How to make an Airlock Cap

start

This was the start of my first airlock cap attempt.

I new that I was not satisfied with our fermenting set up.  Not the antique 2 gallon crock nor the one gallon glass jar with glass lid.  The mold and scum, while expected, was not acceptable.  Internet research had turned up fermenting systems that used an airlock but I was unwilling to spend what they where asking.  So we set out to make our own airlock system.

I started by buying a half dozen, half gallon, wide mouth, Ball mason jars.   3capsThen I found a local beer making supply house that sold airlocks.   So my first airlocks where constructed using the standard wide mouth two piece canning lids,  a couple of varieties of airlocks and some tight fitting o-rings to seal the airlock to the lids.   I also used one piece metal lids saved from grocery store products that fit standard Ball canning jars.

From these first tries I found that the o-rings did not seal well enough by themselves.  And the 2 piece canning lids where not convenient to use during fermentation.   All the metal lids tended to develop rust spots after repeated usage.   And the one piece “S” shape airlocks where too difficult to clean.

 

final

That brings me to my present, and very acceptable, airlock cap system.   The o-rings have been replaced with 100% silicone sealant.   This needs to be food grade silicone,  no kitchen and bathroom silicones with mildewcides.   Most, easily found, aquarium 100% silicone sealants are food grade.  But check the ingredient list.

 

ballcapThen there was the rusty metal lids.  These have been replaced with plastic lids made by Ball.

They come in wide mouth and standard mouth sizes.  I found them at my local grocery store along with the other canning supplies for about $3 per box of 8 caps.   These are also very handy to use to cap the fermentation jars after they are done fermenting and need to be stored in the refrigerator.  If not found locally, they are available on EBay.

airlockAnd for the airlock itself, I have settled on the 3 piece design made by Buon Vino Mfg.- Canada.   It is inexpensive and the unit comes apart for cleaning.   These cylinder airlock units are carried by most beer and wine making supply stores.   I have also seen them for sale on EBay, just search for “airlock”.   Locally they cost me $1 each.

 

 

 

The actual construction of the cap system involves drilling a hole in the center of the plastic cap.  The three piece airlock shaft has a slight tapper, so the hole is sized such that the airlock fits snuggly when inserted to a depth of about half an inch.

outsidebeadinsidebead

A bead of silicone is then applied around the shaft both on top of the cap and then on the underside as well.   Wait a couple of days for the silicone to completely cure before using the cap.

And that is the airlock cap design I am presently using.

Future design changes:  grommetMy next version will incorporate a grommet seal instead of the silicone sealant.   I hadn’t already gone this route because of the cost of the grommets in small quantities and the fact that I could not find the correct size locally.   I’ll post pictures when that design change is made, but until then I’m satisfied with the performance of my current airlock caps.

 

Final design upgrade using rubber grommet.

UPDATE:  

 I just made my final design change incorporating a rubber grommet to hold and seal the air-lock into the plastic cap.  Picture shows completed design with an extra grommet on edge. 

Found an online site that sells them in small quantities for a reasonable price.

Love this design.

 

The Numbers (updated)

131 148 half pint jars

35 41 pint jars

30 pint and a half jars

40 quart jars

256 279 total jars

It was a lot of work to fill 256 279 jars, but I spread it out over the whole summer.  I started in April when the rhubarb is fresh and juicy, making “Old Recipe” Rhubarb Jam and Rhubarb Chutney.

Old Recipe Rhubarb Jam

Old Recipe Rhubarb Jam          photo by vsimon

Today I put the last of my fermented dill pickles into jars from the crock.

In between I have put up 91 jars of jams and jellies, 107 130 jars of pickles, 9 jars of relish, 40 jars of salsa/sauce, and even 9 jars of ketchup.  

We have packed away everything our garden could produce, from fresh rhubarb, red beets, green beans, red currents, lots of ground cherries, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and cucumbers.  

Three types of cucumbers that were new to me this year.   The best being the “Pearl” cucumbers.   Just so, so where the “Lemon” cucumbers (taste like regular cucumbers), and not to be planted again where the extremely small “Mexican Gherkins”.  More on the cucumbers later.

gherkins

Mexican Gherkins                         photo by vsimon

And there where new things to try this year.  For the first time I made salsa.  Not the crisp, freshly chopped refrigerated type, but the cooked and then canned type.   Also new this year was a shot at making ketchup.  Ketchup without all the sugar or high fructose corn syrup found in store bought ketchup.

After much searching I was able to locate (from my sister Betty) the recipe my mother used to make the most wonderful, sweet pickle relish.  I have a niece who used to request this yearly as a Christmas gift from my mother.  

The biggest “new” thing I tried this year was to pickle green beans.  We now have a total of 18 pints of pickled green beans.   Three or four varieties of green beans where used along with a variety of different spices trying to find the best combination. 

Here is a partial list of the spices used: dill,  fennel,  caraway,  garlic,  black pepper corns,  coriander,  turmeric,  and red pepper flakes.  

Until we sample all the varieties, I will not know which of these spice combinations worked best.  Some will be repeated next year and some most likely will not.

.Preserve Shelves

Our winter stockpile                            photo by vsimon

So here are the shelving units in our basement stocked with all the great foods to be enjoyed through coming months.  (Notice the water bath canner and the dehydrator on the lower right hand shelf.)

So, if after reading this you start to question Linda’s writing style, please note that this post is penned by me, Vincent. 

And it hasn’t quite ended yet as I still have a grocery bag full of sweet and hot peppers to put up.   Any suggestions?   Have a great pickled peppers recipe?  Or maybe an “all peppers” salsa?   Let me know.

Update 10-8-2010 Today I pickled my peppers. Three different recipes, 23 jars. Short Brine Peppers, Pickled Sweet Peppers, and Marinated Sweet Peppers. All from “The Joy Of Pickling“. We now have many gifts for the holidays. Hope everyone loves pickles, jams, and salsas.