We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Monday, June 25. 2007
With the interest in old time traditional cast iron cookware on our piece on A Darn Good Steak, (in which I learned that lots of folks prefer fried to grilled steak), here's a little cast iron cookware info.
Lodge is a good source, and you can buy directly from them. I like the assist handle and the pouring lip. Here's their advice for care and feeding of iron. I think two sizes of skillets ought to do it.
Here's another source of cast iron cookware care.
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Cast iron cookware is a great way to prepare foods of all types.
Sons don't generally gravitate to cooking skills even though most all of the great chefs are men. My mother wrote a cookbook on Southern Cooking one year, had it self published and gave it out to all the MAG (Marine Air Group) wives. That entailed about 200 women..they loved it and I treasure the copy I have.
She could make the best cornbread in the world and before she passed away she asked my sister and I what each of us wanted. At the top of my list was a locket she wore as a very young girl and second was the big skillet in which she baked the cornbread.
I feel her spirit most joyously whenever I make her cornbread in that skillet, and I feel blessed. It is a treasure.
That skillet should be good for at least one more generation.
Habu: Please send your mom's recipe for corn bread.
With regard to a pan. The French cast iron (Le Creuset, or Staub), with a ceramic interior (easy to clean, and who needs the taste of last week's fish with tonight's fried potatoes) is my personal choice--yes, more expensive, but all of the positives and none of the negatiives, plus you get to choose your favorite color--pick black if it will make you feel better. At least you get to wash the dang thing with soap, and rinse with water.
My Mother's Southern Cornbread
3/4 Cup yellow corn meal...stone ground if possible
1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp .baking soda (do not use if using buttermilk)
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 C bacon grease or salad oil.
Sweet milk or buttermilk until thick pouring consistency.
Bake at 350 degrees > 35 minutes
Obviously best if you use bacon grease and buttermilk. And super if you can order some stone ground cornmeal.
I love your story, Habu. Beautifully shared.
Have to agree with you about the washing thing. I use T-Fal, but I will look for that pan you described. Besides, the upper-arm exercise would do me good. :]
Happens I just rescued four badly mistreated fry pans (don't have to say "cast iron", what else would they be?)---2 of them I thought beyond hope.
Used "Bar Keepers Friend" and a copper scrubber to remove all the rust.
Sprayed them with "Crisco" canola oil (I've been using olive oil for the last several years).
Wiped smooth (not "dry) with a folded paper towel.
Upside down in a 400 degree (F) oven "for a while" -- couple of hours, probably.
Spray, wipe, repeat several times.
Turn off oven and let cool.
The canola oil really does a pretty job, way prettier than olive. And I can't tell which of the four I thought were hopeless.
Corn bread my way:
1/4 of 1/4 lb butter in each of two skillet pans.
Pans to 400 degree oven until butter melted and pans hot.
2 1/3 cups cornmeal 
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
stir vigorously (get some air into it)
In another dish,
2 eggs, beaten well
2 cups butter milk 
1 TBLSP vinegar (I like red wine vinegar)
stir egg and milk mixture into the dry stuff, mixing well.
Swirl the butter in the pans to coat the sides.
While stirring the batter vigorously, added the melted butter to the batter.
Pour the batter into the pans, in equal amounts.
"Bump" the pans on the counter (I rock them back and forth by the handles) to level the batter.
Bake at 400 degrees until the surface is lightly brown and a toothpick to the center comes out clean (about 20 minutes, depending on oven).
 I mix a half a bag of good corn meal (Hodgkins Mill is the brand I usually use) and 1 bag each of Red's Mill coarse and Red's Mill medium cornmeal--closest I can get to home-ground meal.
 Or use a cup of whole milk and a cup of sour cream.
And I wash my pans in hot soapy water, rinse hot, wipe dry immediately, air dry after that for a couple of hours.
Rarely get any carry-over flavors from one meal to the next.
You are welcome.
Note that that will be "corn bread" not "corn cake". No flour, no sugar, (and parenthetically, no salt).
Many thanks. Good advice. I say that because canola oil and a method close to yours has worked for us too.
And despite the fact that she is making some kind of Chinese pork and onion thing tonight, that cornbread recipe is making me salivate. Maybe I will try that one tomorrow.
Must've been tough on the wives, with so many of the fliers disappearing out in those endless stretches of Pacific Ocean.
Yeah. My Dad, who was a P38 crew chief in WWII, told me some stories about that sort of thing. It was tough.
Of course, and a slight change of subject, those were his planes. He just let the pilots borrow them.
I also advise not to buy pre-seasoned skillets. Season them yourself, you will do a better job.
It must be said also, that if your better half chooses to bean you with a frying pan a la Dagwood Bumpstead, it is much better for your sake if she achieves a good clean KO. That is why we have Lodges at our house.
And one more addition: I use two omlette pans because several of the folks that the smell attracts like the crust this method makes. A single 10-inch pan would probably work. I must have done it that way in the past, that is the way my Mother cooked baked.
Sweet story, Habu. I have a Dutch oven from my grandmother, that I make her beef stew and Pot Roast in, and kids know it's a holy relic....God help the person who leaves it to soak and lets it rust!!
On cast iron, old Griswold pans like my grandmother's are the very best. The bases are absolutely flat, and surfaces smooth, and iron best quality, without ridges, bumps, rough patches... They don't sell them anywhere any more, but if you look carefully, they show up at some thrift shops occasionally. Also tag sales when some old lady dies and the relatives just want to empty and flip the house... I have a gorgeous skillet I got at our thrift shop twenty years ago for a dollar, so smooth polished and seasoned that nothing sticks ever and it doesn't rust. The modern Lodge pans are not as well made as they used to be, but they are amazingly cheap and the ready seasoned ones are good for a lazy person.. I just got another Dutch oven, skillet and camp oven for our place away that has constant power cuts (husband too terrified of propane explosions and fire twenty miles from the fire department for us to use gas, so it's either electric or our plentiful wood for cooking).
Some cast iron (maybe all now?) is made in China now....nuff said....
Like Apple Pie, I prefer Le Creuset for everyday cooking. Most of it is still made in France, avoid the items made in China. Avoid also the cheap enamelled cast iron knock offs brought out by many recent lines. They sell them in stores like TJMaxx, Marshalls, Kohls, etc. or on line. There have been accounts of the glaze sometimes having lead in it in pans from China. It's probably rare, but why take a chance?
Lodge has just brought out an enamelled cast iron line and I will try it if I can be sure it is not Chinese. Yes, I am paranoid about anything I feed my family or my animals......
The Le Creuset is pricey, but easy to clean (if anything burns, soak it it in a paste of baking soda and water and scrub), gorgeous rich colours, you can cook, store and serve in the same dish so less dishwashing! Doesn't react with acid foods or make rust stains on the table or counter like regular cast iron. The trick is to assemble a set of it one piece at a time, depending on what Le Creuset is discounting thru Amazon or kitchen.com at any given time. Also, you can usually find a starter set of 9 inch skillet, 1 1/2 quart saucepan, and 3 1/2 qt French oven for a reasonable price via Amazon or some of the way cheap cookware sources....
BUT: regular cast iron is what I cook on all summer on the grill (non airconditioned house and the kitchen hits 110 if you so much as make a pot of tea). If you leave it out in the rain (when you set it down for doggie to lick the greasy scraps) or it warps on the grill, you can deal...
Plus, I cooked in cast iron all the years I was pregnant and nursing and it gives you all the iron you need to avoid anemia...or was it scarfing all that blackened pan-fried steak????
Cast iron is awful if you have arthritis. One year I almost threw out all mine when I got a freak kiddie ailment, Fifths' Disease, that barely slowed the brats down for a few days, but gave me crippling arthritis for nearly a year, aged 35. Couldn't lift the heavy pans and felt as if I was 92 or 3. It went away after much jumbo and moral support from the kids' old fashioned pediatrician who knew that taking care of the mother makes for healthier kids, and who had seen several moms get the same thing so diagnosed me when my own doctor thought I was just a head case....
"Mom, enough already with the cast iron!" nosy middle child is reading this and whacking me...I guess we all have our particular obsessions...some people collect guns, and I collect cookware....
If I'm still well enough to be in front of a stove, I'll find a way to get the cast iron moved around--sliding on cutting borads or something.
The cast iron will be here when I'm gone.
Great stories Habu and retriever (especially the nosy kid, an unintentional reminder that this is a family blog, at least a good reminder for me). And based on the number of comments per minute, maybe Maggie's should do many more cooking posts :-) Obviously agree re cast iron, but I could bore all with tales of my granny and her wood stove and her biscuits. Yum.
A little old neighbor lady out here, just passed on a couple years ago, was still cooking on a wood stove. She'd have us over occasionally, and that stove was a sight. I guess it's still over there in the house.
I'm with Luther. In a crazy mixed up world we few, we cast iron few, talk as if we were in the kitchen or around a campfire swapping stories that we could swap with kids sitting on our knees. No stress. Just a simple skillet and our lives and dreams, hopes and reveries come back to embrace us as neighbors and friends. Darn nice.
Not so long ago, say, a trifling 5 or 10 generations, our every waking moment would've been spent quietly, desperately, seeing to getting a next meal. Our cells remember that when we regard a skillet.
"1/2 tsp .baking soda (do not use if using buttermilk)"
Uh, I think you have that backwards. Our restaurant back in the 80s participated in a steak contest with seven or eight others to see what method was preferred. Sauteeing came out dead last. Pan broiling (not the same as frying) and flame grilled tied for first. To pan broil, put a heavy (cast iron is best) pan over high heat, and let it get extremely hot. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with salt -- add no fat or oil -- turn the fan on high and throw in the steak. It takes about half the time to cook as grilling or broiling. Gives a nice crust. Use no fat.
That's a 'seared' steak, in local parlance. Blackened crust on the outside, and the inside, a good vet could get it walking again.
Airplanes, it's neat that there are threee sons on this thread whose dads ran three of the top iconic warbirds of all time, the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning (flying art-deco masterpiece), and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
oops, that's me--I wuz Image Realism on anothr thread, where someone was firing a clip in the Olde West.
Sodium bicarbonate is alkaline. It works as a leavening agent by releasing CO2 when combined with an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk (add baking soda to buttermilk and watch it foam). Use baking soda with buttermilk. It's a waste with sweet milk.