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Old 01-25-2012, 12:05 PM   #1
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Talking Pickling/fermenting crock, what can I sub?

I have never done pickles before and keep reading recipe's calling for a pickling crock. These things are super expensive so I will not be purchasing one. I would like to know what else I can put the cucumbers in while they pickle. Also how big does it need to be? The recipe I have which is in a Ball Blue Book guide to preserving needs 2 gallons of water and 10 pounds of cucumbers so I imagine I need a large container or a few smaller ones. I have tons of quart jars, can I use those for pickling? Also, it doesn't say anything about a lid and most recipe's I found say to put a cloth towel over the container. Heeeeelp! I want to make sure I do this right and don't waste my time thinking I am making pickles and in 2 or 3 weeks come to find I've wasted my time! Thanks!

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Old 01-25-2012, 01:23 PM   #2
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I do a lot of beverage fermenting and sauerkraut making.

There is absolutely no need to spend a lot of money on a container. Any food grade HDPE pail will work fine. I've even seen Rubbermaid Brute trash containers (which, believe it or not, are food grade) used by commercial pickle makers.

There are a number of inexpensive options and Midwest Supplies is a reputable source:
Plastic Fermenters - Fermentation Equipment - Wine Equipment

If you want to go with a ceramic crock, Ohio Stoneware crocks are a good, inexpensive option. I have three of these myself. Note they don't come with a lid, but that's not terribly important. Just put a tea towel over the top. All you really need to do is to keep out dust.

Ohio Stoneware Crocks
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Old 01-25-2012, 06:19 PM   #3
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The cheapest food grade crocks I have ever found were stacked behind a restaurant. They purchase 5 gallon quantities of many things and the buckets are tossed.

My type of recycling is to use something that would otherwise go into the dump,
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Old 01-25-2012, 06:40 PM   #4
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Like the 5 gallon buckets they get things in? I have been looking at thrift stores for a glass container or bowl big enough but no success yet. I might just order one online. Found a 3 gallon one for not too much. I just want to make sure I am doing this right and not going to get sick from it. Thanks for the tip!
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Old 01-25-2012, 08:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1984christini View Post
Like the 5 gallon buckets they get things in? I have been looking at thrift stores for a glass container or bowl big enough but no success yet. I might just order one online. Found a 3 gallon one for not too much. I just want to make sure I am doing this right and not going to get sick from it. Thanks for the tip!
Many restaurants and other food processors receive products in 5 gallon plastic buckets,. Apparently these are not returnable. I would ask any restaurant if they have some.

One local has a contract from some food processor to haul away large drums formerly containing corn syrup. I believe they are 50 gallon, but I could be wrong. He will sell them for 6 bucks. Less if you has a fair amount and you have cash. I used a couple of these to build as compost device.
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Old 01-25-2012, 08:48 PM   #6
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It seems like this topic came up at Thanksgiving. Could you use a giant food grade plastic bag inside of a bucket to support it? I think ziplock makes some gigantic storage bags but, I am not sure if they are considered food grade. Just a thought.
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Old 01-25-2012, 08:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
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It seems like this topic came up at Thanksgiving. Could you use a giant food grade plastic bag inside of a bucket to support it? I think ziplock makes some gigantic storage bags but, I am not sure if they are considered food grade. Just a thought.
It did and they are.
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:03 PM   #8
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My wife is a chef at a restaurant. They get 5 gallon buckets all the time. We're going to use a bunch (30 or so) this season for container garden to go with our raised beds. May do some kraut and pickles also.
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Old 02-02-2012, 07:23 PM   #9
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@Christini. Easiest way to amass food-grade buckets, with lids, is to check at the cake section of big box stores. Commercial frosting comes in them, and they just throw them out. Both 5- and 3-gallon sizes are available just for the asking.
Of course, you have to clean them out. But that's no big deal.

Keep in mind that lactose acid fermenting does have nuances that do not apply when adding vinegar or other acids, as you would do with most boiling-water-bath type pickles. Among other things, the product must remain submerged in the brine, and you have to rig an appropriate system for doing that.

Before doing pickles, I believe I would experiment first with sauerkraut, as it's an easier learning experience, IMO.

BTW, five gallons is more than sufficient for any reasonable quantity of home made pickles.

@Moose. One recommendation when using buckets, or any plastic containers. When you drill the drain holes, do so an inch or two up the sidewall, rather than through the bottom. Bottom holes tend to clog no matter what they stand on.

With five-gallon buckets I use a half-inch drill bit, and drill 8 evenly spaced holes two inches up. Works like a charm.
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