I ended up buying a Harvest Fiesta 5L fermentation crock (also called a Decorative crock) but there are several good brands to choose from and this just happened to be my personal pick when I was searching at the time. I based my decision to buy this particular fermentation crock on where the product was actually manufactured, reviews by other people on Amazon, and gut instinct – pardon the obscure pun…
Harvest Fiesta fermentation crock next to glass jar (both with red cabbage) and showing stone weights (image above)
Honestly, I would recommend buying a fermentation crock that is good quality. Yes, they can be expensive (between $100-$200 AU) but you do get what you pay for and we are dealing with producing health food here that is made by leaving the ferment stand in the vessel for weeks so the last thing I want is a container that corrodes or contaminates the things I make to eat!
The Harvest Fiesta crock I purchased was made in Europe and it really is a nice piece of pottery. Fermenting pots/crocks with the cylindrical shape and moat around the top (such as mine) originated from Germany and Poland centuries ago, whereas the pot bellied container variety are more Asian influenced. The cylindrical design without the moat is typically an American creation according to the book written by Sandor Katz called The Art of Fermentation – great book BTW.
I've been fermenting food for several years now and although I've mastered sauerkraut and many other fermented delights I feel like I'm still in the infancy of my lacto-fermentation journey.
Why a fermentation crock?
Why buy a fermentation crock when technically you can make fermented foods in most containers such as standard glass jars etc? Crocks seem to work better than glass vessels… that's why.
I do say "seem" because I haven't experimented enough pitting one against the other to say definitively that a crock fermenting vessel is better than a similar sized glass jar, except anecdotally I have seen/tasted a difference.
Several times, I have fermented the same batch in both my crock and a Fido jar to find the end result being that the crock produced a better ferment. On one occasion, I made the same batch of sauerkraut in both the crock and glass jar at the same time and the crock sauerkraut turned out perfect but the jar went putrid.
Some people say, that glass lets too much indirect sunlight in and that can compromise the ferment, however, I don't think this is the case. I have made plenty of successful ferments in large and small glass jars and almost always I have positioned them on our kitchen bench out in the open subjected to indirect sunlight. Therefore, I have concluded that it's more like the temperature rather than the light that affects the development of the ferment in the vessel (and of course other things such as microbes, salt quantity, oxidation, etc) but temperature is the main element in my opinion.
My theory is a crock keeps a more stable temperature than a glass jar because it's thicker and made of fired clay and this stability helps the fermentation process by keeping the microbes happy thus producing a better pickle at the end.
I'll still continue to also use glass jars for fermenting – I'm just saying, a crock is less susceptible to temperature fluctuations.
The moat airlock design
Besides what the crock is made from the other important aspect is its design, in particular, the moat lid which acts as an airlock. For those who don't know, an airlock is a device or built-in design that allows the gases (typically carbon dioxide) from a ferment to escape without letting oxygen into the vessel.
This fermenting crock has an inbuilt moat at the top where the lid is placed onto and when water is added to the area it acts as an airlock covering the lip of the lid. Co2 can then bubble out of the lid without the ferment inside becoming exposed to oxygen. It's a very simple but effective design.
Where can you buy a fermentation crock like this?
Well, if you live in Europe they are pretty easy to find but here are some places to look online if you live elsewhere:
Australia – eBay AU (this is where I got mine from)
UK – Amazon
If you are having trouble finding the Harvest Fiesta brand there are other good brands out there just make sure they are made and sold by reputable manufacturers/retailers.
I have also written a short review on my Harvest Fiesta fermenting crock here in our reviews section if you would like to see it.
Overall, I'm impressed with my fermenting crock and it certainly was worth the buy!
If you have any questions or would like to comment on your own experience, feel free to convey them below.