Fermentation is a lot more pleasant when you have the right tools and containers. Crocks come in an amazing variety of styles and prices. Backdoor Survival wants you to be able to make an informed decision about what is best for your space and purpose.
First, let’s go over what you need to look for and consider when buying a crock and then we will discuss some of the options you have available to you at a reasonable cost.
- 0.1 What are you going to use it for?
- 0.2 Do you want it to be movable?
- 0.3 Where is it made?
- 0.4 Lid or no lid?
- 0.5 Storing In Container Or Canning?
- 0.6 A Note On Buying Local
- 1 Used Crocks
- 2 Fermenting Crocks Worthy Of Consideration
- 3 1. Kerazo 10 L (2.6 gallon) Crock Made In Germany
- 4 2. Ohio Stoneware 3 Gallon Fermentation Crock
- 5 3. 5 Gallon Stoneware Crock USA Made
- 6 Recommendations for Very Small Fermentation Spaces
- 7 1. FermentEm Waterless Airlock For Mason Jars
- 8 2. Crazy Korean Fermentation Containers
- 9 3. Ohio Stoneworks 2 Gallon Fermentation Starter Kit
- 10 4. Big Mouth Bubbler 5 Gallon Glass Fermentation Vessel
- 11 5. 2 Gallon Plastic Fermenter
- 12 6. Rubbermade Drinking Water Container
- 13 Conclusion: Multiple Smaller Containers Are Best For Most People
What are you going to use it for?
Some fermented foods you may want a lot of while some are small batch worthy. You have to allow for some head space and room for liquid as well. If your crock is going to be used for multiple projects throughout the year then consider that.
Preserving eggs, for example, can be done in the same crock you used to make kraut earlier or later in the year but fancier crocks with narrower mouths might make it harder to store eggs or do other things.
Do you want it to be movable?
Several small crocks are easier to move and lift than a single large one. You don’t want to hurt yourself or drop it and lose all that food and the crock! It is definitely more expensive to buy more smaller ones than a single large crock but the benefits are easier maneuverability and you can make multiple different fermented foods at once.
Bigger crocks up to 10-15 gallons are out there but they are made to stay where you initially put them and never be moved. Ideally you would not move a crock unless absolutely necessary.
Where is it made?
I strongly advise being careful of where your crock ware is made. You do not want to risk fermenting in something that might have toxic paint or glazes in it.
A too good to be true price tag is a strong warning sign. Look for brands made in the USA and Europe or at the very least make sure the crock or container is certified to be free of toxins.
Lid or no lid?
A lot of crocks do not come with a lid or stones to keep food submerged. Lids and stones have a lot of advantages because you have everything you need and don’t have to go find a rock and plate and cheesecloth and then attempt to keep flies and mold out of your kraut or other fermenting foods.
If you get just a crock then you may be able to buy a lid and stones separately and save some money over some of the more expensive crocks out there.
To be honest, the way I was taught was just to use the classic style crocks that we could get at the feed and farm supply stores and they do not have lids unless you get a churn style one.
What you have to do in this case is:
- Get a dinner plate that is close in size to the opening of your crock.
- Put this down in the crock and use a clean rock wrapped in white cloth or cheesecloth and use this to weight the plate and push it down to keep kraut submerged.
- Drape the cheesecloth or white cloth around the crock and then you can cover it again. A lot of women would use the same “kraut rock” year after year.
I won’t lie and say this is guaranteed to keep everything out. It is just a traditional way that mountain folk did for years and it definitely works. You will have to check your kraut though and skim off any growth until you can it if you choose to.
Storing In Container Or Canning?
While canning is convenient, it is best to store your fermented foods and use them in an uncanned state for maximum health benefits. Cooking and boiling kills the beneficial bacteria. It might still taste good and you can store it in a lot of different places but it is very important to remember that fermented foods are very much “alive”.
For years, I have canned my kraut just because of storage considerations but in the future, I think it will be much easier to just keep it in container. Canning is a lot of work and then there is the expense of lids and jars to deal with on top of all that.
A Note On Buying Local
Stoneware crocks are heavy and have to be shipped with a lot of care. While we have tried to provide links to crocks that are priced reasonably and can be shipped to you, it is possible that you may be able to get a better bargain locally if you have a farmers coop or similar store close by.
The selection will be limited but it might be worth keeping an eye out for good deals when you can find them.
Buying a used crock is a fine thing to do but be sure to check it throughly for cracks, chips, or other imperfections. Also, make sure it is marked so that you know if it is food grade or not.
There are some crocks out there that are for decorative purposes rather than food use and you definitely do not want those. Most used ones are fine if there are no cracks but it pays to be safe.
- Flea markets and yard sales sometimes yield a great deal.
- Some people even find good deals on Ebay but I would use caution when buying any crock that you cannot see in person. A small crack can turn into a big one pretty quickly and with shipping charges being so high for the typical seller on an item so heavy and bulky, it is not always worth it.
- Craigslist and other local ads are worth looking at.
Fermenting Crocks Worthy Of Consideration
There are a lot of different sizes of crocks out there so I will try to include different sizes in this list because I fully realize that space, weight, cost, and other factors are going to make some more realistic for you personally.
Here are a few to choose from.
This crock is handmade in Germany and is truly something you could pass down. For your money you get the weights and the lid included. The handles make it much easier to get a good hold on this crock when you need to move it unlike a lot of the less expensive crocks that are entirely smooth on the sides.
The 2.6 gallon size means you can make about 16 pints of fermented vegetables at once. The size means this is a reasonable crock even for families that like to eat or put back a lot of fermented vegetables. If you had two of these, you could produce a large excess for a family and have some to trade or give to friends. The brown stoneware finish is very high quality and made to not chip.
The crock is certified lead and cadmium free and can even go in the dishwasher. Backdoor Survival recommends hand washing your crock though due to the harshness of detergents used in dishwashers.
The deep gully at the top prevents insects, dust, and debris from entering your crock when the lid is on making this crock a lot less gross to use than open top crocks that utilize a cloth and plate.
Cost: Check latest prices here
Ohio Stoneware makes some wonderful fermentation crocks and they can be found for a lower cost than the imported German crocks of comparable quality. This 3 gallon crock allows you to make up to 18 pints of finished fermented vegetables at a time.
The blue and white design is an old one that will look great anywhere in your kitchen or pantry. The design features the deep gully to keep out all the nasty things that try to invade any food stuff.
The weights keep food submerged and mold free. Handles on the sides offer a place to grip and move. The finish is white but it is certified lead free and made to last for a lifetime of fermenting. These crocks will last indefinitely if protected from freezing or impacts.
Ohio Stoneworks says you can put it in the dishwasher but as we said before, the finish and glaze of any ceramic dish seems to do best with hand washing over the long term. I have seen too many ceramic dishes in frequent use get ruined by being put through the dishwasher too much with harsh detergents.
Cost: Check latest prices here
For some this is a crock that will bring back memories. It is really heavy and you will need to purchase stones and a lid for it or make your own. Still this is an amazing crock if you don’t have the need to move crocks around much and want to make a lot of one type of fermented food at once.
Recommendations for Very Small Fermentation Spaces
If you only have a little space and just want to make under 2 gallons of fermented vegetables then you should consider Mason jars with airlocks. They are easy to move and can be stored on counter top or fridge. Crocks that are in the 1 gallon range are expensive for the amount of fermentation you can do.
In fact, a 1 gallon crock with lid and stones is very close in price to that of a 2 gallon one! Here is one style of jar lid you can use to get started fermenting no matter where you live or how small the space.
–> Best For Those On A Budget
We have talked about the really nice crocks that if you have the money are highly recommended but what if you are trying to budget and want to ferment?
No need to worry, because there are a lot of budget friendly options out there that will work wonderfully. Here are a few fermentation vessels that offer a lot for the money.
0.9 gallons – 11.8 gallons
The name of these containers is a bit much but they are excellent fermentation containers. Some sizes are round and some square. I really want to try a square one out because it has a handle so you can carry it like a toolbox!
For those that struggle with space, the square containers can make it easier to fit the most fermentation containers in the smallest space. Here is a peek at the inside.
You can actually just keep your fermented foods stored in these containers until you are ready to consume or just when you want to can it up in Mason jars. It definitely will keep fermented foods fresh and colorful so you don’t have to rush. These containers are designed to keep fermentation odors where they belong as well.
If you want to take out some food to eat on, just adjust the lid down to meet the food surface after you get what you want. You really don’t have to can fermented foods with this type of vessel since it forms a vacuum seal and protects food so well.
All Crazy Korean Fermentation vessels are made of polypropylene plastic mixed with 7-10% natural clay to keep the porosity of the vessel just right for fermentation and storage. The materials are all FDA approved and certified free of BPA, DEHP, and lead.
If you are a traditionalist when it comes to fermenting then this is a good compromise because it is the classic smooth sided crock but it has stones and a lid with it.
If you just want the crock with no lid or stones you can get it for $50 but I recommend just getting the kit because the stones are superior to going out and finding your own rocks like I have done many times before.
If plastic brew buckets are not appealing to you then the Big Mouth Bubbler offers 5 gallons of fermentation capacity with a wide mouth so you can put vegetables in and take them out a lot more easily. It is glass though so it is not something you are going to want to move around a lot.
An airlock and rubber stopper is required and sold separately. On the plus side you can see your beautiful fermenting foods the whole time. 5 gallons is a lot of capacity for $64.50 and you can use it for home brewing as well if you soak it well in oxygen cleaner or similar to clean it between uses.
Add in an airlock and you have a very inexpensive 2 gallon fermentation vessel and storage container. 2 gallons is a manageable size to move around if needed and fits well in small spaces.
If you are just getting started with fermentation, this is a cheap way to figure out if you like doing it or not.
These are food grade, large, inexpensive, insulated, easy to find, and have a heavy duty carry handle. Sure you don’t have an air lock but what you can do is use a cheese cloth and then don’t tighten the lid down all the way.
You can make a lot of kraut in something like this but it is not suitable for storing for a long time. It is an option though if you want to get started fermenting a lot of food with very little investment.
Conclusion: Multiple Smaller Containers Are Best For Most People
While small fermentation vessels cost more per volume unit, they offer more versatility, are easier to move, and are more realistic if you intend on storing fermented foods in them as you consume them.
A few large containers limits you to making only a couple of types of foods unless you are canning or storing jars in the refrigerator. Getting a crock with a lid and rocks made to fit the crock saves a lot of time and energy and prevents you from fishing out dead bugs or getting dust or dirt in your fermenting foods.
While some may be wary of plastics, there are plenty of reputable places that make food grade plastics that can get you started fermenting on a tight budget.
What is your favorite way to ferment foods? What is your favorite foods to ferment? Recipes?
The team at Backdoor Survival love to hear reader experiences and tips. Feel free to comment below with your favorite type of crock and any recipes and tips you may have that we can all learn by!
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