me, do I still want to buy it? Don't you want to buy one of our other, more expensive ones? The wait lasted 3 months! Finally they said they were going to send it. I waited for more than a month and it never came. I emailed them and said, "Where is my crock?" They said they sent it. We never saw it. They said I'd have to check the delivery company. I did and then got back to them. Harvest Essentials wouldn't reply to me. A week later, I emailed them again. They wouldn't reply to me for another week. Tonight, I emailed them again. I don't know if they are a real company or just a bunch of website scammers. At this point, I wouldn't recommend them.
I went to a garage sale and someone was giving away a glass container. It was probably one gallon, and it was tall and had an odd shape. I looked for something I could use as a lid. We have some tiny glass bowls that fit perfectly as lids, making a seal so tight that only a tiny sliver of water keeps the air out. As a result, they don't create a lot of the yeast, which can turn into mold and make the ferment slimy and foul smelling in the summer. I thought, "Perfect". Now I've got my summer fermenting vessel. Unfortunately, I also spent $90 at Harvest Essentials and got nothing.
I ferment everything in wide mouth quarts because I am usually doing small batches of different things at once. I have a five gallon crock of my grandma's and also several brown salt glazed one gallon crocks of hers. I used one of those for my failed batch of miso (it took a longggggggg time to get the smell out of the crock) and nothing else so far (I store wooden spoons and stuff in them) I've never checked into lead in the glazes though....I thought because they were salt glazed that that wouldn't be a problem. I thought the problem with lead was in some white glazes, but I am not at all sure.
I like the idea of slow cooker liners a lot. If I ever get in to some larger ferments and get away from the two day sealed lid ones, that is what I'll try.
John, sorry about your crock rip off.........maybe it would be good to report that company somewhere, I don't know how that works.
"We're all just walking each other home." -Ram Dass
"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder."-Rumi
If you can find a potter, they will be happy to make you brand new crocks, fired with glazes of your choice too. This way you can get precisely the sizes you want. I found out that if you check with schools, you can find people. Also if you have any craft stores, it is sometimes possible to locate potters through them.
A man came to our house with the original crock. He said it was at his sister's house. The delivery company delivered it to the wrong house. She had left it in her house for 2 months! I verified that it is the original brown crock. She is disabled, possibly also mentally and didn't do anything about it being there. He was just visiting for Christmas, noticed it, and asked her about it. They actually did send the replacement green crock. The company lady seemed rather blase about me not getting the crock but they actually did try to replace it, even if it wasn't their fault. It was the delivery company and the people who accepted it for two months that messed up. Harvest Essentials never did anything wrong. It was a delivery problem.
I was upset, but now the mystery is solved!
this is the expensive way, The place we get milk from sells them for $3.00 each, I drill a hole add a grommet and an airlock for a grand total of about $7.00 each. The lid is "airtight" plastic when it doesn't have a hole drilled in it. This means air doesn't get in but if the pressure gets too high inside it will just push past the seal of the lid and release itself...instead of blowing up into smithereens all over the kitchen.