When I first started fermenting in jars, everything I made came out moldy or gross. It’s amazing I didn’t give up. Most fermentation of old was done in dark cool places. This does not describe where I live. It’s hot and it’s dry. It’s not an easy place to ferment foods. Then one day I discovered fermentation jars and lids and my whole world changed.
If you have never tried these, you’re missing out. There are many different kinds which we will talk about. I’ll also talk about my favorite.
Types of Jars
There are a few types of these jars and lids readily available on the internet. So if you can’t find them near your house, you can get them shipped to you. They are:
Fermentation crocks are the original fermentation jars made of either ceramic, stoneware or earthenware jars most of the time. They sort of look like cookie jars with or without lids. They can also come weighted or without weights. Some of them can be sealed with water to make them airtight as well.
If used properly these can last for years and produce wonderful ferments. There is a reason they have stood the test of time. There are some downsides to them. They are the most expensive of the group especially if you get a good quality one. They are not as no fuss as some of the other options either. You must check on your crock and remove scum from the top as you ferment if its not water sealed. There is definitely a learning curve to getting these right.
The nice thing is that fermentation crocks are easy to clean and sanitize. They are made to last for years so you won’t need to replace it unless you damage or break it.
Bubbling Airlock Lids and Jars
These are an amazing invention. The bubbling airlock can consist of a jar and separate lid combo which is usually attached to a mason jar. It can also be one complete jar and lid unit. It can have a single bubbler or a double. The main thing you are looking for is quality. Make sure the lids contain a seal inside the lid and that all the components fit together tightly.
Once the airlock jar is sealed, gases form inside the jar from the fermentation process. Those gases push up and force oxygen out through the bubbler which gets expelled outside of the jar. This creates an extremely low oxygen environment and prevents mold growth.
I absolutely love these jars and lids. I use them all the time. They are the jars I used to make my Fermented Chopped Garlic recipe. They are my go to fermentation jar. The only time I have ever had one fail was from user error. I overfilled my jar and it exploded through the bubbler. My bad!
They are easy to clean and maintain. They last a long time if properly cared for. The only negative is that there are a lot of parts, but even that is worth it.
Suction Style Airlock Lids
Suction style airlock lids are a newer take on the airlock lid. They are a screw on lid that goes on your mason jar at home. They have a gasket ring on the inside to seal the jar similar to the airlock. Once you have the lid on you use a suction pump (like a reverse bicycle air pump) to pull out the remaining oxygen from the jar. As the jar ferments, gasses are allowed to escape through the one way valve you use to suction out the air. Again similar to the airlock jars. Some of them even have dials on them that let you know when you started your ferment.
I have a set of these and they definitely work. Although I do have the occasional jar fail. I find that certain ferments work better in this jar than others. The nicest part about these is that they are definitely more space saving than the crocks or the airlock jars. Which is really nice if you have a small house. Suction style airlock lids are also really easy to clean. The main drawback to these are price. They cost almost double what the airlock jars do.
I had my first experience with Pickle Pipes at my cousins house where she was fermenting some food. I thought these were fascinating. It’s a small ring of silicone with a nipple on the top kind of like a baby bottle. You can attach it to any mason jar to turn it into a fermentation jar. My cousin just loved them and they worked great for her.
So I ran home and bought a set of Pickle Pipes. I love the design. They take up almost no space and are almost stackable. They cost about the same as the airlock lids. So I gave them a go and immediately had mold growing within a few days. I assumed this was user error so I tried another batch. Mold again.
What I think is happening is that while these are referred to as airlock lids, they do not keep as much out as an actual airlock jar or suction style lid. The other problem is the climate I live in. It’s already not a great environment for fermentation. Which is why I think they work so well for my cousin. She lives in a much cooler area in the mountains.
So while I think these probably work great for some people, they aren’t for everyone.
So the truth is you can ferment in any jar with a little work. But I’m lazy and I like a very low rate of failure when I ferment foods. It takes time, energy and money to produce them. I personally hate throwing them away. So while any of these fermentation jars and lids will work just fine, I definitely have a favorite. If I only could choose just one it would be the bubbling airlock jars and lids.
They are easy to use, reasonably priced and hardly ever do me wrong. If you love something other than these four types feel free to share it with me. I love finding new products to try.