Patty is here sharing her experience with fermenting in the Pickl-It jars. This is definitely a GAPS topic, because she found that controlling her fermenting environment produced more healing foods. But also, this is a great exploration for anyone who is looking to take their fermenting to another level. Though I’m not convinced one must have a Pickl-It or similar vessel to get great results, I do agree that you’re more likely to get consistently great results. Be sure to share your experiences in the comments! –Wardee
Recently I decided to try fermenting in dedicated fermenting vessels with a controlled oxygen-free environment. Why? My family had been on the GAPS diet for 2-1/2 years and still had healing to do. My 4-year old was reacting to the fermented foods I made in mason jars and the fermented foods purchased from the store. So I was hopeful that new fermenting containers would make a difference for her — and for all of us.
Why Oxygen Free?
I want to talk first about why I thought fermenting in an oxygen-free environment might be a good next step in my fermenting.
As I researched this issue, I reached the conclusion that foods fermented in a controlled oxygen-free environment are not only the most healthy, but the most likely to provide healing benefits.
Here are some of the benefits I came across when researching what happens when you keep oxygen out of your ferment:
- you’ll get higher levels of beneficial bacteria and even a different balance of bacteria — some bacteria won’t thrive at all in the presence of oxygen (bifidus, for example)
- you’ll prevent the formation of alcohol, since alcohol production prefers an environment with oxygen
- you’ll prevent high histamine levels in your finished fermented foods
- you’ll get more enzymes and vitamins produced
- you’ll prevent mold from growing (mold requires oxygen to grow and thrive)
- you’ll prevent your food from oxidizing (turning brown)
The German Harsch Crock
First, I considered the Harsch Crock. This is a German-style stoneware fermenting crock that comes in a range of sizes. It allows you to make a large volume of sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables at once. It has been used for generations and is an authentic traditional method of making anaerobically fermented foods.
It has a trough all around the top that you fill with water to seal the lid. The trough-lid combination functions as an air lock that allows fermenting gasses to escape easily while preventing oxygen from entering. The lid does not need to be attached since the connection between the lid and crock is sealed with water.
However, it has some drawbacks. One is the size. The smallest one is 5 liters — that’s more than a gallon!
Second, keeping these crocks cool on hot summer days would be difficult since my basement gets very warm, and my fridge is generally packed with produce.
Third, my basement has some mold in it and I have heard that those crocks are prone to mold contamination.
And finally, there was the price. A Harsch crock is a significant investment! (Starting at over $100 right here.)
Then I heard about the Pickl-It jars. I didn’t want to jump into anything, though, so I took my time learning all I could about the Pickl-It jars and how they might be a modern replacement for a Harsch Crock.
Pickl-it jars create an oxygen-free environment in a slightly different manner than the Harsch. The jar is certified hermetic, and has been tested and proven to be perfectly airtight. (The thick gasket and the strong wire bale holding the lid down creates this airtight seal.)
A hole is drilled in the top. A gasket is placed into the hole, and then an airlock is inserted into the gasket. The airlock contains water. The water allows gasses to freely escape from the jar but prevents oxygen from entering.
I saw several advantages with the Pickl-Its:
They are much smaller and cheaper. The largest size Pickl-It jar is the same size as the smallest Harsch Crock and is about 1/3 the price.
They fit into a refrigerator easily, making it possible to try out a new recipe in a smaller quantity than 1 gallon. Should a mistake be made, there is far less food to throw out. (Ask me what happens if you forget to add salt to your pickles. Yuck!)
I liked that I could provide an oxygen-free environment for my kefir, much like how traditional kefir was made: in a bladder hung by the door that people would hit on the way by to shake it up. A bladder is an anaerobic container. It allows gasses to escape but prevents oxygen from entering.
I bet you can tell already that I chose to switch to fermenting in Pickl-It jars.
Once I switched to making our fermented foods in Pickl-It jars, I discovered something I did not expect. We like the flavor of our fermented foods much more now!
The sauerkraut is crunchy and very sour after months of fermenting, rather than mushy and brownish as it was before. Eating it is a real pleasure; I used to choke down my “aged” sauerkraut.
Even though we liked that (old-method) sauerkaut when it was young, it caused terrible rashes on my daughter’s face. I now know it was the histamines in the kraut to which she was reacting. Our Pickl-It sauerkraut doesn’t have the histamine problem.
You can see more of our health improvement results on my blog: Anaerobic Fermentation Our GAPS Missing Piece.
Do you use Pickl-Its or another controlled fermenting vessel? What do you think? What were your results?