Home fermenting is an ancient practice. To great-grandmother it was a necessity, a simple way to preserve and keep nutritious food available during the long winter months. Upon the arrive of autumn, kraut would be made and stored in barrels or stoneware glazed crocks. On the cold floor or shelf of the root cellar, fermented goods would feed the family until the return of spring.
I believe in fermenting food. I love stoneware crocks. One feels as if they’ve stepped back in time when the two are put together under your roof! But due to health concerns, I don’t believe in using great-grandma’s crock! What a sad reality is this. In her time there were two types of glaze that sealed a stoneware dish. The one (its safe) was a salt glaze, while the other contained lead (as did old paint). Before its damaging effect was known, it was freely used. It has been roughly estimated that 50% of all vintage stoneware crocks were made with a lead-base glaze. And the worst? It’s very difficult to distinguish between the two!
So in the name of health, I’ve forfeited the opportunity. Gulp. Yes, I have turned down old crocks with mis-givings inside! Cause it is a romantic idea, to think of fermenting food for your own family in a crock that a like-minded woman used for her family 100+ years ago!
I wonder if she would have, had risk been known? Lead does nasty stuff to the human body and I’m not willing to tangle with it! I’ve actually undergone treatments to have it removed from my system. I don’t want any more than we naturally pick up!
If you have your heart set on pounding kraut or fermenting vinegar in a stoneware crock, buy a new one (usually cheaper than antiques) from a country (US & CA) that monitors the lead content of their products. Save the heirloom for decor!
Buy a Lead-Free Crock
Want a local source? ACE hardware stores (USA) and HomeHardware (CA) can order in open crocks and lids for customers, free of shipping charges. Orders can be placed online or over the telephone.
Don’t overlook these deals! Crocks are heavy and if buying through an online company, shipping prices can cost more than the crock itself! I’ve ordered one 5 gallon crock through HomeHardware and was thrilled with result. Free shipping, American made and guaranteed to be lead-free, good quality, what’s not to love about them?
Want an online source? Here’s a tip: when buying crocks online, be sure to check shipping costs of each company and then compare prices. Good online sources are Pressure Cooker Outlet, Sausage Maker, Lehmans, to name a few. All carry a variety of crocks and supplies needed (lids, pounders), are guaranteed lead free (and yes, they ship to CA). Sometimes you can catch free shipping. It’s usually worth the wait!
I gifted a German-style crock to my MIL from one of the above companies. These are the crowning beauty of stoneware crocks! European, German-style crocks have water-sealant lids. If you love stoneware (as I do) you’ll fall in love with these lovely pieces! Charming to look at, they ferment vegetables beautifully and cost an arm-and-a-leg.
See them at any of the online companies above.
I don’t covet crocks, but if one came my way, I might burst with pride at owning such a gem!
There are options. Shop sales. Buy safe crocks. Be proud to own a heirloom that can be passed from generation to generation!