Boiling or storing milk in brass vessels has long been a topic of controversy, one that touches on Ancient Medicine, the toxicity of metals and the convenient hacks that modernity has brought with itself. I firmly believe that the lack of knowledge has brought us the predicament of whether or not, or rather, how one must use traditional vessels in the kitchen.
Image credit- By Drasht!
It doesn’t feel like very long ago when my mother would bring me a scalding hot glass of milk to accompany me during my late-night study sessions. Another lota would start my day, boiled in a bright, golden-hued vessel passed down as an heirloom. So why is it that there’s so much negativity associated with the idea of cooking in brass vessels?
What Ayurveda Says
Ayurvedic recipes often list brass as an ingredient in medicinal formulations to treat conditions such as Leprosy, Pandu, Krimi, and numerous other diseases. Such formulations use metals in bhasma or ash form, easing anxiety associated with the safety of metals for consumption. Ayurvedic texts such as the Rasashastra effectively outline the application of metals, both internally and externally, with advice regarding care in case of adverse effects. One of the principal contributors to Ayurvedic medicine, Charaka, believed that one must observe caution when administering formulations that constituted metals.
Is Brass Safe For Everyday Use?
Yes, absolutely! Brass makes up for a large part of the South Indian lifestyle! From stunning vessels, lamps of yore, coins, and even decor, brass is a regularly used metal. Brass has long been used in the kitchen for its versatility in terms of size, shape, and usage. Brass is also known to boost one’s strength and immunity over time and restore balance to the three doshas (Kapha, Vata, Pitta) in the body.
From koojas, lotas, kinnams and chombus to kundas, thattus, chattis and thookus, brass vessels play an important role in adding to our health with each meal. While the convenience of aluminium, stainless steel and non-stick pans continues to shroud itself over the benefits of brass and bronze, many households continue to use traditional vessels every day.
Brass also retains 90% of the nutritional value of food, unlike most metals, making for an excellent addition to your kitchen shelves.
Brass vessels used in the kitchen are either tinned or left untinned. Tinning is a method by which the inside of brass, bronze or copper vessels is lined with tin to give them an even, protective coat.
Want to know how brass and copper vessels are tinned? Click here.
The reason for this additional procedure is that most brass vessels corrode quickly when in contact with acidic foods. The south Indian palate primarily revolves around foods that are astringent, sour, acidic or spicy. Souring agents such as lime and tamarind are indispensable when cooking savoury dishes, and it is these ingredients, coupled with milk products, can damage the brass vessels.
Traditionally, tin artisans would go from home to home and tin brass and copper vessels themselves. These days, however, the art is largely forgotten due to the convenient swap to aluminium and stainless steel.
It is this particular tin lining that protects the inside of the vessels when used for cooking.
However, not all foods need to be cooked in tinned brass and copper vessels.
To learn more about foods that can be cooked in untinned brass vessels, click here.
Is it Safe to Boil and Store Milk in Brass Vessels?
Yes, it is safe to boil milk in tinned brass vessels. When using untinned vessels, acids present in milk tend to corrode the inner surface, either curdling the milk or leaching into it. The same goes for curds as well. Hence, it is highly recommended that only tinned vessels are used for boiling and storing milk and curds.
Brass lotas can be used to serve milk and buttermilk, not affecting the liquids or the vessel in doing so. However, one must remember to re-tin the vessels every 6-8 months, depending on the frequency of use or the damage caused to the inner lining.
And that is the entire mystery of milk storage. Something so trivial and straightforward that is a part of our daily lives has a deep science behind it. With the right kind of vessels and storing procedures, storing milk will get safer and more beneficial over time. Just remember to follow what our mothers and grandmothers have taught us, pairing them with sensibility and instincts to use these gorgeous golden-hued vessels and pass them down generations to come.
To shop from our collection of kitchen vessels, both tinned and untinned, click here!