| 5/31/2017 10:28:00 AM

Country MoonWhen people think of cast-iron cookware, it usually brings to mind savory beans, stews, and other foods cooked over an open campfire. There is no doubt that any food cooked outside over the fire tastes so much better. Part of that is due to the fresh air and part is due to being cooked in cast iron. Many folks forget that cast iron can be used in modern kitchens as well.

Cast-iron cookware is made by hand pouring iron into sand molds that have been carefully formed. Although this process has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years, the vintage cast iron is definitely of higher quality than the more modern. In the old days, the cookware was polished until the pebbly surface was satiny smooth. By the 1950s, production was scaled up and streamlined so much so that the final polishing step was dropped from the process. Thus, modern cast iron has a bumpy, pebbly surface, which makes the vintage so much better.

Of all the brands, Griswold and Wagner are considered the gold standards. If you are lucky enough to find one of these brands at a flea market or garage sale, you have the best of both worlds since you can use it and still have it retain its value. Since this was the cookware of choice in olden days, many times cast iron pots, skillets, and other pans are found in old barns, garages, etc. Most of these finds are rusted and look as though they would be worthless. Far from it, they only need cleaned up and seasoned.

First, all rust and old food residue must be removed. There are various ways to accomplish this, depending on the severity. Many times scouring it with steel wool will do the trick. If this doesn’t seem to be removing it, heating may help loosen the residue. This can be done by putting the piece in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for an hour or putting it on a gas grill and “cooking” it for an hour. An added benefit of this method is that it also sanitizes the pan.

We were lucky enough to find an old Griswold skillet in our barn that really needed some tender loving care. After “firing” it in the gas grill and rubbing it with steel wool, it still needed some help. We put a solution of half vinegar and half water in the sink and soaked it, which loosened the rest of the grime. Then we poured table salt on it and rubbed some more with steel wool. That really did the trick and got it back to the iron.

After you get to this point, it is so important that you season the cookware with layers of oil. To  do this, make sure the pan is dry then put it over heat until it just begins to smoke. Then pour a thin layer of vegetable oil (or oil of your choice) in and rub it over all the surfaces, even the outside. Let it cool and repeat this process a few times. Doing this will create a nonstick surface.

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