The Maiden Voyage of our Fermenting Crock
I can’t say I’ve ever imagined myself owning a 20 liter fermenting crock, but we ordered one from Harvest Essentials last week with the weight stones which arrived on our doorstep Wednesday. First, let me say that this thing appears to be built like a tank. It was made in Boleslawiec, Poland and I know that the jokes make them more famous for things like screen door submarines and helicopter ejector seats, but the craftsmanship on this thing is definitely noteworthy. This looks like something that could be in the family for generations and certainly many fermenting crocks have survived the test of time – in fact, my mother showed us one tonight that she had from my grandparents. It looks sturdy enough to take some abuse and I also have to say that it’s not a bad looking piece of ceramic either.
Since it will be a while before we have cabbage in our garden (seeds aren’t even started yet), I went out last night and picked up four or five heads of cabbage, which came up to about 13.5 lbs. I figured we might as well get some use out of it now and make sure we know what we’re doing so we’re ready when our homegrown cabbage is ready.
There’s all kinds of recipes for sauerkraut out there, but Adena insisted on a basic cabbage, salt and water recipe which was probably a smart idea for our first time. Using a food processor it didn’t take long to strip the outer layers, cut out the hearts, wash the cabbage, chop them into smaller pieces and then shred. Once we finished that, we put some of the cabbage in the crock, pressed it down with the stones, added some salt and then repeated the process a few more times with more layers of cabbage. The recipe stated that if you didn’t have liquid from pressing the cabbage, you should add boiled (and then cooled) salt water to give it a liquid layer. Our cabbage was dry, so we had to do that. The crock was about half full (or half empty if it turns out bad) with 13.5 lbs of cabbage. We’re unsure if we have to skim the top layer off every now and then (as I’ve heard before), but the recipe that came with the crock said that isn’t necessary with the crock. It has a ring around the lid that you fill with water which allows gases to escape but limits air coming in. All we have to do is leave it alone for a couple of days and then move it to a slightly cooler spot for several weeks. I’m a little skeptical of this, but if we have problems I’d rather we work them out now rather than on the cabbage we’ll surely put our heart and soul into.
I guess there are some good health benefits to eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods, as well as a ton of other things that can be fermented. Honestly, my annual sauerkraut consumption is low but I’m sure we would eat more of it if we made it ourselves. If it turns out alright, I’m sure we won’t have any problems giving/bartering our surplus away.
UPDATE – Two weeks later and everything seems to be going fine. We can hear the water bubbling every now and then. So far no significant smell either, which is a plus.