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Pickling & Fermenting Crocks Frequently Asked Questions

Fermentation and Pickling Crocks Questions & Answers

- posted by EmmaLee Woodland

You’ve probably had fresh, homemade pickles at some point in your life – maybe even homemade sauerkraut or kimchi. You may have even tried your hand at home pickling and fermenting. Whether you’re an expert, a novice or somewhere inbetween I would bet that you have a question or two about pickling crocks.

Right here we answer some frequently asked questions about these fragile, ceramic creations with help from industry experts at Ohio Stoneware.

We’ve carried these Ohio made stoneware pickling crocks for several years (click to see them online!) here at Smith & Edwards. Throughout that time we’ve gotten a lot of questions from our customers about pickling crocks. Here are some of the most questions we’ve received. Answers to these questions were provided to us from the experts at Ohio Stoneware and the Utah State University 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

Q: What do I need to get started?

A: 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.

Q: Are crock lids and weights necessary, or are there “pickling hacks”?

A: 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.

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

A: 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.

Q: What type of scrubber is best?

A: 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

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

A: 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.

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

A: 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

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

A: 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

 

Q: Will salt seep through the sides of my crock?

A: 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.

Q: Why is the rim of my crock unglazed?

A: 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.

Q: What is the difference between pickling crocks and fermentation crocks?

A: Trick question! These crocks are used for the same things, and really shouldn’t 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.Q: Why does this crock have a “moat” around the opening?

A: 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

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

A: 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.

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

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

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

A: 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!

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

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

Q: What temperature do I need to keep my brine?

A: 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!

Iceolate Cooler Tray now at Smith & Edwards

Keep your Camping Food from Getting Soggy with the Cooler Tray!

- posted by Rose Marion

Bryan stopped by and showed us how the Cooler Tray can keep our food from getting soggy while camping.

(yikes, who films in portrait mode?!)
When you’re camping, you want to keep all your food cool overnight or over the weekend. But that doesn’t have to mean soggy buns, soggy grapes, soaking-wet beverage cans that have gunk on them – ick!!

The Cooler Tray by Ice-Olate has arrived at Smith & Edwards!This is an easy & economical solution to that summer problem.

As one of our managers said, “I’m sure gonna miss scooping the hamburger labels out of the water when I empty the cooler…. NOT!”

What a cool invention! You can get yours in the Sporting Goods department of Smith & Edwards as well as right here in our online Camping Coolers section..

The Ice-Olate Cooler Tray is designed to adjust to fit practically any size coolers: from 45 up to 100 quart ice chests & coolers, by Igloo, Yeti, Coleman, and just about any other brand. It holds up to 80 pounds of food & drinks.

Thanks for coming by, Bryan!

About Cox Honeyland found at Smith and Edwards

Why We LOVE Honey: Cox Honeyland!

- posted by Jerica Parker

The Cox family has been in the honey business for over 100 years.Henderson and Marion Cox started in the bee industry in St. George, Utah. Since then, the family has carried the tradition of bee keeping and honey production, and in 1989, Cox Honeyland opened for business. Now, the fourth generation of family is running the business in Logan, Utah, with more things than just honey, including lotions and other food items.

Here at Smith & Edwards, we have proudly carried Cox Honeyland for the past 20 years.

Honey has so many benefits!

Besides being all natural, healthy, yummy and sweet, it makes a great food storage item!

On top of that, there are other cosmetic uses that not many know about.

What’s even better? Finding honey that is harvested locally!

Cox Honeyland 12-ounce Honey Bear

Why is local honey better?

We love the local Cache County honey from Cox Honeyland.

Have you ever had honey that tastes or looks a little different than other jars? Honey bees fly as much as 55,000 miles within a 5 mile radius, all the while collecting nectar from flowers. The nectar gathered from a specific region will give the honey produced a slightly different taste and color. Cox Honeyland honey has three different honey varieties: Clover-alfalfa (lighter color and mild taste), Cache Valley (darker with more flavor), and Mountain Snowberry (mountain wildflower flavor).

So wherever you get your honey from, it will be slightly different than honey from another place.

Fight those allergies!

A benefit of getting local honey is that it is said to help boost immunity for seasonal allergies. Naturally made, honey is healthy for you.

Tip: Have a sore throat? Mix honey with a spoonful of lemon juice in a mug filled with steaming hot water to soothe your throat and relieve congestion.

Pure and Healthy

You can tell honey is pure when it crystalizes. That means that there are no preservatives added to the honey. The great thing is that honey never expires! (Which makes it great as a food storage item!) When it does crystalize, simply place the jar in a pan of warmed water and it will soften back to its smooth texture.

What else?

Honey is great for various different uses, some can be surprising! As a natural sweetener, honey makes a great substitute in recipes for sugar. Using this replacement in some recipes reduces up to half of the sugar a recipHoney massage bars made by Cox Honeyville e calls for.

Cox Honeyland has recipes using honey – Click here to see them!

Honey also has cosmetic benefits. “My dad would have us wash our faces with crystalized honey as kids. When honey crystalizes, it makes a great natural exfoliator”, Maleesa with Cox Honeyland told me. You can also use the beeswax to make your own lip balms, lotions, massage bars, and more.

Now that you know why we love honey so much, it’s time to get your own! Whether it’s for your food storage, cosmetic benefits, or just to enjoy now, local honey is the best!

Click here to shop Local Honey

Six Steps to Home-Canned Applesauce!

How to Can Applesauce in 6 Easy Steps!

- posted by Jerica Parker

Fall is here! The leaves are falling, the wind is cooler, and it’s time to get ready for winter. One of my favorite ways is by storing all the delicious food we have enjoyed in the summer, so we can have it in the winter as well.

Vickie Maughan, our canning and housewares department manager, shared with us her great recipe for making canned applesauce at home. And we want to share it with you!

The perk of this recipe, is you can eat it right away, storing leftovers in the fridge – and you can also can the applesauce to enjoy in the winter. Her tips and tricks are right here in 6 easy steps:

How to Can Applesauce

  1. Start by washing your apples. Peel them, and then slice them. Vickie used a peeler machine to take off the peel and slice them. Get your own peeler here!IMG_2032
  2. Cook the apples in 3/4 cup of water on medium heat. When they reach a boil, lower the heat and steam them until the apples are tender.IMG_2036IMG_2039
  3. Then, using an immersion blender, blend up the apples until it reaches your desired consistency of applesauce.IMG_2042

If you want to enjoy it right away, finish up by sweetening and seasoning however you like it. If you would like to continue to can and store for food storage, continue with the next steps.

  1. When you have reached desired consistency, sweeten and season to how you like.
  2. Next, fill the jars. Using a funnel is so helpful for easy cleanup! Wipe clean to avoid problems with sealing the lids.IMG_0436.JPG
  3. Tighten lids and place jars in pot with water just above the level of the jars. Bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Careful! When you take out the jars, they will be very hot. Use a good jar lifter to protect your hands.IMG_0440.JPGIMG_0444.JPG

And voilà! Delicious applesauce to enjoy and share with your family and friends.

But you better hurry! You have just under 2 weeks left in apple season to get your apples for delicious applesauce. Stop at Pettingill’s and get your apples soon! They are closing for the season on Halloween, October 31.

Make sure to like Pettingill’s Fruit Farm on Facebook, and then take a peek at when we stopped in to Pettingill’s in August.

Explore Canning & Dehydrating supplies at Smith & Edwards!

How to Freeze Corn

How to Freeze Corn – Plus Easy Corn-Cutting Method!

- posted by Jerica Parker

What do you do with all that left-over corn you made for dinner? Throw it out? Stick it in the fridge, forget about it, and then throw it out? Not anymore!

With this easy video & guide, you don’t need to let the words “canning” or “food storage” intimidate you. Melissa in our Housewares department will walk you through the steps.

Easy Frozen Corn Storage: Watch How!

Now, this is something I have done with my family since I was a little girl. We have our own garden and we love corn. So when it is corn season, we all get together to freeze our own corn for storage. It’s so simple and the corn comes out with that same fresh-from-the-garden taste.

How To Freeze Corn in 6 Steps

Here are some quick and easy steps for freezing your corn:

    1. First, shuck the corn.
      Shucking means to take off the husk and the silk hairs. As Melissa shows in the video, one easy method is to hold the corn between your knees and pull the husk toward your body.
      Shucked corn
    2. Wash the ears of corn and remove any remaining silk.

Washing corn before boiling

    1. Blanch (or boil) the corn in boiling water for about 6 minutes.
      The reason behind blanching the corn, is to stop the enzymes that can make the corn taste bad later. Cooking it first helps preserve the flavor when you want to eat it later on.
    2. After blanching, take a pair of tongs and place the corn in ice water to slightly cool them off, just until they’re cool enough to handle.

Resting the corn in an ice bath

    1. Cut the corn off the cob. Now, this part is optional. If you like, you can freeze them whole, on-the-cob. After step 4, you would wrap them in plastic wrap and then put those in freezer bags to freeze.
      But if you like, you can take a knife and cut the kernels off the cob to freeze. In my family, we have always cut the corn off. It’s your choice!

TIP: To cut the corn off the cob, you can put them in the center of a Bundt pan. This will hold them as you cut off the corn and it will fall right into the pan.

Also, simply a board with nails pounded through (about 5″ apart) can hold the cob while you cut.

To make a nailboard, simply take an extra shelf or spare board. Paint it, then hammer a 4" nail through it. Then you can simply set each ear of corn on the nail, and safely cut the corn.

To make a nailboard, simply take an extra shelf or spare board. Paint it, then hammer a 4″ nail through it. Then you can simply set each ear of corn on the nail, and safely cut the corn.

  1. Now, simply scoop the kernels you just cut off into freezer bags.
    You can put 1 1/2 to 2 cups in a bag, depending on how big you want your portion sizes to be when you eat them. When the bags are flattened to about 1/2 – 1 inch thick, you can stack them nicely in your freezer to make the best use of freezer space.

More Tips on the Freezing Process

  • 11 1/2 dozen large ears of corn should give you about 58 cups of corn to freeze.
  • Vickie, Kitchen Dept. Manager at Smith and Edwards, says to lay the bag with corn flat as you zip it up. When you have about an inch left to zip, squeeze the air out. “If it has air in it in the freezer, it is more likely to get freezer burn,” she says.
  • Melissa has another idea on how to get the air out. She says when you have the full bag, you can slowly lower it into a lot of water, just until it reaches the zipper line. The water on the outside of the bag helps push the water out and you can seal it while still partly in the water.
  • Don’t put too many bags in the freezer at once! If you put a lot of warm things in the freezer, it may begin to thaw out your other frozen foods. But if you put in just a few at a time until they’re frozen, they will freeze faster and won’t thaw any of your other food.

Now you have corn to eat for the next few months! It’s a great and easy way to start up your own food storage without the complicated recipes or big pressure cookers.

Get a FREE Printable: How to Freeze Peaches

Get a free step-by-step on freezing peachesplus a printable version of the freeze-corn instructions! Just enter your email address and you’ll get the printable instantly.

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We would love to hear back from you! If this worked for you, or if you have any other tips or secrets to help others in starting their canning & food preserving, please leave a comment below.

Check out Canning and Cooking supplies online!

How to freeze corn in 6 easy steps!

If you liked this, you will LOVE our other frozen food storage tips! Make sure you check out How to Freeze Beets and How to Freeze Cherries.