Maybe it’s happened to you. You are at a flea market and you see a great old crock for super cheap. There aren’t any cracks inside and you’ve been meaning to ferment some vegetables. So you snag it and bring it home and then the questions begin. Don’t some ceramics have lead in the glaze? Is it safe to put food in there? How can I find out? Is there a way to check the brand? Do those blue numbers on the side mean it’s food-safe?
Well, it happened to me and I searched and searched the makers of my crock as well as info about lead in glazes and finally ended up calling my Cooperative Extension office. The woman I spoke with said there was only one sure fire way. Test it.
It’s easy enough to find an inexpensive lead testing kit. I bought a LeadCheck kit at my local big box hardware store for about $15 dollars. Then just follow the instructions in the package.
The tricky part for crocks is that you need to chip into the glaze so the testing material can get up in that layer. Sounds easy enough, but glazes can be super strong – it’s like chipping into a rock (while trying not to damage your crock). I ended up using the pointy corner of a screwdriver to kind of drill in on the bottom of the crock.
Here are the photos of the process.
And we’re clear! No lead in this crock and it’s ready for some nuka pickles.
Now, if you’re like me and have mild OCD, you might double or even triple check this test. To experience my extraordinary thoroughness for yourself, click here. Otherwise, I hope you feel empowered to buy that cool old crock at the flea market this summer and get fermenting!