Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sauerkraut and Sun Oven

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.


CM said...

Your sauerkraut is gong to be soooo good! It makes me want to pop over to my mums and see if she has any jars left. Keep your eyes peeled for a sauerkraut mandolin ( ) that will make your slicing go much easier.

I was wondering how warm it was outside when you used the sun oven? I think it would do okay here but it can be cool to cold so much of the year!

Amber said...

Thanks CM! I'm super excited for the kraut. I keep checking on it every 10 mins, like a little kid, just to see if it's doing something.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the mandolin you picture. That would do the job nicely.

In Ottawa we reached a high of around 9 degrees yesterday. I moved the oven across the yard throughout the afternoon to follow the sun, and had it set on the ground in the snow for a long time. I wondered if that would take the temperature down, but it didn't seem to affect it.

I don't think outside temperature matters as much as latitude does and amount of sunshine. The ideal cooking zone is between the equator and 40 degrees. Ottawa is at 45 degrees north, which means that I have a shorter cooking season.

But if that means I can only use it between March and October or November, I'll take it!

Chile said...

I need a sauerkrat crock! I've been making it in a suntea jar but the narrowed neck makes it a pain to weight it down.

And thanks for mentioning your Sun Oven. I have sun and beets today. I need to put the solar oven out to preheat and cook those roots!

sdrv said...


The Sun Oven looks like a very cool idea.

Have you ever come across any online resources that talk about building your own?

I am going to start looking around for myself, but I thought that if you already had some info it might save some time.

Love your blog by the way. As Natalie commented in another post, your blog has become a source of discussion on a daily basis around our house.

Keep up the great work!


Amber said...

Chile, I couldn't be happier to have the sun oven back in use after a long Canadian winter!

I'm in love with my crock, and am researching other things I can use it for.

Any ideas?

Amber said...

Hi Stephen. I'm so glad you enjoy the blog!

I found quite a few resources when I contemplated making a sun oven last year (then the awesome dude guy went ahead and gifted me with the one I have).
Here are a few sites that I thought were helpful:

You can also read about Theresa from Pondering the Myriad Things attempt at making one here:

Hope this is helpful, and if you do go about making one, be sure to let me know how it all turns out.

I still have plans to try my hand at making one. It would great to have two ovens to make use of!


GEM said...

Amber - in my family of origin we had yearly sauerkraut yields, for which my physician father was responsible. Sauerkraut is definitely a seasonal delight, as most people with central and eastern European backgrounds would attest. Enjoy your concoction!
I am happy you have found satisfactory answers re. your fabulous crock. You should see many years good use out of it. GEM

Amber said...

Actually, the solar cooking wiki has just about everything you need to know!

Chile said...

I can't remember whether kimchi uses a crock. I generally just use, you guessed it, another sun tea jug. LOL!

Crocks are used for cheese-making, too, aren't they?

sdrv said...


I think I am going to make a spring project of this with the kids, and I will likely do an article on my blog about it, and will definitely send you the link to update you!

Theresa said...

I am admiring that lovely crock! You will enjoy that for decades to come, I'm sure. Sharon over at Casaubon's Book talks about having things in our day to day life that are functional and beautiful, and that crock certainly qualifies!

Would the awesome dude guy be willing to say where he ordered the Sun Oven from? And if the shipping fees to Canada were outrageous?

Amber said...

Theresa, I'll check with the dude guy tonight and see what info I can find out for you!