I love getting a new tool for my kitchen. Who doesn’t?
When something comes along that not only makes my life easier but makes fermentation super easy, super safe, foolproof – and fun – I find it hard to resist.
But only if it’s well made, expertly designed and actually works!
Pickle Pebbles + Pickle Pipes =
A simple way to keeping everything below the brine and anaerobic while fermenting in glass canning jars.
For those of you who don’t feel comfortable using food-safe plastic, metal or silicone in your fermenting brine,
the Pickle Pebbles – the part that sits in your ferment – are made from lead-free, food-grade glass.
My big question going into this test?
Do they weigh enough to hold my ferment below the brine?
First off, a bit of trivia about those glass jars I have all of you learning to ferment in.
“Cheap, strong, standard. Since the Mason jar was first patented in 1858 by Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason people have been finding uses for them other than the traditional food preservation that they were designed for.”
“The Mason jar was the killer app of its generation, providing a common platform for inventors and innovators of all kinds to create useful things. While never out of style, the common glass canning jar has been making a serious resurgence in the past few years, becoming a standard fixture in people’s glassware collections and even as serving vessels in restaurants. You can store, bake, preserve and drink out of them. They are dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. They are the perfect container to pack your breakfast/lunch/snack or dinner in!” – MasonTops
I am most proud to say I’ve been using Mason jars for the past 30 years to store foods, do a small bit of hot-water bath canning – the modern way of preserving foods – and drink from.
But for the past 15 years, I have been fermenting – the ancient way of preserving foods – sauerkraut, brine pickles and yummy preserves in Mason jars.
The Mason jar was the killer app of its generation.– MasonTops
The Pickle Pebble from MasonTops is a circular chunk of glass – from the same material Mason jars are made from – that sits on top of whatever you are fermenting to hold it below the brine. It acts as your weight.
In the following picture, it’s creating that diagonal line in my jar of fermenting carrot sticks.
Other options for weights – and why keeping your ferment below the brine is so important – are discussed in my post:
The one-piece Pickle Pipe is a silicone lid that is held in place with the metal band that comes with canning jars and contains a one-way airlock. Gasses can escape but air can’t enter.
My favorite part of testing various ferments with the Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes?
The ever-so-slight bulge in the Pickle Pipe that develops as the microbial action happens! Look carefully at the first picture.
I could not resist running my fingers across it. Not only does it feel “Soft as a Baby’s Bottom,” but it assures me that there is something happening in my jar.
Whenever I checked on my ferments, I could lightly run my fingers over the Pickle Pipe, feel a slight bulge and smile knowing that millions of Mighty Microbes were hard at work, transforming plain vegetables into probiotic-rich goodness, and… expelling gas in the process.
The wonders of the microbial world. What have I been missing all these years?
Review of MasonTops Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes
MasonTops sells Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes both separately or combined in various kit options. To effectively hold your ferment below the brine and keep things anaerobic, you need both Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes.
- Pickle Pebbles.
Pickle Pebbles are clear glass weights designed to hold your ferment below the surface of the brine thereby eliminating exposure to oxygen, one of the main causes of failure when fermenting various vegetables and fruits.
They are sold in sets of 4 in both a “PLUS” size for wide-mouth canning jars and a “Standard” size for narrow-mouth canning jars.
For other weight options, see:
Fermentation Weights: Keep Your Ferments Below the Brine
- Pickle Pebbles are made from non-iridized soda glass – the same material glass canning jars are made from – a lead-free material that guarantees nothing will leach into your ferment.
- Pickle Pipes.
Pickle Pipes are a unique one-way silicone valve designed for use with any sized wide-mouth mason jar. This simple, but ingenious – and colorful – design releases the gasses created by fermentation while preventing oxygen from getting in the jar. Simply clever!
- Pickle Pipes are made from BPA-free and phthalate-free silicone. Lab report available from the MasonTops website.
About the MasonTops Company
MasonTops – a company located in Toronto, Canada – whose name includes the inventor of the glass canning jar, is all about making the canning jar work better for you by providing unique and helpful tools to convert your canning jars into powerful work horses.
Phil Baron, the inventor of the Pickle Pipe and founder of MasonTops, launched his company in 2013. Production of Pickle Pipes was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign in October of 2015.
MasonTops Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes in Action
I tested MasonTops Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes with three types of ferments: carrot sticks in a watery brine, sauerkraut, and a thick relish.
-Ingredients are gathered for a batch of sauerkraut.
-Cabbage and flavoring goodies are shredded, sliced, diced, finely chopped and ready for brining.
-Salt is dispersed throughout the sauerkraut mixture. Waiting for the brine to form.
-Sauerkraut is packed into a Mason jar.
-A Pickle Pebble is added to hold everything below the brine (I did also insert a cabbage leaf, torn to size, to trap any loose bits.)
-The Pickle Pebble is pressed down until firmly in place and brine has risen above the pebble.
-Pickle Pipe is placed on top of jar.
-Metal rim is screwed on to secure the Pickle Pipe and ensure an anaerobic fermentation environment.
-Photo Op before placing sauerkraut out of direct sunlight to ferment.
My Discoveries When Fermenting Sauerkraut with a Pickle Pebble & Pickle Pipe
Plenty of brine! And…
NO brine overflow during the fermentation process, a common phenomenon when using a weight – such as a small jelly jar – that takes up too much space.
Another challenge occurs when storing sauerkraut in the refrigerator for months. Brine seems to just mysteriously disappear thereby exposing the top inch or so of sauerkraut to air and sometimes causing browning. I was hoping that the weight of the Pickle Pebble would hold my fermented sauerkraut under the brine.
I placed my jar of sauerkraut in the fridge – with a Pickle Pebble holding everything below the brine – and checked on it a week later. Darn! The Pickle Pebble had been pushed up and there was no brine in the very top portion of my sauerkraut. Oh well, I tried.
Fermented Carrot Sticks
-Finely sliced garlic scapes from my garden are added for flavor.
-Brine is mixed (One tablespoon salt – Himalayan Pink – with 2 cups water.).
-In goes the brine.
-In goes the Pickle Pebble.
-On goes the Pickle Pipe with a metal band to hold the pipe in place and keep the jar anaerobic.
-Ready for fermentation.
My Discoveries When Fermenting Brined Vegetables with a Pickle Pebble & Pickle Pipe
I did not leave enough room in the jar for the Pickle Pebble.
-You can’t really see this in the photo on the left, but the top of the Pickle Pebble is almost level with the top of the jar.
-I pulled out my ruler to see how much “headspace” I had. Well below the recommended 1 inch.
I did not end up with brine overflow because carrot sticks are not a real “active” ferment, but next time I would leave a good inch, or a bit more, of headspace.
-In brine ferments, the Pickle Pebble does not always stay level. which allows little bits to escape and rise to the surface.
-In the top-right picture – Pickle Pebble still in place – with the fermented carrot sticks, none of the bits of garlic scape floated to the surface.
-In the next picture of Naturally Fermented Pickles – Pickle Pebble still in place – some of my seasonings did float to the surface.
Bits of vegetable matter floating on the surface of a ferment can become a magnet for mold to grow on.
I fermented the carrot sticks for one week and then took a peep.
All is well below the brine, no floaties and evidence of plenty of bubbling action.
The cloudy white patch is normal. Cloudy brine forms as the lactic-acid bacteria do their work and is more visible with brine ferments than with sauerkraut.
Fermented Cabbage Juice – A Side Journey
I don’t know what I was thinking when I tested a Pickle Pebble in my fermented cabbage juice (test recipe). Such a mixture is way too watery to hold any weight. This jar is half cabbage and half brine!
-In went the weight.
-You can see it at the top-right picture slanting and starting to sink.
-And though you might not be able to see it in the last picture, the Pickle Pebble is sitting at the bottom of the jar.
No one method that you implement will be perfect for every occasion. The jar of fermented cabbage juice remained air tight with the use of the Pickle Pipe and no molds developed.
Cranberry Orange Relish
-Ingredients are gathered for a batch of Cranberry Orange Relish.
-My food processor is used to chop the mixture into a nice coarse texture.
-The recipe made enough for a pint jar – already packed – and a bit extra that was packed into this half-pint jar.
-In goes the Pickle Pebble.
-The Pickle Pebble lying flat on the surface of the relish.
-Pickle pipe placed inside the metal band and ready to screw onto jar.
-Ready for fermentation.
My Discoveries When Fermenting a Relish or Paste with a Pickle Pebble & Pickle Pipe
I fermented the cranberry relish for one week and then lifted the lid… All is good. No surface mold.
With the thick relish – which contained no brine – I should not have tried to push it down under the “brine.” I ended up with just relish rising above the Pickle Pebble. This would have been better left below the Pickle Pebble and away from any air exposure.
Notice the crooked Pickle Pipe?
It is probably better to place Pickle Pipe on the jar first, then screw on the band. This should prevent the “twist” that happened with the Pickle Pipe lid. Or, perhaps the metal rim was screwed on too tight.
MasonTops Pickle Pipe & Pickle Pebble Conclusion
MasonTops Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes are ideal for small batch mason jar fermentation. They are simple to use and performed well for the ferments I tested them with.
When using Pickle Pipes and Pickle Pebbles, be sure to leave enough “head-space” in your jar. I have heard reports of ferments oozing up and through the opening in the Pickle Pipe. I did not experience this, but it could happen – with any air-lock device – when overpacking a jar and if having a very active ferment.
No method is perfect. They each have their own set of pros and cons.
Pros of MasonTops Pickle Pipe & Pickle Pebble
- The Pickle Pebbles are heavy enough to actually work. One of my Pickle Pebbles just weighed in at 5.0 ounces (143 g).
I had resisted buying similar weights due to them being too light to actually work. I’ll know after a year’s use if they are heavy enough to work with a real active ferment, but so far so good.
Other weight options are discussed here:
Fermentation Weights: Keep Your Ferments Below the Brine
- No little pieces to keep track of.
The Pickle Pipe airlock is a one-piece airlock. There is no need to fumble with multi-piece airlocks that are difficult to clean and store and need to have their water levels monitored.
- Low profile airlock design.
The Pickle Pipe protrudes above your jar by just about a half inch.
- The Pickle Pebble does not take up a whole lot of space in your jar, therefore no loss of brine.
- Easy to care for.
Both the Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes can be washed in the dishwasher.
- No need to burp jars. The one-way valve releases any build-up of gasses.
- Pickle Pipe is BPA-free silicone. The Pickle Pebble is made from lead-free, food-grade non-porous glass.
Many recommend the use of glass floral stones and gems as weights – which I used early on in my fermentation journey – which are of dubious quality and not guaranteed lead-free.
- User-friendly website with available Care Instructions and Fermentation Guide.
Cons of MasonTops Pickle Pipe & Pickle Pebble
- The metal band used to hold the Pickle Pipe in place can stick to the jar and be very hard to remove. Something about the combination of the metal band with dried and sticky brine.
- The metal band needed to secure the Pickle Pipe is not included but most of us have them around the home. They are included when buying sets of canning jars.
- The Pickle Pipes need to be stored flat, so keep that case they came in and make use of it.
- You’ll have to resist the temptation to give the colorful little Pickle Pipe a squeeze when stopping to check on your ferments. Doing so would let in air, defeating the purpose of the Pickle Pipe.
The MasonTops product line has been a great addition to my fermentation kitchen. I like that the Pickle Pebbles are made of glass and that I don’t end up with brine seeping out of my jars of fermenting sauerkraut.
They now sell a kit Complete Mason Jar Fermentation Kit which includes 4 Pickle Pebbles, 4 Pickle Pipes and 1 Pickle Packer. I have previously purchased the Pickle Pusher and love its sleek design and beautiful, smooth wood.
Other Fermentation Products to Consider
I have also reviewed the Pickle-Pushing No-Float Jar-Packer from Ultimate Pickle Jar.
Slated for review are the:Kraut Source Fermentation Lid FermentEm Waterless Airlock
SteriLIDS with an odorless airlock.
If you have used Pickle Pebbles or Pickle Pipes – or if you do – feel free to leave comments or share your thoughts.
As I use my Pickle Pebbles and Pickle Pipes with various ferments, I will update this post with any new discoveries. Happy Fermenting!