International Housewares Show: Tale of Two Fermenters

While perusing the aisles at the International Home & Housewares show and looking for new products for RaisedBed.Farm, we came across two new products for fermenting and pickling at home in Mason Jars. We have done quite a bit of pickling in the past 17 years, and love it when we get a decent crop of cucumbers to make spicy pickles, but we don’t actually have much experience with others types of fermentation.  Well, except, of course Kombucha, which is a slightly different topic.

image1The first booth we encountered was a company out of San Francisco, which makes a product called Kraut Source.  They have a great new product that fits onto any wide-mouth Mason Jars. There’s a spring-loaded part that squishes down the Cabbage, or whatever it is that you are fermenting.

The lid has a hole in the center, and then a moat which then allows a stainless steel cup to be inverted into the moat, which is then filled with water to allow the burping of the fermenting gasses to escape without letting oxygen in. This prevents aerobic bacteria growth.  When the process is done after 4-5 days, there’s a stainless solid lid for storage.  They have kits that are just the stainless parts, and then ones that include a jar.

I joked that we’d use this at home but because we don’t always get our jars or lids back from those we gift our garden bounty to, we might not use the stainless lids.  It’s a great point, however, that you’ll never see rust from the stainless lids, so they will likely last forever.

image4I also learned that Genghis Khan used Sauerkraut to keep his troops healthy, and brought it to Europe using salt instead of rice wine.  The Germans then brought the practice from Europe to the New World, where the rest of us got introduced.

Pickling is arguably the easiest canning and preserving method, as the recipes are usually very simple, yet you can get quite creative with flavors by adding various herbs and spices. It’s a great way to make the flavors of your garden last well beyond the fresh season.

A few aisles over, we found another company called Masontops from Toronto (Canada), that produced a collection of Mason Jar lid products.  These include lids that are wooden, ones that have plastic pop-tops so you can access and pour the liquids inside, chalkboard tops, and then lids that have a silicone burper fitted into the lid.

One of the first things that you see that differentiates their fermenting process from Kraut Source is the use of a glass disc to press down the Cabbage (or other kraut material) vs. the spring-loaded stainless steel lid. The guys at Masontops suggested that stainless steel might not be the best material, and that an expert had led them to believe that glass would image6interact with the acidic fermenting liquid better.  However, after researching the topic a bit, I’m not finding solid evidence to support this. There are certainly plenty of stainless products, and on the commercial side, nearly all equipment is stainless.

While leaving the materials claim to the side, we liked the concept of the glass weight being used for pressure, and the fact that it will be easy to clean. I would imagine that all you’d need to do is put it in the dish washer after use.

Their kits are packaged nicely, and allow you to have a set of 4 jars vs. having to buy individual units. The set also includes a muddler that fits both the narrow and wide-image8mouthed jars.  This is a wooden tool that helps press down the to-be-fermented garden products going inside the jar.  This makes a great gift set.

The lids on the Masontops set are definitely the most attractive part of the design, and not just for the pretty colors. The colors will allow to keep different flavors separated. I think the only question prior to trying the design is how well the silicone top lasts over time.  I would imagine this would hold up very well, but I am wondering if there’s any variation in how the silicone burps, and if there’s any long-term care necessary to keep them from shrinking or warping.  I’m pretty sure, however, that they’ve thought this through, and it’s just an imaginary worry.

Overall, we were impressed with both products, and regardless of which one you choose, it should help you get more enjoyment and preservation of your garden produce through fermenting.

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