Fermenting Foods and Crock Pots
We import fermenting crock pots from Zaklady Ceramiczne in Poland. The quality of these pots is better than anything we have yet seen. The glaze is beautifully even and the finish is superb with a gently rounded transition from the pot to the narrowing neck thus making it easier to wash.
Cadmium and Lead Free Glaze
These crock pots are glazed with a food safe glaze, and are therefore suitable for fermenting food. As Poland is a member of the EU, they are subject to the rigorous food safety standards of the EU. There is therefore neither lead nor cadmium in the glaze. According to the Polish factory when we inquired about their pots:
"Our crocks are made in accordance with the Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27th October 2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food and repealing Directives 80/590/EEC and 89/109/EEC Regulation of the Minister of Health of 15 th January 2008 on list of substances permitted in manufacturing or processing of materials and products made of materials other than plastics intended to come into contact with food.
"Our crocks have been tested in provincial sanitary-epidemiological station and its reports show that the content of cadmium and lead, if they are present at all, is even below the limit of determination."
Straight Sided Crockpots
Crockpots come in a relatively standard design, one that has proved itself over many many years. The main difference appears to be whether the sides are straight or bulbous. We have chosen the straight sided ones as they are easier to insert the weights and cover most of the fermenting vegetables, no matter how much you have in the pot.
The main feature of crockpots designed for fermentation is the simple yet ingenious water moat in which the lid sits. This creates an airlock and thus provides the anaerobic environment which makes the nicest sauerkraut while at the same time allowing the carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation process to bubble out thus preventing pressure build up. You do, however, have to remember to fill the moat with water and keep it topped up during the fermentation process. We keep the pot on the kitchen bench and a bottle of water beside it as a reminder. Only once did we fail to do so. Actually we totally forgot our sauerkraut as it had been relegated to the laundry and "out of sight, out of mind" tends to be our modus operandi here on the farm. Only weeks later did a rather unpleasant smell of rotting cabbage alert us to our very sad sauerkraut attempt. So that batch ended up on the compost heap.
The pots come in different sizes (5 L to 20 L), depending on the size of your family and how much sauerkraut you eat. For most small families, a 5 L pot should be sufficient. However, when we tried to talk one family out of buying a 15 L pot, they told us that they ate over a kilogram of sauerkraut a day! For most people though, sauerkraut is a condiment to a meal, not the main meal itself. Although Zaklady Ceramiczne produces pots up to 40 L in size, from experience we have found that most of these large pots have a lot of trouble arriving undamaged at their destination. However, as a special service, if someone is desperate for a pot from 25 L to 40 L in size, we would be prepared to bring it into the country with one of our regular if infrequent shipments - on the proviso that you are prepared to pick the crockpot up from our farm (Mudgee, NSW).
We now offer the traditional brown and also olive green crock pots. Our manufacturers chose not to send a third colour, stone, because they weren't happy with the glaze finish. Once they have sorted their manufacturing issues out, we hope in future to be able to offer this colour as well.
How to purchase
To purchase our crockpots and cabbage shredders, follow this link Fermenting Crockpots and Accessories. At the moment we have a few crockpot seconds, which we are selling at a discount. These are the remaining stock of our previous supplier and all have small cosmetic flaws such as irregular glazing or tiny cracks or chips in the pots, lids or stones. None of them have functional flaws. There are detailed photos available for each crockpot second thus allowing you to decide whether the compromise in quality is worth the price reduction for you. No returns will be accepted for the crockpot seconds so please look at the photos carefully. For the crockpot seconds follow this link Crockpot Seconds.
For more information on fermented foods, I have copied some articles from elsewhere on the web ...
Fermented Foods: Essential Digestive Aids
Copied from: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/fermented-foods-essential-digestive-aids.html#ixzz1S29ZEm8k
Humans have been fermenting foods as a form of food preservation for thousands of years. to aid in digestion for as far back as we can trace. Primarily they were fermented to improve holding and storing properties of foods. The milk from camels was fermented naturally to produce some of the first yogurts. Stored in goat bags and dropped over the back of camels in the hot deserts of North Africa with temperatures reaching 40°C (110°F) it was the ideal environment for lactic acid-producing bacteria to go to work. Pickles date back to ancient Egypt and vinegar was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a digestive aid, and to promote a healthy liver and gallbladder.
Every culture in the world has some form of fermented foods they eat with meals to aid in digestion. It isn’t necessary to eat very much, just enough to provide the proper enzymes to help break down food and make the nutrients available for absorption in the small intestine. Common in Indian, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine are sweet, sour and salty pickles; while in North and Central Europe you will find sauerkraut and, again, pickles; the Mediterranean countries serve a small glass of red wine, cider or beer with meals to provide digestive enzymes.
When foods are fermented the bacteria, yeasts or molds used in the process, predigest the food, meaning they break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to create microflora, friendly, life giving bacteria beneficial to the gastrointestinal system. These colonize in your intestines and work to keep the unfriendly intestinal organisms under control, such as yeast, parasites, virus, and unfriendly bacteria. Fermented foods come in many guises, some you might eat on a regular basis, such as aged cheese, beer, and wine, while others can have medicinal qualities that support the immune system and aid in healing the digestive system.
Acidophilus: Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a beneficial micro-flora commonly found in yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables.
Vegetable Fermentation Simplified
Adapted from The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved...
A head of cabbage forgotten on an obscure shelf of your pantry will not spontaneously transform itself into sauerkraut. Vegetables left exposed to air start to grow molds, and if left long enough, those molds can reduce a head of cabbage to a puddle of slime, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to crunchy, delicious, and aromatic sauerkraut.
The simple key to successful vegetable fermentation is to make sure your vegetables are submerged in liquid. That’s it, the big secret. Usually the liquid is salty water, also known as brine, but fermentation can be done without salt, or with other liquids, such as wine or whey. Typically, when fresh vegetables are chopped or grated in preparation for fermentation—which creates greater surface area—salting pulls out the vegetable juices via osmosis, and pounding or tamping the vegetables breaks down cell walls to further release juices, so no additional water is required. However, if the vegetables have lost moisture during long storage, occasionally some water is needed; if brine hasn’t risen to submerge the weighted vegetables by the following day, add a little water. In the case of vegetables left whole (cabbage heads, cucumbers, green tomatoes, string beans, okra, zucchini, eggplant, peppers—try anything), the vegetables should be submerged in brine.
The huge variety of vegetable ferments you can create all exist along the spectrum from shredded and salted to whole and submerged in a brine. Sometimes you use elements of each style, as in kimchi recipes that call for soaking vegetables in a brine to soften them and leach out bitter flavors, then pouring off excess brine and mixing in spices. In some cases the liquid is what we’re after, flavored by the vegetables and fermentation.
Pretty much any vegetable can be fermented. Use what is abundantly available and be bold in your experimentation. Seaweeds are a wonderful addition to ferments, as are fruits, though mostly fruit ferments go through their process very quickly. I’ve even made delicious sauerkraut with mashed potatoes layered in with the salted cabbage, as well as kimchi with sticky rice layers. The sharp fermented starches are delicious. The spicing of vegetable ferments is quite varied, too. Kimchi typically includes red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Sauerkraut might include caraway seeds (my favorite), juniper berries, apples, or cranberries. New York–style sour pickles are spiced with dill, garlic, and sometimes hot peppers. To keep cucumbers crunchy, add to the brine some grape leaves or leaves of horseradish, oak, currant, or cherry.
How much salt do you use? Traditionally vegetables have been fermented with lots of salt. In addition to pulling water from the vegetables, salt hardens pectins in the vegetables, rendering them crunchier, and discourages the growth of bacteria other than lactobacilli. By inhibiting competing bacteria, salt enables the vegetables to ferment and to be stored for longer periods of time. Since preservation has historically been one of the important motivations for fermentation, ferments have tended to be quite salty. But for health-conscious people interested primarily in flavor and nutrition, less salt can be better. Salt lightly, to taste. It is easier to add salt than to take it away, but if you oversalt, you can dilute by adding water and/or more vegetables. There is no magic proportion of salt the process requires—it’s just personal preference. As a starting point, try 3 tablespoons of salt per 2.25 kg of vegetables. More salt will slow the fermentation process; less (or none) will speed it up. Ferments with less salt may be more prone to surface molds. You can leave out the salt or use various mineral-rich substitutes such as celery juice (my favorite salt-free variation) or seaweed. Just be sure the vegetables are submerged in the liquid.
Some people promote the idea that salt-free sauerkrauts contain more beneficial organisms than salted krauts. I don’t believe that. The most specific beneficial bacteria we’re after, Lactobacillus, is salt-tolerant and abundantly present even in salty krauts; arguably, salt-free ferments are more biodiverse, but this diversity often results in mushy textures. Though it is possible to ferment vegetables without salt, a little salt results in far superior flavor and texture—and just as much beneficial bacteria. So again, salt to taste.
What kind of vessel should you use to hold your ferment? Avoid metal, as salt and the acids created by fermentation will corrode it. Heavy ceramic cylindrical crocks are the ideal fermentation vessels. In a pinch, you can use plastic, but even food-grade plastics leach toxic chemicals.
The reason a cylindrical shape is desirable is for ease of weighting down the fermenting vegetables to keep them submerged rather than floating to the top. If the vegetables float to the top and remain exposed to air, they are likely to develop mold. Sometimes, especially in hot weather, your ferment may develop a film of white mold on its surface. Specially designed German fermenting crock pots eliminate this problem by creating an oxygen-free airspace around the ferment. The German crock pots are also supplied with 2 half moon shaped ceramic weights to keep the vegetables under the liquid.
Whatever type of vessel you use, pack the vegetables into it with some force (unless they are whole), in order to break down cell walls and release juices. I use a blunt wooden tamping tool. You can improvise with a piece of wood or your fist, or you can manually massage and squeeze the vegetables. Once the vegetables are weighted down, the salt will continue to pull moisture from the vegetables for many hours yet. If, by the following day, the vegetables are not submerged, add a little water.
How long do you ferment the vegetables? I wish I had an easy answer to this question. “Ferment until ripe,” many recipes advise, but ultimately you will have to decide when it is ripe. Sour flavor—from lactic acid—develops over time. Longer fermentation translates to tangier flavor. This happens more quickly in warm temperatures than in cool ones. If you start your ferment at harvest time, in the autumn, as temperatures are dropping, it can ferment for six months or longer. This is how people survived before refrigeration and globalized food. Many people, however, prefer the flavor of a mild ferment to that of a strongly acidic one. When you are first experimenting, taste your ferments early and often. Serve some after three days, then three days later, and again three days after that. Familiarize yourself with the spectrum of flavors that fermentation can create and see what you like.