Mexican soups, stews and beans are traditionally cooked in earthenware pots. The cazuela is a pot that flares out along the rim and has a handle on each side. The olla is taller and narrower than a cazuela. Using an earthenware pot for your favorite Mexican recipe is different from using a metal pot or pan, and care must be taken to handle it properly.
1. Earthenware pots are made of clay. The clay gives Mexican cooking a special flavour that is not possible to achieve with metal pots. The clay is fired, and the inside of the pot is glazed, while the outside is left natural. Only cook with pots marked with a safe-for-food-use stamp.
Lead in the Glaze
2. Traditionally, the glaze used in these pots contained lead. Most newer pots, including mine which were a present from a good friend's mom, use an unleaded glaze. If your pot's glaze contains lead, the FDA suggests it will not be harmful as long as you do not use acids (such as vinegar, lemon, lime or tomato) in anything cooked in the pot since the acid will release some of the lead. Also, do not store food in the pots.
Curing the Pots
3. Before its first use, an earthenware pot must be cured. Be warned that the pot will smell like wet earth the first time you use it. To cure it, wash the pot well, then rinse with clear water. I made a mixture of hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) & egg whites to achieve a soft consistency paste & rubbed the 4 pots inside & out, let them dry & then filled with water,set them over a low flame or heat , bring to a boil and then lowered the heat and let the water simmer for ½ hour, let them cool & washed well afterwards
Earthenware Pot Cooking
4. Clay cooking is slow cooking. The pots are used over a direct but low heat. Rapid temperature changes must be avoided; for example, never move a cold pot to a hot flame or the pot can crack. Allow the pot to warm to room temperature before use. The pots are fragile and must be carefully handled.
The reaction of the lime with the water was interesting to see, starting like a little cloud in the middle of the pot & then growing to cover all of it
The finished product