Tag Archives: preserving

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!

How to make dried apricots & apricot freezer jam

How to Make Dried Apricots & Apricot Jam

- posted by Rose Marion

What do you do with a couple pounds of fresh Utah apricots?

Some of the best ways to preserve that fresh, tangy sweetness are dehydrating apricots and turning them into apricot freezer jam.

Maggie & Hannah are 10-year-old friends, cousins, and daughters of Smith & Edwards employees. They gave it a shot! Here’s how they did – and if they can do it, YOU & your kids can, too!

Maggie & Hannah about to make apricot jam and dehydrated apricots

Making Dried Apricots

You’ll need:

  1. Wash and dry the apricots. Then, cut the apricots in half. Lastly, separate the halves, and pull out the pit.
    Dehydrating Apricots: Pitting
  2. Now arrange the apricots on your dehydrator screens. You can actually place them closer together than this, because they’ll shrink as they dry.
    Dehydrating apricots: placing the halves on the dehydrator screen
  3. Let them dry according to your dehydrator’s instructions. This batch only took Maggie & Hannah about 1 hour.
    Maggie making dried apricots

Making Apricot Freezer Jam

We used:

  1. Cut and discard the apricot pits, then mash the apricots.
    Making apricot freezer jam: mashing the apricots
  2. Add sugar, lemon juice, and the Freezer Jam fruit pectin, according to the package directions.
    Making apricot freezer jam: adding sugar and lemon juice
    Making apricot freezer jam: adding pectin
  3. Stir, then ladle the apricot jam into freezer jam jars.
    Making apricot freezer jam: ladling into freezer jars
  4. This apricot freezer jam will keep in the fridge up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer up to a year!
    Maggie & Hannah making dehydrated apricots & freezer jamTheir grandmother has a secret about adding crushed pineapple to the recipe. Try it out and see what you like!

Your Turn!

What’s happening in your kitchen? We love to see pictures of what you’re making! Leave a comment, tag us on Facebook or Instagram, or send us an email.

How to Freeze Beets

How to Freeze Beets

- posted by Rose Marion

Beets are a yummy vegetable packed with nutrients like manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6. They’re a delicious Utah summer crop, and you can freeze beets to enjoy them year-round.

Our produce experts Vickie Maughan, our Housewares manager, and Jean from Pettingill’s Fruit Farm, teamed up to freeze beets last week and here’s how they did it.

You’ll need:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Kitchen knife
  • Pot of water
  • Ziploc freezer bags

How to Freeze Beets

  1. Put on your gloves!
  2. Wash the fresh beets and cut of the beet greens, leaving 1″ of beet green stems. Don’t remove the tails or beet green stems, because if you cut them off, the beets will bleed out and lose their color.
  3. Boil the beets in a pot of water until tender. Then, set aside and let them cool off.

    Boiling the beets with their stems & tails on will keep the rich purple-red color from bleeding out!

    Boiling the beets with their stems & tails on will keep the rich purple-red color from bleeding out!

  4. Peel the beets. You don’t need a tool: you can massage the beet skin, tail, & beet green stems and they’ll fall off the beet in your fingers.
    Rinsing and peeling the beets
    Whole peeled beets, ready to slice and freeze
  5. Slice, dice, cube, quarter, or halve the beets any way you’d like. We love mandolines for slicing vegetables!
    Slicing peeled beets
    Chopped beets ready to freeze
  6. Put in a freezer Ziploc baggie with as many servings as you’ll want.
    Putting fresh cooked beets in freezer bags
    You can freeze them individually like cherries (click here), or if your family loves beets, you can freeze them all together.
    Beets ready to freeze
    Tip: Flatten the bag when you put it in the freezer so they stack nicely and will thaw evenly.

This winter, you can take the bag out to enjoy garden-fresh beets at the peak of their flavor. Microwave or lightly simmer them in a covered pan with butter, when your family’s ready to eat!

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

How to freeze cherries

How to Freeze Cherries

- posted by Rose Marion

Here in northern Utah we’re lucky to get large yields of cherries in late June & early July! While there’s no end to what you can do with fresh cherries – cobbler being my favorite! – freezing cherries is a wonderful use for these short-seasoned juicy treats!

Freezing cherries will let you taste that sweetness even in January. Plus, you can use these for your shakes & smoothies.

Vickie, our Housewares manager, and Jean from Pettingill’s Fruit Farm, got together to show me how to freeze my own cherries. Take a look!

You’ll need:

How to Freeze Cherries

  1. Wash the cherries and remove their stems. Tip: use a colander!
    Washing cherries and removing the stems
  2. Pit the cherries. Jean & Vickie like using the OXO cherry pitter, and collecting the pits in an extra jar or measuring cup.
    Pitting cherries with a cherry pitter - and GLOVES!
    Cherry pits go in an extra jar!
  3. Place the pitted cherries on the cookie sheet.
    Cherries on the cookie sheet, ready to freeze
  4. Secret Tip: Double decker your cherries! Place short drink cups or tupperware on the cookie sheet and place it in the freezer. Then, fill another cookie sheet with cherries and place it on top of the cups to freeze twice as many cherries!
    getting-ready-to-freeze-cherries freezing-cherries-in-layers
  5. Let the cherries freeze overnight.

    Freezing cherries in a chest freezer

    A chest freezer is GREAT for freezing cherries…

  6. The next day, take a spatula and release the bottoms of the cherries from the cookie sheet.
  7. Gather the cherries and place them in freezer Ziploc bags. Quart, gallon – your choice!
    Frozen & bagged cherries

Questions we get asked about Freezing Cherries

Q: Is it messy?

YES! Wear surgical gloves so it doesn’t stain your hands, and wear a work shirt.

Cherry pitting stains & gloves

Pitting cherries is messy business! Wear gloves.

Q: Why not freeze them in bags from the get-go?

By freezing them individually first, they don’t get stuck to each other. Then after you put them in the bag, they break apart easily.

Q: What can you do with frozen cherries?

Vickie LOVES to make smoothies with frozen cherries. YUM!

Eat these fresh-picked as a treat when the snow’s flying in January, just like you were eating it fresh in July!!

Do you have more questions for us? Leave a comment & let us know!

 

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 Corn.

Looking for more food preserving, dehydrating, or canning supplies? Click here to see canning supplies on our online store!

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.