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Clay Pots With Lead


My recent trips to Mexico have been spent in part searching for great bean pots to import. I see many styles I like but it often comes down to the usage of lead. Some of the workshops have no problem using a non-lead glaze but others think I'm insane for asking.


I was quite erroneously told once that it's only the vibrant colors, especially the green, that have lead. I can tell you now from experience there's not much rhyme or reason. On this last trip I was told over and over that the alternative was animal and I wasn't sure what they were talking about until I lay in bed at my hotel, replaying the days events, and realizing they were saying enamel.

Rick Bayless, in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen writes:

Yes, and most Mexican earthenware pots have lead glazes. You'll have to make up your own mind, but let me tell you the essentials: It takes time and acid to leach lead from glazes. So stay away from very acidic food, don't store foods in them or simply boil vinegar-water in them until all has evaporated to a lead-filled residue, then scrub the residue out (this affects the color). Other than that, I encourage you to enjoy your cazeula from time to time- they have been a traditional and integral part of the Mexican kitchen for centuries.

What do you think? Have you tried the vinegar trick? How acidic is acidic? If I make a standard chile sauce and squeeze lime or pour vinegar in, is that acid enough to leach out the lead into my sauce? I tend to want to believe him, but I'm the guy who has been incredibly lucky eating street food from Puebla to Bombay.

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