Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Basic Curing Techniques & Care Tips for Traditional Earthen Pots

Cooking food in clay pots is part of many cultures worldwide. In Kerala, where I come from, it is a very common practice even in modern homes and almost every Malayalee household, be it vegetarians or non-vegetarians, to own at least one of these. It is generally called 'manchatti' or 'currychatti' and it comes in various shapes and sizes. One of the oldest methods of cooking, and the people of Kerala believe, nothing beats the flavour of food cooked in an earthen pot. :) Traditional vegetarian curries, most of which are part of the kerala sadhya, to fish curries and even various preparations of different meats are prepared in these pots. Some regions even make appams, kaipathiri and other breads in these chatties.

Well, these earthen pots require being cured or seasoned, before it is initially cooked in. The Mantra is - The older the pot, the better it gets. :)

Basic curing techniques for a traditional manchatti :

1.      Seasoning is done to conceal minute holes or cracks inside the pot.
2.      Submerge and soak a brand new clay pot (manchatti) in clean water for five to six hours. Then, scrub it and give a thorough rinse to remove any dust or dry residues. Never use any sort of soaps or detergents at this stage.
3.      Once the pot dries, pour in some kanjivellam (the left over water from cooked rice) to fill upto 90% of the pot. Place that on a low flame until the liquid heats up. Slowly increase the flame to medium until the liquid comes to a boil. Then, reduce the flame and allow the liquid to reduce to almost 50%. That should take, something around half an hour. Traditionally this is done on a viragu aduppu (a traditional log stove) as shown below. But, no harm in doing it on gas stoves as well.

4.      Once the liquid reduces to 50%, close the pot with a lid and let aside to cool. In some regions the pot is left to rest overnight. Then, pour out the liquid and rinse the inside thoroughly with clean water. Turn it upside-down until water drains completely and then allow it to air-dry.
5.      Then, fill the pot with some water and bring to a simmer on low heat. Increase the flame and bring the water to a complete boil. Allow it to cool and throw away the water and give a thorough scrub and rinse. Allow to dry completely and then glaze the inside with some coconut oil and leave it for a day or two. 
Now, your new earthen pot is all ready to be cooked in :)

Basic care tips for a traditional manchatti
1.      Before every use, make sure you thoroughly rinse the pot and allow the water drain.
2.      Sudden temperature changes will cause the pot to crack. Therefore, always start heating a moist pot on low heat and then slowly increase the temperature as required. Similarly, never pour cold water to a hot pot.
3.      Never place a hot pot on cold or moist surface. Make sure to rest it on the stove top itself, until the pot cools or rest it on any clothed surface. 

Hope this post was an informative read. :) Have a great day.. :)