Fermenting supplies for all your needs. I thought it would be helpful to create a resource page you can always come to for an overview of all your sauerkraut making tools. This list will evolve as I discover some of the best fermenting supplies to have on hand for successfully and safely making your own sauerkraut and other fermented foods.
There are many more fermentation products on the market now than when I first launched my website back in September of 2014. As new and noteworthy products come on the market, I will review them and share my findings.
This post was originally published on September 26, 2014. It was last updated with new information on January 12, 2017.
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When first making naturally fermented sauerkraut, you really need just a few fermenting supplies:
- A container of some sort, a canning jar being ideal.
- A weight to hold your sauerkraut or fermenting mixture below the brine.
- A lid to seal your jar.
Below are some options, along with specialty crocks to consider purchasing once you have the knowledge and desire to make large batches.
There is a wide range of containers out there that can be used for fermentation all the way from a used pickle jar to a 10-liter water-sealed ceramic crock. They all get the job done, some with a bit more ease than others. And some with better results than others.
Canning jars – sold under the name Mason, Ball, Kilner, Bernardin and others – make for a great first fermentation vessel.
- They’re inexpensive and easy to find used. You might even have some around the home.
- The quart-sized (liter) jar is perfect for beginning fermenters. It allows you to make a small batch of sauerkraut, experiment with various recipes and develop the necessary fermentation skills and intuition to troubleshoot if a batch does not turn out to the best of your liking.
- They fit easily in your refrigerator. No need to transfer your finished ferment into a new jar.
- The jar is clear so you can watch the bubbles rise as your sauerkraut ferments!
Don’t be afraid to buy a case (12) – found in stores where home canning supplies are sold – of the jars. Just make sure you buy the wide-mouth jar. Not only will you have them to make more sauerkraut, but they come in handy for all sorts of uses in your home.
Fido-Style Wire-Bale Clamp Jars
Another jar option for fermentation are wire-bale jars with clamp lids commonly called “Fido” jars. Many swear by them as the only way to create an anaerobic ferment in a glass jar. With these jars, a thick gasket and a strong wire bale holding down the lid create an airtight seal. Some ferment in them without an airlock saying that built-up gasses exert enough pressure to slightly lift the lid and escape between the rubber gasket and lid.
If fermenting in them without an airlock stick to the name brands such as Bormioli Rocco, Fido and Le Parfait which are made from hardened glass, instead of using the cheap knock-offs. Most no-name jars are made in China with thin glass, which is not usually hardened, and come with low-quality gaskets. This is important in order to avoid jars exploding when CO2 gasses build up during the early stages of fermentation.
Listed and discussed under Complete Jar Systems, are Fido-style jars with airlocks.
One of the key factors for successful fermentation of sauerkraut and other vegetables is keeping everything below the brine and away from air. This prevents the growth of mold and yeasts. An inexpensive option, that I recommend when just starting out is a small jar. I list that here along with other products that I have used.
I have an entire blog post dedicated to the discussion of fermentation weights, that includes why a weight is necessary along with other options you might want to try:
Some of the weights are items that can be found around you home, others are available for purchase.
4 ounce (125 gm) Small “Jelly Jar”
This is the smallest of the canning jars and is found in stores where home canning supplies are sold. This little jar works more as a counter-force than a weight. It is placed inside a quart jar on top of your packed sauerkraut. As the sauerkraut pushes up on the little jar, it’s held in place by the lid and can go no further, thus remaining below the brine.
My photo-rich teaching recipe uses these jars and guides your through the process step by step:
Pickle-Pushing No-Float Jar-Packer
Again, though it is not an actual weight, I list the Pickle-Pushing No-Float Jar-Packer from the Ultimate Pickle Jar Company under Fermentation Weights, because it acts as a weight, flawlessly holding your ferment below the brine. A very useful fermentation tool. Full details are found in my Review Blog Post:
The owners of Ultimate Pickle Jar Company come from a home canning background. They learned about lacto-fermentation and were soon converted, but saw the need for an affordable way to keep their ferment below the brine. Concerned about the use of various metals and plastics in an acidic environment they did their homework. They use 316 stainless steel, FDA Grade BPA-free and phthalate-free silicone and BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic.
So, though this not an actual weight, its job is the same: Hold your ferment below the brine. The more I use it, the more I like how well it works. During fermentation, the large amount of air bubbles created within the packed sauerkraut force the cabbage to expand and move brine up and out of your jar. With the Pickle Pusher in place, this can’t happen. Instead, the air bubbles move up and out of the jar leaving your sauerkraut to happily ferment in plenty of brine for the entire fermentation period.
ViscoDisc Canning Buddies
Though ViscoDisc Canning Buddies are not an actual weight, they perform the same task as a weight: holding your ferment below the brine. Simple, affordable and quite effective. Full details in my Review Blog Post:
These have been used in the commercial canning industry for over ten years and just recently have been introduced to the home fermentation market.
ViscoDisc is a stable FDA approved HDPE (High-density polyethylene) material. Tests have shown no leaching of harmful chemicals into the product being fermented.
Pickle Pebbles Plus by Mason Tops
What I like about these fermentation weights is their weight! 6.0 ounces; the greatest weight of all ones you can buy. I have not actually used these but are in the process of reviewing them – to see if they are heavy enough to hold active sauerkraut below the brine – and will soon post my results. They are one of the heaviest weights I could find.
Full details are found in my Review Blog Post:
Tamarack Stoneware 2-Piece Weight
Handmade and sold in the Tamarack Stoneware Etsy Shop.
Since these are a 2-piece weight, they can be cut a bit bigger than the single piece weights thus allowing for complete coverage of your ferment. They are also nice and heavy, similar in weight to the Pickle Pebbles.
Note: Stoneware clay is porous. Porous weights work great, just make sure they are completely dry before storing, else mold can grow on them.
Fermentation is an anaerobic – without air – process. Therefore, you will need a lid to seal your jar while its contents are fermenting. Choices range all the way from the metal rim and lid that is included when purchasing canning jars to lids that include one-way valves, the latest style of fermentation lids to hit the market.
Many also successfully ferment in Fido-style wire-bale clamp jars. I list the airlock lids for these jars along with complete jar systems.
I include options for:
- One-Piece Fermentation Lids
- Fermentation Lids with Airlocks
- Water-Sealed Fermentation System for Wide-Mouth Canning Jars
One-Piece Fermentation Lids
To seal your quart (liter) jar, any of the various plastic storage caps work great. Unlike the metal lids that come with canning jars, the plastic ones will not corrode. Some come with seals to better keep air out of your ferment.
Since none of the lids in this set contain airlocks, they are not screwed on super tight during the active stage of fermentation where a build up of gases could cause your jar to explode. I’ve never had this happen with sauerkraut. Excessive build up of gases is more of an issue when fermenting foods high in sugar, such as fermented sodas.
Silicone gaskets, sold separately, can be placed inside plastic storage caps to make them air-tight and leak-proof. I tend not to use these when fermenting, but you could, and instead use them if I have a jar of liquids that I need to make leak-proof.
Fermentation Lids with Airlocks
If you use a lid with an airlock, gasses that build up during fermentation can escape but no new air can enter. Many say this makes for a higher-quality ferment with better levels of beneficial bacteria.
The three products listed below are all slated for review in the near future. I’ve used lids with the 3-piece airlocks, commonly used in the wine and beer making community, but did not like all the parts to deal with and their high profile. Up until my reviews, I’ve been successfully fermenting in canning jars with just the white storage caps but am excited to start using these well-designed airlock lids.
I have now reviewed the Pickle Pipe. Full details are found in my Review Blog Post:
Water-Sealed Fermentation System for Wide-Mouth Jars
I’m about to test this product with a variety of ferments and have no doubt it will perform splendidly. It uses the same concept as a water-sealed crock yet is designed for use on wide-mouth canning jars. Small batch fermentation with ease.
Another jar option for fermentation are wire-bale jars with clamp lids commonly called “Fido” jars, fitted with airlocks, and sold under the name Pickl-it and The Probiotic Jar. Many swear by them as the only way to create an anaerobic ferment in a glass jar. With these jars, a thick gasket and a strong wire bale hold down the lid to create an airtight seal.
Makers of these systems fit them with an airlock to release any buildup of CO2 gasses and feel a hermetically sealed anaerobic environment is the only way to go. I purchased a few of the Pickl-it jars early on in my sauerkraut making journey and found them expensive, clunky to work with and more difficult to store. They work splendidly, but since I make 40-plus jars of sauerkraut seasonally both in a water-seal crock and quart canning jars, I find them cost prohibitive.
I would love to lab test for levels of beneficial bacteria in these jars, along with the various air-tight fermentation lids now on the market. For now, go with what works best for your particular situation.
Once you have developed confidence in making sauerkraut successfully in quart jars on your counter top, you may want to consider purchasing a large specialty crock to ferment larger batches.* These newer crocks offer a more stable environment for fermentation. Their innovative water-sealed lid also allows gasses to escape but no air to enter, thus maintaining an oxygen-free fermentation environment.
*The reason I recommend you get comfortable fermenting small batches before buying a large specialty crock is that it can be unnerving to pack 15 pounds of cabbage and vegetables into your new crock not knowing if it will turn out right or even whether you’ll like the flavor.
Even today, a decade after turning out my first jar of Dilly Delight Sauerkraut, I still make half of my sauerkraut in quart jars and half in my water-sealed crocks. I like the ability to experiment with flavors in single-jar batches yet also love the quality of sauerkraut that comes from fermenting in thick-walled, stoneware crocks.
Here is a post detailing everything you need to know before purchasing a fermentation crock, along with a larger coverage of fermentation crocks:
Below are some water-sealed fermentation crocks I recommend.
Salt is used to create the brine in which the cabbage mixture ferments. Salt pulls water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create an environment where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria can die off.
Not all salts are the same. Most salt is highly refined, resulting in the loss of valuable trace minerals and the addition of mystery items that will not aid the fermentation process. I talk further about salt is this post:
When first starting to ferment, keep things simple and use the salt you have in your home as long as it just says “salt” or “sodium dioxide” on the label. If it has sugar or anti-caking agents in it, don’t use it. Instead, look for a “pickling” salt at the store or consider one of the salts discussed below.
That being said, I like to ferment with unprocessed mineral-rich salts – salts that still have their complete natural profile of minerals. One of the nutritional benefits of fermentation is that it makes minerals bio-available, resulting in a more nutritious sauerkraut.
If you want to use an unprocessed, high-mineral salt, here are two kinds commonly used by fermenters. I buy my Pink Himalayan Salt in bulk from SaltWorks. SaltWorks offers a large variety of pure and high-quality wholesale sea salt and bulk gourmet sea salts from around the world. Select the fine grind because it dissolves easier than a coarse grind.
A must-have fermentation tool!!!
If you haven’t yet purchased a scale, wait no longer. The success of your sauerkraut fermentation depends upon using the correct amount of salt for the cabbage and vegetables you want to ferment. The right amount of salt ensures that the lactobacilli, which are responsible for safely preserving your ferment, have a chance to fully do their job.
I own both mechanical scales and digital scales and now use my My Weigh KD-8000 digital scale – purchased a year ago – exclusively. It is especially useful when calculating salt by weight.
Mechanical scales make no beeps, have no flashing lights and do not need batteries. I found a used mechanical scale years ago for $20 and have used it to successfully make many batches of sauerkraut. It’s not as accurate as a digital scale but it gets the job done.
Digital scales are more accurate and can easily switch between weight pounds, ounces or grams. Most, however, automatically shut off, negating the ability to zero out the weight of your bowl.
Some things to look for when selecting a digital scale:
- Can you read the display when a large bowl is sitting on the scale?
- Can it weigh at least 11 pounds (This is enough to make a bowl full of 5 pounds of sauerkraut, necessary when making larger batches or filling a crock.)?
- Can you program it to not automatically shut off?
Most likely, you will have a large mixing bowl in your kitchen that will work fine. I prefer glass, though stainless steel or plastic work, too. Stay away from aluminum or copper because the salt used in fermenting reacts with these metals, possibly leaching bad stuff into your kraut.
The size of my favorite glass sauerkraut mixing bowl is 12 inches (31 centimeters) across the top, and it can hold 7 quarts (6.6 liters). This size enables me to make a single 1-quart batch or a 3-quart batch. It’s the largest mixing bowl I use, even when filling my large 10-litre crock, since I always mix and pack 3-quart quantities at a time.
A mandolin. My other must have fermentation tool! Why?
And yes, you do not need to buy a special device to chop vegetables for fermentation. A knife and grater are perfectly adequate. However, I love my mandolin for how quickly it shreds my vegetables into thin, even slices.
A mandolin is a plastic or stainless steel device for slicing vegetables and fruit. It has interchangeable blades, the best one being made of surgical steel. I have never had to sharpen or replace the blade on the Benriner mandolin I received as a gift 35 years ago! It’s a workhorse and far easier to set up and clean than a food processor.
Here is a quick video on how to use it. I leave the core in; no need for the ice bath.
Look for an upcoming blogpost on the different cuts achieved with each of the mandolins below, along with the slicing, shredding and chopping devises on a food processor.
A kraut pounder makes it easy to mix and pound vegetables in a large bowl so that they release their natural juices.
It is even more useful for pressing the vegetables down into the jar especially if you have large hands. I make good use of my kraut pounder to pack my sauerkraut into quart jars when I’m harvesting the goodness from my large crock. Your hand will do the job just fine, as will a large spoon, the end of a rolling pin, or a meat pounder.
Some new to fermentation want to know for sure that their ferment is safe to eat. You might not trust your nose, especially if you’ve never smelled or eaten sauerkraut before. Enter one little fermentation tool to add to your arsenal:
pH test strips
Use a spoon, or small ladle to grab a bit of brine from you jar or crock and dip the pH test strip into the brine. If the pH is 4.0 or below, you may safely eat the ferment. Make sure the pH paper you buy is in the lower end of the pH range (0.0 – 0.6), like the one below that I’ve used.
New fermentation books are being published daily. I can’t keep up with them but I sure try to! Here are the chosen few from my stack.
There you have it. An extensive list of the latest and greatest fermentation tools. Let me know if I missed a favorite of yours.
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