I’ve had a slew of questions about Mexican cooking recently. Here’s a go at answering some of them that might be of general interest.
This is from Richard Spott.
“Thanks for writing about carnitas. I live in Bozeman Montana and we have a vendor at our Saturday market that is importing copper pots from Mexico. I asked her if they could be used to cook carnitas in and she said that she was not allowed by importing laws or some liabilty issue to say that they are safe to use for cooking. Would you know if all copper pots are created equal or are some not acceptable/safe for cooking.”
I use copper pots I have bought in Mexico for cooking quite frequently. Only one is tinned on the inside. The rest are just copper. So far as I know, if they are made of copper, all the pots are created equally safe (though their culinary qualities may vary with thickness, design, etc). They are best not used with acids. In Mexico, they are of course the standard for making carnitas if that’s what you have in mind. Obviously I can’t take responsibility for for your food safety. If it were me, I would follow the advice about copper utensils found by googling and then go ahead.
On that subject here are some sensible words about Mexican ceramics from Alicia Gironella and Jorge De’Angeli in their splendid El Gran Libro de la Cocina Mexicana: La Práctica (Larousse 1993). I’m paraphrasing.
After stating that the chief lead danger is to the potters themselves, they conclude that for those who use ceramics with lead in the glaze for cooking and on the table, the danger is minimal and non-existent if you follow certain rules.
- don’t use containers that are cracked
- don’t store food in artisanal glazed ceramics most of which have been fired at less than 1000 degrees C
- don’t buy for cooking pieces that have a rough surface and are not shiny, signs of firing at a low temperature
- don’t used glazed clay for foods that are acids, such as salad dressings, fruit juices (especially citrus), salads, sauces that contain vinegar, etc.
Cooking beans and most moles (those without acids) in clay pots is not dangerous. They conclude “The tradition is very wise: in the markets, the salads are served in wooden bowls, and the aguas frescas in glass containers.”
That’s more or less the procedure I follow. But every one must decide for themselves.
- A Look Forward
- Adding Water when Grinding Masa