An authentic barrel for fermenting, pickling and storage of foods. Made to top specifications, the barrel is formed of sturdy oak staves which are bound and pinned with steel bands. The barrel comes with a wooden press, to keep the food submerged in brine and a very attractive fired larch lid. Left as untreated oak on the inside and with an oak base, this barrel is totally safe in contact with foods. The inside of the barrel is ‘turned’ to give a smooth and easy to clean finish. Oak is used in many types of food processing to add a wonderful natural flavour intensity to the food and to keep naturally fermented foods crisp with the longest storage life.
Barrel Specifications (Approximate)
3 Litre Barrel, 30cm high with lid on, 20cm diameter. Weight 2.8kg
5 Litre Barrel, 32cm high with lid on, 23cm diameter. Weight 3.75kg
10 Litre Barrel 39cm high x 26cm diameter. Weight 5.5kg
The handle shape may vary. Some are knob like and some are made of a section of wood.
Made with oak with a larch lid, from ecologically certified forests, this barrel not only looks stunning, but its design and materials have been tried and tested through the ages.
What is Pickling or Fermentation?
Pickling or fermenting your favourite vegetables with the addition of salt or brine (salt dissolved in water) creates a ‘lactic acid fermentation’. Bacteria, naturally present on the plant, can create not only the world’s healthiest foods, but enable the safe storage of foods well beyond the growing season.
Perhaps the best loved pickles in Britain are picked onions, gherkins, capers, red cabbage, beetroot and walnuts. However across the world, fresh vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits and cereals, fish and meat are also pickled and every culture has its own specialties. Once you understand the principles of lacto-fermentation you can enjoy endless creativity.
Our focus is on lacto-fermented vegetables – They are so easy to make, amazingly delicious and while many people can not tolerate and do not even like commercial vinegar preserved foods, given the chance, they enjoy and benefit from eating naturally fermented vegetables.
At the start of the fermentation process, salt kills any bacteria which could lead to spoilage. The friendly bacteria, survive the salty environment and they go on to ferment and ultimately preserve the food. At the end of the process the food is enriched with probiotic bacteria, enhanced in nutrients and totally delicious.
Why Pickle Your Own Foods?
Enter a new world of creativity, taste, adventure and health.
Pickling and fermentation make it easy to store fresh food, when it is fresh and abundant, bringing about less wastage and better use of food resources. This allows us to eat ‘fresh’ food all through the seasons. Vitamins which are normally perishable such as Vitamin C, can be maintained at high levels or even increased, though it varies according to the vegetable and how they are prepared.
Grow your Own Vitamins
Not only are foods such as pickled onions, gherkins, cabbage and olives some of the tastiest foods we can eat, fermenting improves the nutritive values of these foods. Vitamins A, B and C can actually increase due to the enzymatic activity of the lactic acid bacteria.
Create Easy to Digest Foods
Hard to digest foods are made easier to digest because the enzymes produced by the lactobacillus have done much of the hard work. We can only assimulate foods (that is absorb the goodness) when they are properly digested in the first place. Starches are broken down into maltose and glucose and the glucose is in turn transformed into lactic acid. All of this mean more goodness, more flavour and even subtly sweet flavours.
Equally proteins and fats are broken down into their constituents; amino acids and fatty acids respectively.
Reduce Anti-Nutrients and Digestive Inhibitors
Many whole foods contain phytic acid which protects the seed until germination. Phytic acid actually removes vital minerals such as zinc magnesium iron and calcium from the body. Fermentation can decompose and reduce the levels of undesirable phytic acid. Trypsine, a digestive inhibitor, is also reduced during fermentation.
Through the activity of lactobacillus, natural probiotics are produced. Probiotics:
Assist in digestion of glucides and proteins
Create B and K vitamins in the intestine
Acidify the digestive tract inhibiting pathogens
Participate in the break down of certain carcinogens, such as nitrosamines.
We can’t be healthy and have energy and vitality without a healthy digestive flora.
Through the activity of lactobacillus species, natural antibiotics and anti-fungals are produced which help to keep our digestive system healthy.
Make Food Safer to Eat
The fermentation process can reduce certain toxic substances which are present on some of our most popular seeds grains and nuts, such as aflatoxins and nitrites.
Reduce or Eliminate Sugar and Starch Cravings
The slightly sour taste, rebalances the appetite plus the improvement in the balance of intestinal flora help to reduce unhealthy cravings too.
Create Health Giving Lactic Acid
Salt fermented foods support the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria. Of particular interest, is a type of lactic acid, which polarizes light to the right. This special lactic acid is used in natural therapies for cancer therapy and prevention, in IBS and Crohn’s Disease treatments, for Autism, ADD/ADHD, diabetics. It is good for everyone.
Create Amazing Tasting Foods
Once you understand the principles of fermentation, your creativity will know no bounds because so many foods can be fermented and made into tasty mainstays or delicacies.
Commissioning Your Fermenting Barrel
The barrel, wooden stopper and lid will arrive in a box packed in straw – save the straw for later use.
Sealing the Barrel
Pour several inches of hot, freferably chloride free water into the base of the barrel to seal this part first. Leave it for a few hours. Then fill the barrel with hot, preferably chloride-free, water. We reduce the chloride level in our tap water by standing it overnight in one of our clay amphora.
Soak the wooden press inside the barrel too. Leave the barrel and press to soak overnight. This allows the wood to swell, creating tight leak proof joints, also keeping the joints clean. The sealed staves also prevent the entry of oxygen through the stave joints while the fermentation begins. In the morning pour this water out and tip the barrel upside down to remove all the water. The barrel is now ready to use.
The barrel comes with care instructions and a recipe sheet to get you started.
Tested Brined Vegetable Recipes
We will provide tested recipes for amazing picked onions, pickled gherkins and cabbage (sauerkraut) and horseradish, to get you started. The recipes are found here. Follow any recipe and place the prepared vegetables with salt or brine in the barrel.
Avoid packing the vegetables all the way to the top. Leave some head room in the barrel – about one-fifth of the barrel height. If brine solution rises over the rim of the barrel it could stain the outside of the barrel and the steel hoops.
Make sure that the brine rises several centimeters over the vegetables. Use the wooden press to make sure that the vegetables are properly submerged under the brine. Use a weight (cleaned stones are traditional) or a glass jar filled with brine water to hold the press down. (See note below.) Put the lid on the barrel and move into a warmish location.
The fermentation is complete when the bubbling stops, usually after a few weeks. Now move the fermented food into a cooler and dark location for storage and use, such as a pantry, cellar, or cupboard. Inspect the foods regularly to make sure that they are still submerged under the brine.
Use a wooden spoon to remove the vegetables to eat and for tasting samples.
Making Flower Wines in a Wooden Barrel
Yes, we have been making flower wines in our ‘wine’ barrel. The barrel is used for the primary fermentation and after the set number of days, the wine must is strained off the flower and place in the demijohns.
So far we have made dandelion wine, rose and fig wine, honeysuckle wine and lavender wine.
If the recipe calls for tannic acid, you will not need it when brewing in an oak barrel. We also substitute lemon juice instead of citric acid, slices of apple instead of malic acid and brewers yeast instead of yeast nutrient.
We just use the flower, fruit or leaf, sugar and yeast so that we can be spontaneous and keep our brew as natural as possible and very individual in taste and aroma.
I will try to get my recipes written down soon.
Here is a video to show you how the barrels can be used for the ‘primary fermentation’ of wine.
Cleaning Your Barrel
After use, that is when the vegetables have all been eaten or removed to jars, wash the inside of the barrel, the press and the lid with hemp oil soap and rinse. Turn the barrel upside down and allow it to drip dry.
Caring For Your Wooden Barrel When It Is Not In Use
We hope that your barrel will be in constant use, because foods which are ideal for fermenting are available every month of the year. The barrel will function at its best with continuous use.
Make sure that the barrel is clean and dry. Rub some edible oil over the steel hoops. Store the barrel upside down in a cool humid area ideally 55° F (13° C) and 65–75 percent humidity. Store the press and lid nearby on a flat surface. You want to avoid the barrel drying out completely; equally you want to avoid mold and bacterial growth. So inspect your barrel regularly to make sure that you have selected the optimal storage location. Wash the barrel again before use with hemp soap and fill with hot chloride-free water for a few hours, or overnight if need to expand the seals between the staves again.
If you have let the barrel dry too much and there are gaps between the staves. Immerse the whole barrel in water for 1-2 days and the staves will expand again. It is best to prevent the barrel drying out like this as it can hardly be considered best practice. If you do not have the ideal damp conditions in which to store you empty barrel, you might want to keep it with water in. If this is the case, the water will need changing every week and the inside of the barrel may need cleaning. It is ideal to keep the barrel in near constant use.
Note on Selecting your Pebbles
While pebbles are not always necessary to weigh the press down, some vegetables are very buoyant. Select smooth stones such as beach pebbles but make sure they will not dissolve under acid conditions. Make sure that they are well washed – hemp oil soap is ideal due to its powerful anti-microbial action. The stones should be of a hard mineral, rather than those composed of chalky material. To test the hardness of a stone, wash a stone and leave it in vinegar overnight. If the surface is degraded and rough it will not be suitable; conversely if the stone is still smooth and still the original colour, it will be suitable.
If you can’t get stones like these then, you could fill a glass jar with with brine water and use this as your weight instead if you need one.