Do you have any clay cooking pots – ollas de barro? They are inexpensive, not-too-durable but once you have seasoned them, your favorite recipe will come out tasting better than ever before. Now, a lot of my friends worry about using them… stories of lead poisoning frighten them away. I’m sure there is some metal in the glaze but I’ve cooked in these pots for decades and have not suffered any ill effects. I believe this is because I followed my mother-in-law’s instructions for proper preparation.
Doña Bertha says there are certain steps that must be taken to ensure your barros are safe. You need to undertake the “seasoning” I spoke of in the preceding paragraph. And, I don’t mean a sprinkling with salt, pepper and herbs!
To season, coat the entire inside of the pot with cooking oil (you don’t need to use a high quality oil). Put the pot over a medium flame for about 15 minutes or until it begins to smoke. Remove the pot from the heat and wipe it as clean as possible with paper towel. Allow it to cool, and then repeat the process about three more times. You will be able to see the pot is seasoned when it has a nice shiny patina. My mother in law told me that this procedure removes the lead and that it “seals” the surface. If your barro is well seasoned, your food will not stick and you’ll notice the special flavor it gives to food… Here are a few tips for the proper care of your barros.
After a few months, the surface may start losing the sheen. Repeat the whole seasoning method.
One thing I never do is to put anything really acidic in the pots like orange juice, ceviche, or chile.
Do not bang the pots they will crack easily, especially if they are hot. And once they crack, you can no longer use them to cook in.
But the good news is… cracked barros make great plant pots!