While watching a cooking show one evening I noticed that the lady was using cast iron cookware. The whole show was devoted to cooking with it. I have several pieces of the stuff, so I took note. Some of the information about its care I heard before, but some of the information was new. I also realized that the new stuff on the market was not quite the same as the type I had in my cupboard.
What I have is the old stuff that you had to season yourself. The lady addressed the seasoning process as well so the information was useful. Every once in a while you have to re-season your cast iron.
I have a large cast iron deep skillet with a glass cover that used to be my mother's. She and my stepdad always used it to cook their meat. I had kind of forgotten about it. The cooking show jogged my memory, so I hunted it up.
The lady said to only wipe out the skillet after use. As long as it was properly seasoned it should clean up just fine. If you are not comfortable doing this, you can use a mild soap solution and dry the pan thoroughly right away.
Cast iron will rust, but do not throw it away just because of the rust. If you have rust you will have to use a wire brush or scrubber to remove the rust, then, re-season the pan.
I put a whole small chicken in my cast iron skillet and cooked away. The result was a delicious tender moist bird. My grandson ate both of the legs and loved it.
There are a number of things that I use my cast iron for. I especially enjoy making pizza in it. I use the two small pans I have to make individual pizzas that accommodate fussy palettes. I use the larger ones to make pizzas the whole family will enjoy. The crust gets nice and crispy, and the toppings are perfect.
We also use cast iron when we camp. Last year for his birthday my son asked for a device to put directly over a campfire to cook. It swings the pan over the fire and then can be moved farther away to keep things warm. Cast iron works well with this. It also works on the grill that we take with us when we go down by the pond. If I had not been attending a craft show this weekend we probably could have had a picnic at the pond - it was that warm around here.
Most of my cast iron ware was made by the Griswold Co. that used to be in Erie, Pa. I suppose that was natural because we lived close to that manufacturer. I know when you are at an auction and see a Griswold pan go up for sale it sparks a lot of interest.
When I went online I found another manufacturer that has been in the business for more than 100 years. The Lodge Co. is based in Tennessee. In the 1990s the company won the Tennessee Governor's Award for Excellence in Hazardous Waste Reduction when they changed from coal-fired furnaces to an electro-magnetic induction melting system.
In 2002 they introduced their pre-seasoned line of cast iron cookware. Most of the cast iron cookware that you purchase today is pre-seasoned. The Lodge Company history indicated that they anticipate an expansion to keep up with the demand for cast iron cookware. The popularity of the cooking shows these days is fueling this expansion. It is good to know that there is some economic upturn during this bleak time.
If you want to see the range of products that are available today you just need to go to the Lodge website. It is filled with products as well as recipes for cooking indoors and outdoors. I was amazed.
Another site to check out is the one for Lehman's hardware. I have been to this huge non-electric hardware that is located in the heart of Ohio Amish country. I always find some unique items when I go there. They, too, have undergone an expansion project to keep up with the demand for all of the non-electric supplies. If you are planning a trip to that area a stop at Lehman's is a must. Leave yourself plenty of time to look around.
I think back to pioneer days. It seems that there were cast iron pots back then, too. I really did not find an exact date for the invention of the cast iron cookware. I remember seeing pots over the fire when we visited Williamsburg. I know that they try to keep everything correct as far as the historical period.
Kudos to the companies that are still making the cast iron cookware. It is good to know that a product that had its origins more than 100 years ago can compete in the current marketplace. This segment of American manufacturing seems to be alive and well.
If you have never tried cooking with cast iron, give it a try. The pans get very hot in a short amount of time, and they retain their heat. It really is a treat to cook with cast iron.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.