More From: Advice

Pickling & Fermenting Crocks Frequently Asked Questions

Fermentation and Pickling Crocks Questions & Answers

- posted by EmmaLee Woodland

At some point in your life, you've probably had fresh, homemade pickles - maybe even homemade sauerkraut or kimchi. You might even have a few seasons of pickling and fermenting under your belt. Yet, I would venture to bet that, no matter where you are in your journey, you have a few questions about pickling crocks.

We've carried made-in-Ohio, USA stoneware pickling crocks for several years (click to see them online!) here at Smith & Edwards, and here are some questions our customers have asked us over the decades. We've found answers from experts including Ohio Stoneware and Utah State University's Extension Office.

Three gallon pickling crock set: crock, lid, and weights

Have a pickling crock question you don't see answered here? Leave a comment below and we'll track down an answer for you!

Pickling Crock Questions about Getting Started

What do I need to get started?

You need a pickling crock with a set of weights and a lid. Whether you buy a pickling or fermentation crock is up to you. There are many brands to choose from, but our favorite here at Smith and Edwards is the Ohio Stoneware crocks.

Once you have your basic kit assembled, all you need is a few of your favorite recipes. Then you're ready to start making delicious, fresh pickles.

You can also try pickling other vegetables, or even try your hand at fermenting!

Find out more tips about getting started with pickling crocks, and a FREE recipe, here.

Are crock lids and weights necessary, or are there "pickling hacks"?

These items are necessary. Pickling weights hold your produce under the brine. Pickling crock lids keep excess air & contaminants from reaching your pickles.

However, you can use some shortcuts. Instead of weights, you could use a plate weighted down with bricks. Also, if you have a plate large enough, you could use that as a lid.

Crock weights are designed & sized specifically for your individual crock, so I recommend them - but you can get by without them.

Pickling & Fermentation crock lids and weights

How do I care for my pickling crock?

It's quite simple, really. Your crock needs only to be washed with soap and water. The goal is to get rid of anything that would cause bacteria to form in your crock. So a little bit of hot water and soap will do just the trick. Here are some more questions we get about cleaning pickling crocks.

Should I wash my crock by hand, or in the dishwasher?

Most pickling crocks, like the Ohio Stoneware crocks, have been treated with a special glaze that has been specially formulated to withstand the power of your dishwasher. But - due to their sheer size and majesty, your pickling crocks might not fit in your dishwasher!

If your 1-gallon or 2-gallon pickling crock fits, you can rest easy knowing that you won't hurt your crock by putting it in the dishwasher. But handwashing is a good bet.

What type of scrubber is best?

Most scrubbers will work great with your crock. You're not likely to ruin the glaze. Still, Ohio Stoneware recommends that you don't use anything too abrasive. Steer clear of metal scrubbing tools.

Don't use these abrasive cleaners on your ceramic pickling crock!

The traditional, little green scrubbing pads that you can find in most cleaning aisles (or on our center bargain tables here at Smith and Edwards) are the perfect tool for doing the job. Any other plastic-bristled scrubbers or foam sponges, even our favorite Scrub Daddy scrubbers, will work great on your pickling crocks!

Use the Scrub Daddy or any foam, sponge, or plastic-bristle scrubbers on your pickling crocks

Is it safe to pour scalding-hot water in my crock?

Your pickling crock has been coated with some kind of glaze and was heated, or fired, in a kiln. Temperatures inside of an industrial kiln, which is like a giant oven, can reach up to 2500°F. So, a little bit of scalding hot water isn't going to hurt your crock.

Something I would suggest would be to avoid pouring boiling hot water into your crock when the crock is extremely cold.

Have you ever seen what happens to glass when it is super-heated and then cooled too quickly? You get really cool cracks in the glass making it look like crystal! That's not something that you want to have happen to your pickling crock.

Can I still use a cracked crock? How about if the glaze is cracked?

If the crack is deep enough that the clay of the crock is exposed, it is recommended that you invest in a new crock. It would be impossible to guarantee that an older crock was made with lead-free clay and health and safety should be your number one concern when pickling and fermenting.

However, if you notice that your glaze is cracked but the clay is not exposed, you should be okay to continue using your crock. Be sure and check with the manufacturer if you have questions about the composition of your crock.

Chips in the rim aren't an issue at all.

More Pickling Crock Questions

Does the color of the interior of my crock have any special meaning?

Pickling crocks have been manufactured in this fashion for many years now. That's just the way it is! Your crock's color won't affect your produce in any way.

This one gallon pickling crock has a natural interior, while the three gallon crock has a chocolate-brown interior

This one gallon pickling crock has a natural interior, while the three gallon crock has a chocolate-brown interior

 

Will salt seep through the sides of my crock?

Salt should not seep through your crock. If this is happening, the crock's glaze or walls have been damaged in some way, and it is now time to invest in a new crock.

Also, the denser the clay and more vitrified a crock is, will affect this undesirable occurrence.

Why is the rim of my crock unglazed?

There needs to be a seam between two different colors. This is known as a parting seam. The manufacturer removes the glaze from the rim, because it would just look unattractive. That is, again, how crocks are traditionally made.

What is the difference between pickling crocks and fermentation crocks?

Trick question! These crocks are used for the same things, and really should be named differently. You can pickle and ferment in either an open-top (pickling) crock or a water-seal (fermentation) crock. Let's take a quick look at the Ohio Stoneware crocks.

Three gallon pickling crock vs Three gallon fermentation crock

Here's a side-by-side comparison: on the left is an open-top crock, and on the right, a water-seal crock. They're commonly called a pickling crock (L) and a fermentation crock (R).

Open-top crocks made by Ohio Stoneware are sturdier and denser. This is because of the form that the crocks are made from. Ohio Stoneware presses these crocks in a metal mold with a hydraulic press.

The water-seal crock is a poured form, so it isn't as dense. Also, the handles aren't a functional difference - they are just decorative.

Whether you buy an open-top crock or a water-seal fermentation crock is really just dependent on your personal preferences.

Here's a look at the "moat" in a fermentation crock, or water seal crock.Why does this crock have a "moat" around the opening?

Europeans have traditionally used water-seal crocks in fermenting. Americans typically ferment in open-top crocks. There is generally more attention needed for the water-seal crocks, because you have to make sure that the moat stays full of water.

If the water in the moat evaporates, oxygen and other particles will be able to get into your brine solution. This can cause problems, including slimy and soft pickles, cloudy brine, bloom, or other bacteria growth.

You must also continuously check for bloom, which is the bubbles on top of the weights. You must skim the bloom off the brine every 2-3 days to ensure that your pickles turn out perfectly.

Questions about the Fermentation Process

How do I know when my pickles & fermented foods are ready?

Follow your recipe, or even do some taste-testing. Really, that's OK! Taste-testing helps you know how much longer to ferment or pickle.

Generally, the longer you pickle something, the stronger the taste. Just keep an eye on things.

Can I ever re-use my brine? What about with pickled eggs?

No, you cannot. Even with pickled eggs! It is always best to start at the beginning for the best-tasting and safest pickles.

What types of salt should I use? Are there different salts for different applications?

Use a pickling or canning salt. These salts are cleaner and have no additives, which can affect the quality of your brine and produce. In all of your pickling and canning, use a salt made specifically for these purposes.
Everything you need for making pickles at home - you can find it all at Smith & Edwards!

Do I have to be exact on the amount of salt and produce?

Yes. You need to go-to a good source for the ratio. Follow your recipe.

What temperature do I need to keep my brine?

The ideal temperature range for pickling is between 68° F and 74° F. If you are not in that range, you can run into lots of problems:

If your solution is too hot, this can cause soft and slimy pickles. If your climate is fairly warm, then you need to pay more attention to your pickles. You may need to change out the brine more frequently and there is more "pickle-sitting" involved.

If your solution is too cold, it takes a longer time for the fermentation process to take place. This can mean cloudiness in your brine and a poorer-quality pickle.
You'll be good to go with these pickling crock tips!

teresa-hunsaker-usu-extension

What's next?

The best step is to either start or continue pickling!

Whether you’re a seasoned pickling veteran, or just starting out, we are sure you'll have more questions. Just remember the best resources you have in your pickling adventures.

You can contact your manufacturer for any questions that you have regarding workmanship, materials, and care. Any additional questions you have about pickling and fermenting can be answered by contacting your local Extension office. The Utah State University Extension office is always happy to answer any questions you have about pickling and fermenting and many other types of food preservation and safety as well.

Call the local expert on all things canning and fermenting, Teresa Hunsaker with the USU Extension Service, at 801-399-8200. Or email her at teresa.hunsaker (at) usu.edu.

Remember to stay safe and informed for the best pickles and cleanest crocks in town. Happy pickling!

John's leaf blower tips for spring troubleshooting

John's 4 Stihl Leaf Blower Tips

- posted by Jerica Keyes

After a long, cold winter, it's time to clean up. Planting new flowers, mowing the lawn - all the little things to make your yard beautiful again. It's the time of year to break out all our lawn care equipment again.

As people are preparing for the summer, we often get questions about troubles getting all the tools tools to start up after long, cold winter storage.

Tool Troubleshooting: 4 Leaf Blower Tips

Many people are ready to use their gas powered leaf blowers, but it can be hard to get them started after winter. John, part of our team in the Lawn & Garden department, has thought of 4 possible solutions for this:

  1. Stale fuel. Fuel doesn't last forever. If it doesn't get used, it can get old and stop functioning how it's supposed to. Try refilling with clean, fresh fuel. Click here to check out the best EPA-compliant fuel cans we've found.
    Try adding fresh fuel to your blower!
  2. Spark plugs. This is a very common solution for blowers not starting. Check your spark plugs, and if any of them have build-up, it's time for a replacement.
    Check your spark plugs on your leaf blower!
  3. Air filter. Check that your air filter is clean and not plugged up. If not, you know it's time for a change.
    Check your leaf blower's air filter
  4. Fuel filter. Not as common, but equally a potential solution. Check that your fuel filter isn't clogged up. If that's the case, replace it with a new filter.
    Check that your leaf blower's fuel filter isn't clogged!

Note: Not all models of Stihl Gas Powered Leaf Blowers are the same. Check for your model manual by clicking here.

John and the Stihl leaf blowers at Smith & Edwards

Thanks for the leaf blower tips, John!

Thanks John! These are his best tips, and if these don't work, you can consult your blower model's manual for more advice here at stihlusa.com.

Photos by Rose Marion.

Smith & Edwards answers your questions! Q&A with S&E

Q&A: Why use a Gun Vise?

- posted by Rose Marion

You've got questions, we've got answers! Send us your question to help@smithandedwards.com. We've got good advice, bad advice, & years of experience with all kinds of crazy outdoors activities. Send us your question, you just might get something fun or helpful back!

Question:

I saw your post on how to clean a rifle. I've never used a Gun Vise to clean my rifle... does it make any real difference? -Major Paul

Answer:

You don't have to use a gun vise to clean your rifle. But it's a good idea to have one, or a bipod, so your rifle is secured and the stroke of the cleaning rod is consistent with the plane of your bore.
How to clean your rifle - Smith and Edwards Demo

A lot of people also use a bore guide so that when you clean from breech to muzzle, you don't scrape your crown on the muzzle end. You don't really want the cleaning rod to contact the crown. A vise will help you clean consistently without scraping the sides. Also, that keeps the mess in one area.

Mike Vause, Smith & EdwardsThanks for asking!
- Mike Vause

Smith & Edwards Gun Counter