The New Krauterator 9000

Rachel has been making fermented vegetables for about five years now.  But in past years, this has been hard or impossible to accomplish from November through the beginning of May because our house is too cold.  We’ve tried placing sauerkraut crocks near the woodstove in the winter, but the ferments are unreliable.  This may be because it gets too hot near the stove at times or too cold overnight, or the problems may be related to the temperature fluctuations.  Whatever the reason, it wasn’t working for us.

When Rachel asked me about making a climate controlled box for fermenting over the winter, my inventory (read that as junk piles) came in handy since we already had most of the parts.  We had an old freezer which had lost all its charge.  I was procrastinating on scrapping it (standard operating procedure is for me to hang onto all kinds of broken stuff because I might be able to do something with it).  The freezer makes a large, well-sealed insulated container.  We had a temperature controller (part of an abandoned project for an automatic heater to warm milk for the calves), so all we needed was a cheapo 200 Watt space heater.

Heater at the bottom, temperature probe up near the kraut.

Heater at the bottom, temperature probe up near the kraut.

The temperature controller is quite easy to use.  The temperature dropped to 16 degrees C because the door was open, but within a few minutes it was right back up to our target of 22.5 degrees C (72.5 degrees F).

The temperature controller is quite easy to use. The temperature as shown had dropped to 16 degrees C because the door was open, but within a few minutes it was right back up to our target of 22.5 degrees C (72.5 degrees F).

When I bought the STC-1000 temperature controller a few years ago they didn’t have versions that worked in degrees American, only degrees Celsius.  But I see that now those controllers (or at least the myriad clones on Amazon and Ebay) work in Fahrenheit now too.  That one inconsequential inconvenience aside, assembling and wiring everything was simple, and presto we had a working fermenting chamber.

We’ve run it for several months now, and it has been giving us consistent ferments.  We still get the occasional jar that doesn’t ferment properly, and we’re not really sure what’s up with that, but the results are at least as good as our warm-weather ferments.

When I put the chamber together I thought I was being an innovator but afterwards I discovered that there are a zillion web posts about similar projects, albeit mainly for homebrewers.  If you want details on how to make this work, a web search will get you all the information you’ll need.  This is not a how-to post, only a “Hey, it really works” post.

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Rachel has been cranking out lots of good stuff. We’ve especially enjoyed the cauliflower and the dill cabbage ferments lately.

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