A Lacto Fermentation Kit Made With a Canning Jar

Chef Ernest Miller gave all of us in the Master Food Preserver class a very clever lacto-fermentation kit he designed and sells at the Farmer’s Kitchen in Hollywood. As a class, we’re all making a batch of sauerkraut.

Made out of a Le Parfait canning jar with a hole drilled in the lid to fit a fermentation lock, I already know this handy device will replace the large ceramic crock we have used in the past for pickle and kraut making. Chef Ernie’s clever fermenter has a number of nice features when compared to my crock:

  • The fermentation lock will mean fewer mold problems 
  • A small canning jar inside the fermenter keeps pickles below the brine level
  • Transparent glass will let me see what’s going on with the fermentation without having to open up the fermenter
  • Coming in a 3 liter and 1.5 liter size, these canning jar based fermenters will take up less space in the kitchen than my large ceramic crock

You can buy one of these kits and get a bite to eat at the Farmer’s Kitchen, a non-profit restaurant which supports nutrition education programs and job training for Hollywood’s low-income residents. You can also easily make one yourself.

Before we conclude with a shameless cute cat outtake from the lacto-fermenter photo session, take a moment to leave a comment on your favorite fermentation vessel.

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  1. You don’t need a device with an airlock or some kind of open vessel. Just use canning jars and seal the lids. Reusing commercial food jars also works well. . Ferment on your counter top for a few days then stick in the fridge.

    I use wide mouth pint jars for convient portion control.

    I think the notion that one needs a crock or airlocked fermenter presents an unnecessary barrier for people to start fermenting. You don’t need special pricey equipment ordered off the Internet. Just use what you have and get started.

    • I have to agree. Until tonight, I didn’t know that you can’t ferment in mason jars. I’ve been doing it for years and have only lost one batch. I’ve recently switched to “reusable” plastic lids to use with the jar rings, and I am watching closely, but, so far, it all works well. When I first started fermenting, I used recycled jars, and I had no problem. Recently, I saw an article from someone who recommended using the plastic “storage” lids for mason jars when fermenting. That would certainly create an anaerobic condition. Meanwhile, I’ve always liked seeing the juice filter out of the 2-part lids into the bowl the jar is sitting in as a proof that all is going well with my ferments.

    • Absolutely–you can ferment in just a plain old jar or open vessel. However, I’ve had a lot of problems with mold developing on the top layer of the ferment. This does not necessarily ruin the batch. Most times you can scrape away the mold and keep fermenting. But I’ve had more luck with a fermentation lock. They only cost a buck or two. The mold may also be a factor in our warm climate. Things seem to go bad faster here.

    • You are right, you can ferment with just a mason jar. I started that way. Let me say when I started using an airlock system I found that my ferments were more consistent, less mold, better tasting, consistent in time of production. Also, did you know that fermenting creates pressure which can bend the lid on a mason jar, so it will leak, can crack the glass and I have heard of it exploding, (don’t think that happens often, exploding that is). There are many different systems that use airlocks and they range in price.

      It is kinda like this, we don’t have to use cars, we can walk, but it sure makes things easier when using modern improvements.

  2. Gosh, and I JUST got my bf an $83 crock.. it has a water well at the top to let gas out, but also keep out molds. Too bad it’s not transparent!

  3. We always have used a gallon pickle jar and a plastic lid and weight to compress the cabbage below the liquid for our kraut (or really kiseli kupus:). Works just fine for us!

  4. I ferment by the gallons in a 6 gallon plastic container with a lid. The container must have the #1 or #2 on it. Besides after 7-10 days they get sealed into smaller jars and get refrigerated right after. You can always buy the airlock for $2.00. Drill a hole in the lid. place the airlock and voila! There you have it:)) Thanks for asking. I do love your kit and wish I had one. I will put it on my bucket list.:)

  5. A fermentation lock is under $5 at any place that sells beer or wine making supplies.

    With zero risk of spraying contents or causing a jar to explode.

  6. When I was making wine, I used a rubber balloon as a fermentation lock. Just make a small hole in the balloon with a pin and attach it to the opening of the fermenter so that the hole is underneath.

    This way, when the fermentation begins, CO2 pressure builds up in the balloon inflating it. The CO2 escapes via the tiny hole. Air does not come in the fermenter via the pin hole because the air pressure inside the balloon pushing out the CO2 is preventing that from happening.

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