Yesterday I received a call, a gentleman from Texas inquring how to cure a cazuela he brought back from his Mexican vacation. This is the process I shared with him for leaching white lead from the traditional clay cooking pots that we use at home and in our cooking classes.
Fill the pot with water to about an inch or so from the brim, adding 1/4 c. of white vinegar to each cup of water used. (ex. 6 cups water/ 1-1/2 c. vinegar). Place pot in the oven at 100 degrees and leave overnight. Check the pot in the morning by dumping out the water and looking for a white or silver ring; the white residue is the lead leaching out of the clay. This procedure may have to be done several times until there is no visible lead residue.
Clay pots can be used directly over a wood campfire, gas flame, and in the oven A metal diffuser should be placed over the burner of an electric stove. Because these pots are fired at low temperatures they are quite fragile, to avoid cracking or breakage always bring the pot to room temperature before using and fill with whatever is being cooked before putting them over the heat. Also, avoid placing cold liquids in a warm pot and vice versa. If your pot cracks it’s easy to repair; just brush the crack with beaten egg white and place in a warm oven for a minute or two; the egg white will harden as strong as glue and your cookware will be as good as new. (better than new, because seasoned from use and the lead removed, your Mexican clayware will lend authentic flavor and ambience to your Mexican table.)
A traditional clay beanpot (olla) is the perfect starter piece, perfectly designed so the beans simmer slowly in its broth, the wide bottom allows the beans to bubble gently while holding in the heat and the narrow top keeps the broth from evaporating too quickly. Once you use these lovely vessels to prepare Mexican food you will be hooked and your family and friends will be impressed with the results.
Beach Party!! Frijoles de olla, Beans in a pot, Tamales, and Tequila shrimp. Baja’s Bounty.