Miriam’s clayware is handmade in the USA – her shop is close to her home in Massachusetts. The Boston Voyage published an interesting interview with Miriam – find out what lead her to search for non-toxic, healthy cookware.
At Miriam’s Earthen Cookware (MEC), we started with testing pots and pans made from all different raw material – steel, titanium, aluminum, copper, ceramics, cast iron and even pots and pans that were said to be made of ‘clay’ but just didn’t meet the standard. None of them provided a 100% inert and non-toxic environment for food, nor radiated the right kind heat to cook without damaging nutrients. Then, we took it upon ourselves to find the purest form of clay – absolutely uncontaminated, 100% primary clay – and designed and made pots and pans, by hand on the wheel (to avoid chemicals used in industrial machinery), and left them 100% unglazed but smoothed and finished.MEC
Handmade vs. mass produced pots
If made from pure clay, with no glazes or chemicals, then they may produce many of the same benefits as MEC. The big question for pots made today is contaminated clay. Clay beds are usually found near water ways, and most water ways have been contaminated by industry. If the villages are using an old clay bed that is best. The older the bed, the deeper it is – and the deeper it is the less polluted.
Mass produced clay pots
- There are chemicals involved the production process which contaminate the clay.
- The clay is often not pure.
- Romertopf and VitaClay both use pure clay, but are mass produced (e.g. some chemicals)
- Romertopf is made in Germany, but it’s for oven use only and requires presoaking.
- VitaClay is made in China.
What makes MEC different?
Unique design and primary clay
MEC had many obstacles to overcome in developing their manufacturing process. MEC pots and lids are unique in their design.
Testing to see the amount of infrared heat produced
The main reason MEC pots can make gelled broth in 2-3 hours in the strong infrared heat they produce. If you look at the directions for other pots, they often say 12 hours are required for chicken broth.
Mirim’s pots do not required presoaking:
So that you can use the pot as often as you want and need to without worrying about pre-soaking, we finish it by a process of hand burnishing the pot on a high spinning wheel. Here the microscopic pores are closed as much as possible and the moisture in the food is locked inside much better than other pots that don’t go through this finishing step. With other pot because the pores are wide open the food can get quite dry especially if cooking in the oven, so you need to pre-soak the pot.MEC – I read somewhere that clay pots need to be pre soaked, why don’t we have to do it with MEC?
Do food residues in the clay pot influence the food?
What are the sources of residues and/or toxins?
They can come from the food inside the pot or they can come from the outside of the pot (e.g. washing it incorrectly).
Residues – are these effected by negatively changed platelets? How do residues behave differently from toxins?
- Flavors from cooking spices.
- Additives in the water.
- Pesticides, fertilizers and heavy metals in the food.
- Animal fat (most animals store toxins in their fat).
- Dish soap – if it is used for cleaning.
The residue and/or toxins in the clay travels according to pressure and it will not go back into the food.
The residue moves from high pressure to low pressure. Some examples of this are:
- If the pot is empty or has just water and it and is heated with the lid off, residue travels to the inside of the pot. You can simmer water in the pot with the lid off, then dump the water out and finally wipe the pot dry. This is helpful to remove a smell, clean the pores of the pot, or convert the pot from one type of food to another.
- If there is food inside the pot, and it is heated with the lid off, residue travels differently. Some comes to the outside of the pot, and some just stays in the pot. The residue does not travel into the food.
- If there is food inside the pot, and it is heated with the lid on, the residue may come out. I see this happening more when my pot is slightly water logged. If there is water in the clay and it is heated, that increases the likelihood of bubbles (toxins) on the outside of my pot.
Can clay draw toxins from foods?
Unprocessed clay is negatively charged. Toxins are positively charged. This is why clay can draw out toxins. People have used clay to draw toxins out for thousands of years.
When Miriam’s pots are heated, the platelets in the fired clay becomes negatively charged – thus pulling toxins out.
I see Miriam’s pot drawing out toxins when I cook certain foods. Other times I don’t think the pot is drawing any toxins out of my food because I don’t see visible results on the outside of my pot. However, when I steam clean my pot every few months, I’m reassured that my pot is indeed drawing toxins out. Does the pots ability to draw out toxins decrease with time?
The bubbles that result from cooking and steam cleaning easily wash off.
- Changing water to filtered water has sometimes eliminated bubbles.
- Changing from non-organic to organic ingredients has help reduce and eventually eliminate bubbles.
- Stopping the use of commercial soap for cleaning helps eliminate bubbles.
- Using chemical ingredients like pectin or other additives etc. causes bubbles.
- If you’re using homogenized or ultra pasteurized milk, the clay may not be able to remove the toxins – no bubbles, but….
- When you cook with canned tomatoes, toxins are removed via the pot. When you cook with fresh tomatoes, there are no toxins removed.
Most clay pots can not eliminate toxins through the clay the way MEC can
Miriam explains most companies:
- Use secondary or tertiary clay – not primary.
- Mix additives with the clay.
- In some way treat with iron oxide.
All these things can clog the micro-pores.
Can food can take necessary minerals from the clay?
Science says fired clay is inert and the clay will not donate it’s minerals. Thus no minerals from the clay are in the food.
Others say clay is not donating minerals, but insist that the food draws the minerals from the clay which it needs. If the food can pull minerals, the minerals in the clay eventually decline after a few years of daily use. For this reason, some people will purchase a new clay pot every few years.
Pots vs. pans
Miriam says pots can do almost everything pans can do, and then more. Pots are more sturdy and resistant to cracking. When cooking, you always want a little water or oil in the pot/pan. Pans tend to dry out a bit faster. Miriam chooses to use only pots in her kitchen.
That said, some people like pans for sourdough bread, pancakes, semi-dry cooking, roasting, baking, sauteing, etc. Some people simply like the shape of the pans.
Miriam thinks food like pancakes might be fine in a cast iron skillet – the contact time with the metal is so short. It’s much more important to make a stew in clay, than pancakes on clay.
What size pot should I get – small (7 cup), medium (10 cup), large (16 cup) or extra large (24 cup)?
For a family of two, if I were to get just one pot, I would get the medium pot. It’s not much bigger than the small, but just enough so I can handle almost all of my dishes. I use my large pot for family gatherings and for cooking bean dishes. For bean dishes you only want the pot 1/2 full so the beans cook better. With other dishes filling the pot 3/4 full is a good rule. I eventually purchased an x large pot for bone broth.
The most popular set is the small, medium and large pots. With this set, you can cooking just about anything for any size crowd. The pots can nest inside each other, so they don’t take up too much storage space.
Cups & bowls
Cups and bowls are nice because they can go from the refrigerator, to stove top, and then be used for serving. Food stays fresh longer when stored in clay. Warning, clay doesn’t like sudden temperature changes – go from the refrigerator to room temp, then room temp to stove top.
When making yogurt and kefir, I prefer to make a small amount more often. I like using my clay bowl instead of my small clay pot. The clay bowl also appears to make my yogurt thick and better, I’m not sure why. Perhaps the surface area and the shape of the bowl. The lid of the small pot works pretty well for covering a bowl.
- Flat pans – useful for pancakes, flat breads, pizza, etc.
- Water storage container – see Healthy water storage
- Large 9 quart pot (36 cup)
Do I need separate pots for different food types?
Having separate pots lets the pot cook a specific type of food much faster and better each time. The pot sets itself differently depending on what is cooked in it.
In the ideal world, you would have separate pots for the following:
- Dairy – yogurt, kefir, ghee, paneer, jams and jellies
- Rice, grains, pasta
- Soups, stews, sautes
- Water storage
However, even Miriam doesn’t have pots for all of these.
It’s most important to have a separate pot for dairy.
Rice, grains, pasta, soups, stews, sautes and teas can all share the same pot. If you’re making tea right after you’ve made a spicy chili, you will want to steam clean the pot before making tea to remove the chili flavor from the pot.
You can use the above rice pot for milk containing drinks (chai tea, hot chocolate, etc.) – just add water first. Ex: For hot chocolate, Miriam mixes the powder with a little water, than adds the milk.
Can I convert a pot used for one type of food (e.g. yogurt) to another type of food (e.g. rice)?
Yes! Simply cooking the new type of food in the pot for a few cycles will gradually convert it over. If you’re in a hurry to convert it over, use the steam cleaning.
I have used my everyday pot for making clarified butter (dairy). However, I steam clean it before and after making clarified butter. Would it be best to make ghee with my yogurt pot when it’s not in use?