If you really enjoy the flavor of beans in Mexico, and can’t figure out why they taste so delectable compared to the ones at home, the secret may be in the earthenware cooking pot, or olla. Depending on the region, some ollas are beautifully decorated on the outside with colors which may contain some lead. Since the outside of the pot will never come in contact with food, this is not a problem. Perhaps the most practical souvenir you will ever take home from a Mexican market place is an earthenware olla. The first thing you will want do is to “cure” it by filling it with water and 1/4 cup of salt. Let the salted water boil in the olla for one half-hour or so and then remove the pot from the heat. When cool, rinse the olla with fresh water, and it will be ready for use.
You can use the olla on the top of a gas burner or any regular electric stove. The tempered glass electric stovetops do not work with clay pots, so beware, as the olla will break. Of course the best of all beans are said to be made in an olla fueled over a mesquite fire.
Do you know why a Mexican shopper will hold up a handful of beans in the market and let them trickle through her fingers? Find out in next week’s Comida Mexicana: Purchasing