Sauerkraut making, like anything else you can throw lots of money at it or not. You can go larger scale if your whole family are fans, or just a little batch if it's for one. This post is about some readily available options for your basic gear, so basically proper fermenting crocks, little batch jars and a DIY option for medium to larger batches. I will include a list of suggested stockists at the bottom of post.
Proper Stone Crocks...
Lets start with the traditional approach.
These are heavy ceramic crocks that have ceramic weights and a water channel around the lid to let out the gasses and keep out contaminants. The walls of these crocks are nice and thick so keep the fermenting cabbage at a more constant temperature. They are quite well insulated so if you want to keep it on your kitchen bench this is a good alternative. There are a few different types out there and they range from about $130 upwards for a decent one. I have seen really lovely ones made in USA but holy hell you could prob buy a second hand car once you had it shipped! I have included an image of the Mad Milly version, which is pretty easy to get hold of, fairly user friendly and is the standard 3 kg crock size and design. There are a few other brands if you shop around you can find a range of prices and few different colours. The cylindrical shape is a good one to stick with though as the weights drop down evenly compressing the kraut as it ferments.
1 Litre Mason Jars...
For small batches, or just if you want to give it a go there is the jar approach.
I have to say that this version has its up and down sides. On one hand it makes a small batch, easy to make and eat. The jar itself goes into the fridge as soon as its ready so is easy storage. However the jars are quite susceptable to temperature fluctuations (can kill ferment) and if you don't have an air trap on them contamination can be an issue also (mould can happen - yuk!) Mostly when I hear problems that people have had with making sauerkraut it has been in regular jars on a kitchen bench in the light and kitchens can get fairly warm.
If you want to use the jar method for best chance of success I recommend you keep your fermenting vessel in a cupboard or pantry where the temperature is more consistant and out of sunlight. You can buy a whole kit (these can get a bit expensive though for what they are) or make your own.
You will need:
~ 1 litre Preserving Jar with ring lid (Ball or Vacola) you can get these new or sometimes can find them from charity shops for couple dollars (but may need to have new lid if used).
~ a weight to hold down the cabbage, there are nice glass ones (see image, these are around $10) but again theres always a plastic contaner with a lid filled with rocks and water which works just as well.
~ a plastic air trap disc (see image), this fits into the ring of jar. When the sauerkraut is done replace air trap disc with vacola lid insert and pop jar in the fridge.
DIY Fermenting Bucket....
For medium to larger batches.
This is how I make my sauerkraut and it works very well once you get the hang of it. The bucket in the images is a 10 litre is my smallest one, a 3-6kg batch works well in it. You can get buckets like this in 5 litres also for a 2-3kg batch. All the plastic in this needs to be food grade.
You will need:
~ a round food grade bucket with airtight lid. Moore Wilsons have a range of sizes, Mitre 10 also has some (make sure has food grade on label tho)
~ a ceramic plate or a plastic lid fitting as shown in image. Needs a bit of room around edge to let juices rise.
~ a plastic container with fitted lid for weight. Can have water or rocks and water.
~ a hole drilled in the lid and a bung with water trap as shown. These traps are $2-$3 each from your local fermenting/brewing shop. They need to be snugly fitted to lid of your bucket and topped up to the line with distilled water. Your sauerkraut will happily burp through these and they stop contaminants entering.
~ find a nice even temperature spot to put your buckets while fermenting, ideally between 17-22 deg C. Mine are in my storeroom in the middle of the building, its the most even temp spot here. I have a fridge temperature guage sitting with the buckets to keep an eye on it, hardware and kitchen shops have these (pretty cheap item).
Crocks, air traps, fermenting jars, weights
All Things Fermented (online or instore), your local brewing/fermenting store, some Bin Inn stores, Mad Millie
Food Safe containers, Vacola Jars, plates and lids, temperature guages
Moore Wilsons, Mitre 10, kitchen supply shops
Hardware stores, Super Cheap Auto, some supermarkets