Water Seal Crock Basics

There are many different containers you can use to ferment vegetables. Here’s a look at water seal crock basics, which is my favorite way to make bulk ferments.

What is a Water Seal Crock?

A water seal crock is simply a fermentation container that has a small water trough circling the top of it. It comes with a lid that when placed into the water filled trough, creates an airlock for the fermenting food within.

No oxygen can get in, and the Co2 is safely released.

Kirsten and Christopher Shockey in their book Fermented Vegetables call water seal crocks the “Cadillacs of fermenting crocks.

I tend to agree with them. These crocks are usually incredibly well built, beautiful to look at, and they make a darn fine ferment.

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Where do Water-Seal crocks come from?

Best I can tell these originated in the areas of Poland and Germany.

What are the Pros of a Water Seal Crock?

  • Easy to Use. These crocks come with weights/followers and lids that are custom made to fit. No scrounging for the perfect size plate to fit the random crock you got at a garage sale.
  • Keeps Bugs out. These lids keep even the smallest gnats or lies away from your ferment.
  • Work great. I’ve fermented in smooth sided antique crocks, mason jars, random glass jars, etc. Hands down the best results I get are with the water seal crock.
  • They are cool. These things, whether an artsy custom one like ours or a standard brown style, are plain cool. They are both beautiful and functional which is the best type of tool to have in your kitchen.
custom made fermentation crock rough and tumble farmhouse
Our lovely Beatrix Potter themed crock.

What are the Cons of a Water Seal Crock?

While these are excellent crocks to use in general, they do have some draw backs.

  • Price. These are likely going to be on the pricier side, especially if you have one custom made or buy an antique.
  • Hard to Clean. Your standard smooth sided crock with no lip is easy to rinse out and wash. With the water trough circling the top, these buggers are notoriously difficult to clean.
  • Checking Water Daily. It’s shocking how quickly water will evaporate out of these things so you’ll need to make sure there is always water in the trough.
  • Heavy. Water seal crocks are usually stoneware which makes them heavy to move around and use.

How much does a Water Seal crock cost?

That is going to vary widely depending on what you are looking for. Smaller crocks (a gallon or so) will cost you around $62.

Custom made crocks will likely be double that and upwards.

Where can I buy a Water Seal Crock?

Our beautiful crock was a wedding gift from very dear friends. They had it custom made by a local potter.

These crocks and lids can be challenging to make, so it may take some asking around before you find a potter who is up for the task of crafting one.

You can also find them on Amazon. This nice little model holds 1.5 gallons, is $63 and comes with everything you’d need including a little tamper.

How to use a Water Seal Crock

The great thing about these crocks is they are not only beautiful but they are very easy to use.

Once you have packed your ferment of choice into the crock (check out my sauerkraut recipe!) you want to follow the usual fermenting procedure of placing a primary follower on top of the vegetables first. This could be a large cabbage leaf or a piece of saran wrap.

Next, place the secondary, weighted follower on top of that. Add more weight as necessary to insure the veggies are staying under the brine.

fermentation weights rough and tumble farmhouse

Scoop away and vegetable escapees that have floated up to the top.

Next, place the lid onto the crock.

Next you add in your liquid of choice to the water trough portion of the crock. Typically I do filtered water. Some folks will make a salt water brine solution to create the seal. This is in case you drip any water in.

Personally I’ve never had issues just using plain old filtered water. My friends and fermentation wizards don’t even bother with the filtered and use water from the tap.

If your crock is very full, it is a good idea to place it on a baking sheet, plate or other overflow catcher.

Keep an eye on the water in the trough and add more as necessary.

how to use a water seal fermentation crock rough and tumble farmhouse

As you monitor the ferment, lift the lid straight up and wait for the water to stop dripping from it or slide a plate under the lid. This keeps the seal water from getting into your ferment.

When ready to jar up your ferment, you can clean out the water in the trough by soaking it up with a towel.

Cleaning a Water Seal Crock

If your water seal crock has earthen style followers, aka pottery, these buggers can be hard to get thoroughly cleaned. This is because the clay is porous, so a standard washing and drying might not be enough.

After using my crock, I thoroughly wash the inside, the lid, and the weights.

Next, I pour a 5% vinegar solution in a cake pan and let the weights soak for at least an hour. I have found the vinegar does a great job of sanitizing the followers.

I spray straight vinegar solution in the inside as well and wipe it dry.

Everything is left out to air dry.

basics of a water seal crock rough and tumble farmhouse

Have some great tips to add to Water Seal Crock Basics? Or maybe you have a question I didn’t cover? I’d love to hear your comments below!

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Water Seal Fermentation Crock Basics Rough and Tumble Farmhouse

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