I love sauerkraut, pickles, miso and other common living foods, and had been interested in making my own. At the suggestion of SOR I picked up a copy of the book Wild Fermentation
by Sandor Ellix Katz. Now, armed with intent and knowledge, what I needed to begin making my own stuff was some equipment.
Carmella had posted a link to this pickling jar
which makes the whole process very easy for only about $30/jar (after shipping/handling). Since I was planning on experimenting with various things, I knew I would need several and that was adding up to some cash worthy of attention. The best kind of fermenting equipment is a Harsch Crock
, but these are much more expensive than the jar above. Other alternatives are standard ceramic pickling crocks which are also pricy and hard to find. After that people tend to start using plastic food-grade buckets.
I did not want to use the bucket method since the jar Carmella linked to looked so utterly simple to use. I figured I could make one of these for less money, and set out to make 8 of them.
I started with a trip to a local home-brew/wine-making supply store. I picked up 8 airlocks for $1.70 each and 8 grommets for next to nothing. The airlocks let the gases escape but keep outside air from getting in. The grommets were to form the seal on the jar lid where I would insert this airlock.
Then I started searching for gallon jars. This took a few hours of driving all over the place. I tried all sorts of local mom & pop hardware stores but could not find any 1 gallon glass jars at all. I finally wound up going to Wal-Mart and found 1-gallon jars in both glass and plastic. The glass ones were $4.89 each and had a metal lid. I was a little worried about the metal rusting out, so I went with the plastic jars since they had plastic lids. They were also only $2.89 each meaning they were basically temporary until I could find good long term glass jars at good prices.
I also needed something to put inside the lid that would keep the vegetables submerged. I wanted something non-plastic and non-toxic, thinking whatever I got will possibly be used with the glass jars whenever I find those. I wound up going to a local arts and crafts store and picked up some 4-inch cork mats and some 3-inch ceramic saucers for small flower-pots. Grand total to supply 8 jars was $19.80.
Now all I needed was some vegetables for pickling. I headed to a local farmers market to see what small treats I could start with at prices that were too good to pass up. I found a stand with some long baby eggplants and some peppers. They were calling to me, and the eggplants are the perfect pickle size.
A couple stands down was a plastic tote with about 60 or so medium sized, odd shaped pickling cukes. They weren't the prettiest, but they would definitely work. They had wanted 8/$1.00, but the guy saw I was interested and offered me the entire batch for $3.00. I decided to stop there since I wasn't sure exactly how many jars I had just filled with pickling cukes!
So I went home...then went straight back out to get some more sea salt and to pick up some distilled water. Gotta have that.
So I went home again to put together the jars. I took the plastic lid and drilled a 1/2-inch hole dead center in the lid, and smoothed out any rough bits. Then I inserted a grommet into the hole and made sure the airlock could be insered into the grommet and into the lid. It fit beautifully!
So now I had a pickling jar!
I made a batch of garlic-dill sour pickles with ease. Now I just have to let them sit for a week or four.
Total cost for all 8 jars was $64.28, or roughly $8.03 per jar.
I'm not sure if I can do miso in these or not though. I may need to get a crock for that.