Soapstone cookware or Kalchatti( in Tamil) or Raati Chatti(in Telugu) literally means stone pot. Made with a soft rock, these cookware have been in use for at least a 100 years. Making, seasoning and using a Kalchatti is an art by itself. First these stones are cut out of huge rock formations in the eastern ghats. Not every rock can be cut and used for making this cookware. Only a trained eye can choose the correct rock parts. If the wrong rock is chosen, it will break or develop cracks in all likelihood. There were many villages full of artisans breaking and carving these stone cookware to be sold throughout the southern states. But now only a handful of families remain who hand down this knowledge and craft from generation to generation.
Once the rocks are chosen, they are manually carved out of the larger mother rocks. Then these are broken into smaller sized rocks. These smaller rocks are carried on cycles to the respective homes of the artisans who hand sculpt it into different shapes and sizes. Once cookware is completely sculpted and ready, they go through a process of seasoning.
As already mentioned in the previous post, seasoning is the process of making cookware usable in a fire. Oil, turmeric powder, rice starch water are the main ingredients in the process of seasoning of soapstone ware. A completed cook pot is first cleaned thoroughly to remove any dust or small stones sticking to it. Then a mixture of cold processed castor oil and turmeric powder is applied all over the pot. Then the pots are left in sunlight to help in absorption of the mixture. Slow heating in the sun helps in this process. Then the cookpots are applied with the same mixture every morning and left in the hot sun to soak and absorb. This process continues for about 15 days.
Once this process is over, all the pots are washed clean to remove any turmeric powder sticking to it. Then rice water is filled in each of the pots and left in the sun. Everyday new rice water is filled and left to soak in the sun. This continues for 5 days. After which we have a fully seasoned, ready to use soapstone cookware.
For Soapstone Dosa kal and Paniyaram kal, the rice water processing is done for 2 to 3 days only.
To shop for soapstone cookware: