Based on the information I read here, some other research and a helpful comment from a reader, about the origins of my crock and its glaze, I determined that in all likelihood, it has a lead free salt glaze. Just to be on the safe side, I did a lead test anyway.
I'm happy to report that the swab didn't turn pink or red, which would indicate the presence of lead. (Health Canada isn't a huge fan of home lead test kits, but I'm willing to take my chances with my old crock, figuring my odds on lead exposure can't be any worse than this or this. Here's hoping that folks back in the late 1800's had more sense than we do now.)
With that out of the way, I gave the crock a good scrubbing and set myself to making my very first batch of sauerkraut. I had a long talk with my Oma on the phone and she explained to me how she used to make sauerkraut. I also followed these instructions. And here's a good video.
I used a stone to weight down the plate. Of course I gave the stone a good scrub, soaked it in vinegar and sterilized it in boiling water first! If you don't want to do this, a glass jar filled with water will also do just fine.
I covered the crock with a towel and set it aside to start the process of fermentation, pressing down on the stone weight every few hours to help draw the water out to create the brine. After 24 hours there was not enough brine to cover the plate, so I added about five cups of salted water. I'll keep checking on it every few days, and if all goes well, I'll have delicious and nutritious sauerkraut in two to three weeks!
And in other exciting food news, I've officially taken the Sun Oven out of hibernation! It was such a mild and sunny day on Saturday, I thought, "What the heck, I'll just set it up and see what happens." I wasn't really expecting to be able to cook anything in it, but when the temperature went to 250 degrees in about 20 minutes, I prepared some parsnips to steam. As it was already well into the afternoon, they only got about three quarters done, before I lost the sun and had to bring the parsnips in to finish on the stove.
But today I was ready and set the oven out early this morning with a jar of water inside to help preheat it. (I made tea with the hot water.)
The oven maxed out at at 275 degrees, which was more than enough to cook these beets all the way through! Here they are, fresh out of the sun oven and steaming in the snow.