How to care for your Vegetable Crock and stones/weights
When you buy a fermenting crockpot from us, you also get fermenting stones, otherwise known as weights. Their function is to hold the food to be fermented under the fermenting liquid. Prevention is also better than cure so correct cleaning and storage of your crock and weights will make life easier. Here we tell you how.
Once you have finished fermenting it is best to clean your stones and crock as quickly as you can. Clean with a mild detergent and hot soapy water and lightly scrub the inside of the crock and the stones. Thoroughly dry them both and then leave to air dry. I then wipe the inside of the crock and lid and the stones with wipe vinegar and then leave to air dry again. I find putting some scrunched up newspaper inside the crock helps if i am putting it away for quite a while. I also wrap the stones in newspaper and ensure that the lid, stones and pot are stored individually so they stay dry.
Preventing the fermenting stones/crock going mouldy
As usual though, prevention is so much easier than cure.
- Never put the fermenting stones/crock away wet
- Dry the stones/crock thoroughly in a warm oven or in the sun
- Never store your crock/stones somewhere it may get damp
Even when you are really careful if you have a gone wrong ferment or the crock was not quite dry enough you can get mold. This can be cleaned easily and does not mean that you have to throw it away.
Cleaning Your Fermenting Stones/Crock
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, the stones you use to weigh down the cabbage go mouldy. Here are some ideas to clean them …
- Scrub the mould off as much as you can.
- Put the stones in a pot with a few tablespoons of vinegar and hot water or fill the crock with vinegar and hot water (not boiling).
- Leave overnight.
- Rinse the stones/crock.
- Dry the stones/crock in your oven (low temperature will do) so you know the stones are thoroughly dry.
- Pack them away in a dry spot as above.
Other simple options are:
- Steam- if you have a steam cleaner they can be used to clean mold from your crock/stones however be careful and do a test patch first.
Sometimes these options are not powerful enough to clean the fermenting stones/crock. Although the mould will probably already be killed, you may want to try more powerful solutions:
- A steriliser such as Milton Anti-Bacterial Solution, which is used to sterilise baby bottles
If you have to resort to Milton or bleach to clean your stones, the stones will go white after you’ve left them overnight in the solution. Just make sure you keep rinsing the stones until you can’t smell any trace of the chemicals. Only then should you dry them.
Once you have left them to dry wash as above before use.
How to sterilize your fermenting equipment.
In general there is no need to sterilize your crock or your stones as you are using them in a lacto ferment that will be acidic enough to kill any potential pathogens. In general a mild detergent was before use is enough. Sometimes if you have had your crock/stones stored away for a while or if you are not sure of the way it looks people do "like" to so we have popped a guide below on how to do this.
Please be very careful when doing this as everything will be HOT!
The first process of sterilisation, regardless of which method you choose, is to check the thoroughly for damage such as breaks, and chips especially if your crock is made of glass. If you find any of your equipment is damaged you must discard them. The heat of the sterilization can break or explode damaged jars or crack crocks . Please note NEVER pour boiling water directly into anything Made of glass or clay crocks. This WILL cause the jar/crock to crack. Also if your fermenter has plastic parts check that they can be safely sterilised (hint-if it says it is not dishwasher safe then it likely cannot).
Method 1: The oven
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1.
Wash the jars/crocks/stones in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place the jars/crocks/stones on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to dry completely. If using Kilner or kilner style jars, boil the rubber seals, as dry heat damages them.If there is plastic parts on the jar/crock make sure you remove it first as this will melt in the oven. The plastic parts can be sterilised in sterilizing fluid they are not suitable for using heat (however they do not generally need to be sterilised), leave in the oven for about 15 mins.
Once the items are removed from the oven they are ready to use HOWEVER please be careful as the jars will be hot and ALWAYS allow the jars to cool before adding any cultures etc as the heat will kill the bacteria.
Method 2: The Water bath
Remove the lids or rubber seals from your jars or any plastic parts (as above check they are suitable to be sterilized) and put to one side.If you are using a clay crock or stones this is unnecessary. Then place the jars/crocks/stones into a large pan and fill with water until the jars/crocks/stones are covered. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar. Bring to the boil and keep at the maximum temperature for 10 minutes, turn the heat off and cover the pan to keep the jars/crocks/stones warm until you are ready to use them or remove (CAREFULLY THEY WILL BE HOT!) and leave to dry thoroughly as above.
Place vacuum seal lids or rubber seals in a small pan and fill with 4 inches of water, heat and simmer at 82 degrees for 10 minutes, turn the heat off carefully remove the jars (use Tongs as they will be hot!) leave to cool before use.
Method 3: The Dishwasher
Check the item is suitable to be put in a dishwasher.
Remove the lids or rubber seals from your jars as above if you are using a clay crock or stones this is not necessary, wipe the rim and threads of the jar to remove any food debris and place everything into the top rack of your dishwasher and run it on a hot wash. No detergent or cleaning solutions should be used (although i sometimes add a little white vinegar)
Leave the jars to cool and then use.