Caring for Your Colombian La Chamba Blackware Clay Pot
I wrote this article a while back and wanted to share this overly detailed and overly cautious description on how to care for your La Chamba Clay Pot. While this is all sound advice I find just clean well, avoid too much soap and don’t use a scratchy scouring pads and start cooking in your La Chamba clay pot is the best method. I use them daily. La Chamba cookware holds up and cooks very well. I will add to this article in the near future (so please register for updates) and I will also write about caring for many other different types of Clay cookware. I highly recommend Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Clay Pot cookbook which has a wonderful primer on claypots that is very informative.
Care Instructions for La Chamba Cookware
The pottery from La Chamba, Colombia requires very limited initial preparation before normal usage. The first time you will want to clean your pot in water with a light non abrasive sponge to remove any dirt or residue left from the firing process. At this point you could choose to start using your pot immediately on your stove, oven or microwave. If you want to take some extra step preparing your vessel or dinnerware here are some methods that have been used for centuries to treat clay cookware.
Some porous clay pottery requires or can benefit from being filled with water approx 3/4 full and placed in a 400 degree Fahrenheit over for 30 min. La Chamba usually does not need this step, particularly if you purchase a finer quality vessel like this one, but if you have a pot from a village market and you were not aware of the step and care taken in the preparation you might feel more comfortable doing the water heated process first before regular daily use. Some international clay manufactures recommend milk in place of water to seal your clay pot. This again is an extra step that does not seem to be necessary for top quality La Chamba.
Regular use of your pot will naturally develop a well seasoned cooking surface. Using wooden utensils verses un-coated metal utensils will also help protect your cookware.
With proper handling you can use your Chamba pot or dinnerware directly on the stove, in a microwave, on a grill and in the oven.
Like any cooking surface, these clay pots should not be exposed to excessive temperature changes. If your pot is very cold from the refrigerator you should not pour in boiling liquids. If your pot is very hot you should not put in ice cold liquids. The idea is to avoid extreme thermal stress.
Clay pots are very practical for daily cooking. They can be filled with cold liquids and be heated over a strong heat without a problem. The clay will also hold heat well. If your food is boiling, your dish may continue to boil for a while after you remove it from the heat, so use caution when moving your vessel. The advantage of your lidded clay pot retain a nice level of heat is that your food can stay nicely warm at the table for upward of an hour.
Ancestral Chamba Cookware is very easy to clean. Just scrub a little, rinse and dry. Since the clay is porous we do not recommend using detergents, particularly at first, before the pot is cured. If you have stubborn food on your pot just soak an half an hour. The food should be easy to remove with a non abrasive sponge. Repeat if necessary. Boil some water in really hard to clean vessels. There are very good non abrasive, bacteria resistant scrubbers on the market. Metal scouring pads will scratch and are too abrasive for the hand burnished surface of your vessel.
You can clean you La Chamba in the dishwasher even though it is not recommended. The dish washing soap can remain in the porous clay and it can reduce the luster and natural seasonings of your piece.
Clay is a natural surface, not a non stick surface. With time your vessel, with care, will develop a very lovely cooking surface where only limited use of oils or cooking sprays will seem necessary.
You should always dry your La Chamba ware well in a well vented space before storing. In very humid climates you will want to take special care to make sure your clay gets properly dried so mold spores will not develop. Proper washing and drying and prevent this from happening. You can air dry your pieces or to quickly dry place your La Chamba pieces directly on low heat to remove the excess moisture and allow to cool. Many cooks like to place their pieces in a warm oven for 10 min.
Happy Cooking and enjoying your heirloom clay cooking pot!!