An Olla is a traditional Mexican clay pot that is used to make beans in. Wide at the bottom and narrow at the top with a lid these rustic clay pots need to be seasoned before using and are not to be used on electric burners or warmers.
Ever since my first trip to Mexico I have coveted the beautiful clay ware that is used for everyday cooking. It wasn’t until this trip that I found a really good supplier of it in Puerto Vallarta. I bought two large platters, a jug, a big covered dutch oven type pot and an Olla. I brought almost all of it back in my carry on luggage. The Olla was the only thing that got packed in my suitcase. I worried about it the entire flight.
It’s taken a while to get up the nerve to finally start to use my clay ware as I’m afraid it will crack and break the minute it even comes near a flame. Turns out my fears are unwarranted. After reading about how to season clay ware I choose to go with Diane Kennedy’s method of filling the pot with hot water, placing it over a low flame and adding a head of garlic to the water and letting it slowly evaporate.
The reason there are two heads of garlic in here is because this that she suggests doing this twice, I figured I might as well keep the old garlic from round one in – it might help. My understanding is that garlic has resin like qualities that help seal the pot.
This takes FOREVER. I had to keep turning it off to go out or to go to bed. If you are an early riser and plan to be at home all day I would think you might be able to get it done before bedtime. As it was it worked out fine so don’t worry about stopping and starting.
After round two finally finished I did something that I had done to my Spanish cazuela which is take a clove of garlic sliced in half and rub the bottom of the pot with it. I figure you can’t be too safe, and these pots are very rustic thin and cheap. My entire load of clay ware from Mexico cost about 30 dollars.
Still I want to try to make my Olla last as long as I can.
Pinto beans have been weighed and hopefully tomorrow or the next day I will have a recipe for you.
Oh and if you do consider buying some clay wer beware you should never cook anything acidic in them as it leeches lead from the not so high quality interior glaze. So keep it simple and after you have cooked your beans remove them into another pot if you want to add tomatoes or lime juice or vinegar.