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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cast Iron....

As I was pondering the other day, about the topics I would discuss at a recent demonstration, I thought about all the things my mother used to cook in her cast iron. Coming from a family where my mothers health did not allow her to work outside the home, we survived on my dad's income, that of a construction worker. (I'll date myself here.) In the 70's and 80's the wages for a construction worker were certainly not what they are today. Needless to say we ate fresh produce grown in my grandparents garden, and a lot of that was canned. I loved the summertime and going to grandma's to pick raspberries, currents, rhubarb, peas, carrots, corn on the cob, beans.... the list could go on. In addition to the fresh veggies we had quite a bit of hamburger because it was an inexpensive cut of meat. Mom was always looking for ways to stretch the budget.

 I remember an awful lot of hamburgers, fried potatoes, and eggs, being fried in her cast iron skillet. Mom's Dutch Oven's were always used for chili, soups, the occasional roasts, she always used them when she was canning, jams, jelly, and juice. I even remember at Christmas time Mom would always use her skillet to make candy, to this day I cannot make English Toffee without my Cast Iron skillet and the smells remind me of home.

With all the great food Mom made in her CI - It was always my job to clean up the dishes. At the demonstrations we talk about how to care for your Cast Iron, a lot of the food Mom made was quite greasy, and I used to hate cleaning the pans, they were always saved for last (mind you this was before dishwashers) I would empty the sink and put the pan in and fill it with hot water and I would grab the bottle of dish soap and dump a ton of soap in the pan to scrub it clean. I was always told not to put it in the dish drainer because it would rust so I would put it on the stove and turn the stove on, I loved to watch the water dance and evaporate. Mom never had me oil her pan, but because it was used for nearly every meal it had a nice sheen to it.

Lots of people may be gasping to hear that I use soap in my Cast Iron, I have heard so may ways over the years of how people clean their ovens, in all honesty there is no wrong or right way, as long as it is clean and when you cook the next dish and it doesn't taste like the last, you're doing good. Seasoning, well that is a personal preference also, I know people who use commercial conditioners - like Camp Chef's Cast Iron Conditioner, to those who swear by Flax seed oil, I have my preference, and it is based on where the pan is stored and how often it is used. I like Olive oil for my skillets, because they are stored indoors and used frequently, I use canola or corn oil for my Dutch Ovens that I store out in my garage, because they can sit outdoors for months, and I use the Conditioner for  my ovens that I store in the house.  Now for the reasoning.... Olive oil when exposed to colder temperatures will solidify, and it is nasty to try and clean up. Canola or Corn Oil is a pretty forgiving oil and can handle both cold and hot temperatures (I live in Utah and in the Winter it can get down into the single digits and sometimes below 0F and in the summer we can reach well over 100F) and with storing ovens outdoors it helps to have an oil that is forgiving. Conditioner - why treat my skillets and indoor ovens differently? Well I don't use my ovens daily like my skillets and if I were to use Olive oil in them and they sat for a long period of time the oil would go rancid, and make my house smell funky... No thank you. the Conditioner works nicely and well because with the competions I have won, it is usually a prize and I'd hate to see it go to waste.

Sorry there is no recipe attached to this, I will have to pull out Mom's English Toffee and share it with y'all one of these days.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Please feel free to post your comments. Like I said everyone does things differently and, well, sometimes we learn from others ideas.

But mostly - Have fun cookin' It's what memories are made from.

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