Home lacto-fermentation in glass, stoneware or plastic?
Hi all, I've recently become interested in home lacto-fermentation after reading "Nourishing Traditions" and "Wild Fermentation". Strengthening my immune system around flu season is always a good idea!
I have done a bit of research and found kits with plastic food grade containers with an airlock, glass jars with an airlock, and old fashioned stoneware crocks. The cost difference is significant between the plastic/glass and stoneware. Stoneware of course being significantly more expensive.
I'm steering towards the Glass or Stoneware options because I am not comfortable with chemical leaching from plastic containers, but I am confused with the instructions provided on the glass kits.
Two particular brands are "Picklemeister" and "Perfect Pickler" and both claim to speed up the process from multiple weeks in a stoneware crock, to 4 days in the airlock/glass kits. How is this possible? The Harsch stoneware crock also says it locks in with its lid, so why the significant difference in fermentation time? Am I not getting as much "good bacteria" when only fermented for 4 days? Will it taste significantly different by speeding up the process?
Does anyone have experience with either kits or stoneware crocks? I can't find an unbiased comparison between the two methods (fast and slow fermentation).
I've got a 10L Harsch crock - the lid design doesn't speed fermentation. It just uses water to keep out icky yeasts/molds that interfere with your kraut making. (Technically if you have your sauerkraut contaminated by yeast & have to start over, I guess that would have to do with speed.)
You can do the same thing for cheaper with a homebrew fermentation lock (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/inde...). One thing that I adore about my crock, though, is that the stoneware acts as a temperature buffer of sorts - I keep the crock in the coolest corner of my kitchen and don't have to worry about temperature swings. I also like being able to pull a part of my batch out at a time, re-lidding, and then letting the rest age a bit longer. We start eating sauerkraut when it's about two weeks old. I haven't had any problems with contamination when I do this - I do make sure my ladle & hands are scrupulously clean first.
It's expensive, but one nice thing about the Harsch is that it comes with clay weights that are perfectly sized for the crock & keep whatever you're fermenting submerged beneath your brine nicely.
I use plain old stoneware crocks to make saurkraut. I bought them at an Ace Hardware in the North End of Boston - if there's an Ace near you, you can order online and get ship to store for free:
We have lots of homebrew equipment but I haven't bothered to fit the crocks with an airlock. I just use a glass jar filled with water, on top of a plate to keep veggies udner the brine. And, I just tried out my first batch of kimchi, in a glazed ceramic bowl sitting out on the counter - worked just fine. So I 2nd the idea of starting out with recycled glass jars, and if you decide to stick with ferments get a couple of nice old-fashioned crocks :-)
Locks simply help keep out molds. They won’t speed the fermentation. I suppose that if you ferment in a cool place to slow molding, and then you bought an airlock and thus started fermenting in a warmer place because you were no longer so concerned about mold, then one might say airlocks “speed fermentation,” because warm lacto-fermentation is faster than cool.
I’d start with leftover cleaned glass jars and just vent them once or twice a day, if pressure builds up. Or, leave the lid only slightly tightened so that pressure can squeeze out if it must. Sure, a little more mold could sneak in, but this is very unlikely. (it’s not as if you are covering an open crock just with a porous cheese cloth)
If you find you love pickling, then you can take the plunge and treat yourself to a Harsch crock if you are accustomed to luxuries.
PS—If you remain disappointed with the speed of your fermentation, consider whether you are using too much salt and/or whether your veggies have been hit with soap.
PPS--if you must have a lock, you can buy an airlock and grommet from your local brewing supply store, and make a "perfect pickle" gizmo with a Ball jar and a Ball plastic lid.