Update: Although the Harsch brand has gone out of business since I first wrote this review, there is another German brand, Schmitt Fermenting Crocks that has emerged with an identical design. They are available from the same site (The Canning Pantry) that is linked to here.
The design of this product is deceptively simple. Harsch fermentation crocks make turning raw foods into healthy, fermented delicacies almost foolproof.
Harsch Fermenting Crocks Overview
Harsch fermenting crocks (also called sauerkraut crocks) are intended to be used to pickle foods using lacto-fermentation. This method of preserving food is the same one that gives us traditional sauerkraut, dill cucumber pickles, and kimchi. It is also one of the easiest and most time-tested methods of safely, deliciously, and healthfully preserving foods.
The simple but effective design of Harsch crocks allows natural gasses that develop during fermentation to escape while simultaneously preventing harmful molds from reaching the food while it is fermenting.
The Harsch crocks are made in Germany. The ceramic stoneware they are made of is heavy, but durable. You should get a lifetime's use out of a Harsch crock (assuming normal use).
The crocks come in a wide range of sizes and prices.
Harsch Fermenting Crocks Parts
Main Crock Vessel
The main body of a Harsch crock looks almost like any other crock, except for the V-shaped groove running around its rim. The groove, which forms something like a moat or gutter, is meant to be filled with water and work in conjunction with the specially designed lid to form an airlock. The airlock allows natural gasses produced during fermentation to escape while preventing airborne molds from getting in.
The whole of the main body of the crock is a shiny, glazed dark brown ceramic. On one side it is emblazoned with a logo emblazoned on one side. This large label is arguably one of the few negatives about this product since it doesn't mesh with the otherwise elegantly simple look (I just turn mine so that the logo is facing the wall rather than my eyes.
There are also 2 small handles built in under the rim of the crock to make it easier to carry around.
There are two pieces designed to slip easily into the crock and form a full circle. These replace the plate with a brick on it or other makeshift weight usually called for in fermentation recipes. The purpose of the weights is to keep the food (cabbage, for example, if you're making sauerkraut) submerged under the brine.
The lid of a Harsch crock has 2 small semi-circle holes that rest below the water in the "gutter" of the crock. These holes allow natural gasses to escape during the fermentation process.
Harsch fermenting crocks come in sizes ranging from 2 gallons/7.5 liters to 13.2 gallons/50 liters.
Worth the Price
The price of Harsch crocks ranges from just over $100 to almost $500, depending on size. This may seem like a lot to pay for a ceramic crock, but if you can afford it, it is well worth it. In my experience the design of the Harsch crocks results in a much more reliable result than any other fermentation vessel.