Antique Stone Cooking Pots

Stone Cooking Pots Arranged in a Group
These beautiful stone cooking pots will be the pride of any kitchen and are antique collectors’ delight. They are hand-carved out of a single block of soft stone, known as soapstone. These soap stone pots are mostly used in southern states of India like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. They are called Ratichippa in Telugu language (rati-stone, chippa- cooking pot) and “Kalchatti” in Tamil language (kal-stone, chatti-cooking pot).

Stone Cooking Pots Arranged According to Size
I have grown up with Ratichippa culture. My mother used to prepare in the stone pot shown in this picture (picture-3) food items like Mukkala Pulusu (vegetables cooked in tamarind juice with seasoning) and majjiga pulusu (a preparation with butter milk with or without vegetables) and pappu pulusu (lentils cooked in tamarind juice). My wife continues the tradition and every Sunday we have a special meal with traditional Andhra dishes and the Mukkala pulusu is invariably cooked in the same Ratichippa. Whenever we get important visitors to our home or in family gatherings during festivals, we prepare the traditional dishes in this stone pot and bring the same pot to the dining table for serving. This stone pot has been present in our family since three generations and we treat this pot as one of our family members with great care, love and attachment.
Stone cooking pot from YK’s family
Stone Cooking Pot (Rathi-Chippa) from YK’s Family Collection
My wife Ramana always tells me that her paternal grandmother used to cook daily all items of food like curries, pulusus, sambar, rasam etc in Ratichippa only with the exception of rice for which she used to use a separate brass vessel and they used to taste heavenly. The secret why the food cooked in the stone pots taste so heavenly is that they are chemically inert and hence do not alter or change the natural flavors of the ingredients and retain the original aroma and taste of the food. Also in stone pots the food is cooked uniformly and evenly.

Stone cooking Pot (Rathi-Chippa) from YK’s family Collection With Mukkala Pulusu
This Ratichippa gets naturally darkened with seasoning and aging due to continuous use. My mother used to apply a paste made out of ashes or fine clay soil around the lower part of the Ratichippa before putting it on the fire. She used to do entire cooking using firewood for fire and subsequently shifted to charcoal. This is to prevent smoke settling on the stone surface and to make the cleaning easy. With washing of ash or clay the smoke settled on the surface also goes away thus protecting the stone surface from the pressure of rubbing and scrubbing. This is how the stone pot has been preserved for three generations.This pot is 9 cm high and 17 cm in diameter at the mouth opening.

 

Stone cooking pot from Mr.Ramanathan
The second pot (shown in the picture-4) is larger in size, measuring 18 cm in height and 19 cm in diameter. It has light gray colour since it is not used much. Soap stones are in light gray colour when they are new and they acquire darker shade, almost black, with age and seasoning.

Stone Cooking Pot (Kalachatti) from Mr.Ramanathan
There is an interesting story as to how I acquired this marvelous stone pot. I was shifted to Mumbai by my company in the year 1989 and they gave me a company-leased flat belonging to one Mr. Ramanathan. Mr.Ramanathan shifted to his own new flat. When we inspected our flat, it was clean but on the loft there was this stone pot sitting alone. Immediately we rang up Ramanathan and informed him about the stone pot which they call kalchetti in their language Tamil. He told us they did not want to take this old kalchetti to their new house since they wanted only glittering new items there and told us that the kalchetti can be there in the loft.

Stone Cooking Pot (Kalchatti) from Mr. Ramanathan – Top View
After three years of stay in that flat we shifted to another flat and again rang up Ramanathan and told him to take care of his stone vessel. He told us that they were not interested in the old item and if we wished we can take it. This was a pleasant surprise for me and I grabbed this cute beauty. Subsequently I asked him as to how he got the stone pot, he told me that his mother-in-law was very fond of stone pot cooking and she purchased this piece from Tanjavur city, a great cultural centre in Tamil Nadu state. I think this pot was not used ever since they purchased it. We have also not used this pot since we want to keep a sample of an unused pot. This must be around 35 years old but unused.

Stone cooking pot gifted by mr.Prasad
The third pot (shown in picture-5) measures 13 cm in height and 18 cm in diameter. It is dark in color indicating it has been used for a long time and is quite old. Even the wall of this stone pot is thin indicating that it took a lot of rubbing by way of cleaning. Here again we have an interesting story as to how we got this wonderful stone cooking pot.
Stone Cooking Pot Gifted by Mr. Prasad
My wife Ramana does social service for needy people. She did some help for one couple, the husband’s name is Prasad and his wife’s name is Ratnam. They used to come to our house whenever they needed some service and watch our antique collection. One day they saw our stone cooking pot collection and they told us they also have two pieces of old stone pots. Since they were not using, they kept them in the attic (loft) with other junk and soon they will locate them for us. One fine morning, Mr. Prasad came home with these two beauties and declared that they should be added to our collection as a gift from him. On enquiry, they told us they did not purchase these items, but they were given to them by their parents and have been present in their family for three generations. This must be around 60 to 70 years old.
Stone cooking pot gifted by mr.Prasad 
The 4th pot ( shown in picture-6) measures 7 cm. in height and 13 cm. in diameter. The story here is same as the story of pot 3 since they came from the same source and at the same time.
Stone Cooking Pot Gifted by Mr. Prasad
This pot is smaller in size but from the appearance we can make out that it is used very extensively.
Stone cooking pot from Puri  This pot (shown in picture 9) measures 4.d cm. in height and 9 cm. in diameter. This is a relatively new stone pot which we acquired near Lord Jagannath temple during our trip to Puri, a temple town in the state of Odisha, India.
Stone Cooking Pot from Puri (Jagannath Temple)
This small pot is ideally suited to serve pickles or chutneys on the table. It is an age-old wisdom that any food item preserved in the stone pot will not perish even for months. The stone pots of larger size are used for storing pickles to serve for one year for the entire family and they remain fresh throughout the year.
Stone Cooking Pot from Puri (Jagannath Temple) – With Mango Prickle
Stone Cooking Pot from Puri (Jagannath Temple) – With Coconut Chutney

Seasoning of the stone cooking pots

The soap stone cooking pots are soft, fragile and porous. They have to be seasoned before you put them on fire for cooking. If you put them on fire without seasoning they may break or crack. For seasoning keep the salt water in it for a few hours and then wash the entire pot with the same water. Subsequently pour and store to the full some starchy water like the water you get after washing the rice or the starchy water you get when you drain the excess water after the rice is cooked. This starchy water is called Kanji. Subsequently wash the entire pot with the same starchy water.
New Stone Cooking Pot to be Seasoned
Repeat this process for six or seven days. Now the new stone pot is ready to be kept on the fire for cooking purpose. Once the pot is seasoned and the pores of the stone get sealed and the surface gets less absorbent and denser. Also the colour of the stone pot turns darker.
How to handle stone pot:


By nature the soap stone pots are gentle and fragile and hence have to be handled with care. Do not handle them by the rim of the pot. Always hold them with both hands and have a grip with the fingers around the body of the pot.

Picture Showing how to Carry Stone Cooking Pot
The pot will be hot for many hours after cooking. If you want to take the hot pot to the dining table, place the pot on a strong plate (preferably wood or brass) and carry by holding the plate. Keep the pot along with the plate on the dining table for serving purpose.

Picture Showing how to Carry Hot Stone Cooking pot
Important points on stone pot cooking
Soap stone take a longer time to get heated and in the same way it also takes longer to get cooler. Since the stone retains the heat you should know that the food will continue to get cooked even after you remove the pot from the heat source. There is a chance of the food getting over-cooked. So, you should properly manage the cooking time and stop the heat source in time giving allowance for the off-the-fire cooking time.

Soap stone pots serve the purpose of cooking the food as a serving dish. The food will be hot on the table for a long time. Stone vessels can withstand temperatures up to 1,000 F and can be safely used also for oven cooking.

Do not keep an empty stone vessel on the fire. Always keep something in the pot and then only keep it on the fire. There is always a chance of their breaking if you expose them to dry heat.



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Anonymous says:

Mamayyagaru Nice informative blog. will be waiting for the next post. Vani

ykMurthy says:

Vani.good to know you liked the blog.This is my humble attempt to preserve and spread our cultural heritage.YK