I’ve recently finished my first batch of sauerkraut in my handsome, chocolate-brown crock from Boleslawiec, Poland. Like the Harsch Gärtopf crock, the Polish crock has fitted weights and a trough in which the lid rests. If you keep water in the trough through the fermentation, no yeast or mold gets inside, so you don’t have to skim scum from the surface of the kraut.
Carbon dioxide produced during fermentation escapes through the water in the trough. You know this is happening by the occasional burp that the crock emits (it’s a puzzling sound to hear in the middle of the night at first, but you get used to it). You can tell how active the fermentation is by the frequency of the burps.
I was attracted to this crock partially because of the rotund shape of the 10-liter size (the 20-liter crock is straight-sided). But the roundness is a little impractical if you frequently fill the crock only about halfway. In this case the weights rest in the broadest part of the crock, where they don’t come close to covering the surface. I guess the Poles can’t imagine anyone making less than 15 pounds of kraut at a time.
Even if you fill the crock completely, you’ll want to cover your kraut with two or three uncut outer cabbage leaves before adding the weights. This will keep little bits of cabbage from floating.
UPDATE 2022: The Polish pickling crocks are no longer available, but you can buy a similar, 3- or 7-liter crock–with glass weights!–from Stone Creek Trading.
The beloved Harsch pot is also unavailable now, but you can buy the similar Nik Schmitt pot from Harvest Essentials.
Be careful about buying any pickling crock priced under one hundred dollars. It is probably either very small or made in China.