The Tale of a Rusty Dutch Oven. Also Gluten Free Apple Dump Cake Recipe.

A while back, my hubs came upon an amazing dutch oven from the 1800s.  It was rusting away in a little antique shop and was begging to be rescued.  So, being super sweet, he brought it home to me.

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This number 12 Camp Stove from the 1800s needed lots of love.

I promptly put it in lye bath. Then, after a time, I let it soak for an hour or so in a vinegar bath, scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the rust off, and then finally got to start building life back into it with flax seed seasoning. After much work, the dutch oven that once was a rusting hunk of forgotten iron, emerged a newly revitalized piece ready for another 100 years of use.

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Here’s the 100+ year old dutch oven ready to get cookin’!

All that was left was to learn how to use it.  After a lot of reading, I finally settled on this recipe: http://jillcataldo.com/dutch_oven_apple_dump_cake/ for its maiden voyage.  It was easy to pull together and I could just focus on the dutch oven. Being gluten free, we had to make a few adjustments, but I was so excited with how it turned out.

First, the basics of dutch oven cooking are as thus.  Most people use charcoal to cook with these. Some coals go on top and some go underneath. That is why there is a flat top and feet.  You put fewer coals on the bottom because heat rises.

There are bunches of diagrams of how to figure out how many coals to put on and under your camp oven, but here’s what I did.  For approximately 350 degrees, I took the diameter of my camp oven  (12) and take 3 away (12-3=9). This is how many coals to put under the stove.  Add 3 to the diameter to figure out how many go on top (12+3=15).  Armed with this knowledge, I got charcoal and got going.

I dug a chimney charcoal starter from the recesses of the garage to light my coal. To get this going, pour the coal in the top, put paper underneath the chimney and light it.  Eventually the paper will light the charcoal and white billowy smoke will resound.  Also, take note of the scrap piece of metal also scavenged from the garage.  This protects the ground and reflects the heat upward.  I put the camp stove on this as well.IMG_0956

Eventually the white smoke turns clear. That means that the charcoal is ready to use.  While I was waiting, I whipped up my Gluten Free Apple Dump Cake.

I had to be careful and search for apples in a can that did not have gluten.  Be particular.

Ingredients:

1 box of Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix

2 cans of apples (be careful to find gluten free–read well!)

2 cans of lemon lime soda.

Aluminum foil

Directions:

  1. In a fairly large bowl, dump in the cake mix and carefully mix the soda.  It will bubble like crazy. I found it somewhat challenging to make sure it mixed well.IMG_0959.JPG
  2. Line the dutch oven with aluminum foil to make sure that clean up is as effortless as possible.  Spread both of the cans of apples in the bottom of the dutch oven.IMG_0960.JPG
  3. Dump the cake mixture on top of the apples. Cover, and wait for that clear smoke.IMG_0961

Once the smoke is clear, its time to get cooking.  I grabbed the welding gloves that I use to handle hot cast iron and the extra long tongs that we use on the grill.  Using the very long tongs, I picked up individual coals and put 9 underneath the stove and 15 on the top, taking care to space them evenly.IMG_0969.JPG

Then came time to wait.  I waited about 30 minutes and checked.  This is a lid grabber.  It was super nice to be able to lift the lid and keep it level. IMG_0973.JPGAfter about 40 minutes, it was done!  This was definitely super good and an easy, fun intro to my new, very old dutch oven.  I can’t wait to try something else!

Wanna try something like this for yourself? Hop on over to my shop for tons of cast iron goodies or fun vintage items: https://www.etsy.com/shop/yesteryearfortodayIMG_0974.JPG

 

How to Clean Cast Iron

I was in an old junk store the other day looking at their selection of cast iron.  As I closely examined each piece, the 5 or 6 old timers who were just hanging around and talking of days past began to take notice.  Immediately I began to get advise as to how to clean cast iron.  “Throw it in the fire.” “Use a grinding wheel.” “Use the self clean cycle of the oven.” (for the record, let me just say, “No!”. Antique cast iron can be sensitive to high heat.)

Then came the ideas for seasoning. “Use lard.” “Use crisco.” “Use olive oil.” They each knew the “best” way to take care of cast iron.  While I am not here to give the definitive “way” to clean and take care of your cast iron, I thought I would take a few minutes to share how I take care of mine.

First, we need a messy pan to clean.  This one was a 2 day old mess left from a very delicious blueberry pie my daughter made.  Its a Birmingham Stove and Range No. 7 from the 1940s or 1950s. Want one like it? There’s probably one like it up for adoption in my Etsy Shop.

Super stuck on and baked on pie remains.

Super stuck on and baked on pie remains.

An upclose and personal view of our cast iron tragedy

An upclose and personal view of our cast iron tragedy

First let me say, when it comes to cast iron, always say “No” to soap.  Soap’s job is to attach to grease and carry it away.  Seasoning, in it most basic form, is grease.  So, soap kills your layer of seasoning and seasoning is what makes your skillet so naturally nonstick.  Before you click away in disgust, consider this.  According to Lodge’s website, a pan heated at medium high heat for 4 minutes gets up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Something only needs to be 212 degrees Fahrenheit to be sterile.  So, because of the high heat of cast iron, soap is not necessary.

So, now we need to figure out how to get rid of all that junk without compromising our hard-earned seasoning layers. Here’s what I do:

  1.  Just add water.

I add water to the pan (usually about halfway full), put it back on the eye of my stove, and bring it to boiling.  I usually start this process while I am tidying up the rest of the kitchen.

Fill the skillet about halfway full of water.

Fill the skillet about halfway full of water.

Let the water get to heavy, rolling boil.

Let the water get to heavy, rolling boil.

2.  Pour and wipe.

This is where things get a bit interesting.  Turn off the the stove. Using a pot holder (cast iron handles get very hot–remember, sanitized), grab the pan, pour the water and most of the mess into the sink.  Very, very, very carefully, using utmost care, use a paper towel and wipe out the rest of the mess. (It is best to do this while the pan is still hot, just BE CAREFUL, I have suffered many burns from a lack of care here)

Wipe up the rest of the junk.

Wipe up the rest of the junk.

3. Bring on the oil.

Start adding back in the oil.  Notice how dry my pan looks here. Since it is so hot, it drys out almost immediately. Put a small amount of your favorite kitchen oil on the surface of your pan.  (For this purpose the type of oil is not that important. Later, when we talk about reseasoning, we can talk about types of oils and which works best)

Put a small amount of edible oil in the bottom of the pan.

Put a small amount of edible oil in the bottom of the pan.

4. Spread the love.

Use a soft cloth or paper towel, spread the oil all over the pan–top and bottom. (Again, use care.  The pan is hot!).  The pan should just barely look wet, slightly shiny, and definitely not be dripping.  The dry pan will continue to absorb the oil until it is dry to the touch.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel, or cloth until it is just shiny

Wipe the pan with a paper towel, or cloth until it is just shiny

5.  All done!  Store your cast iron skillet with a paper towel in it to keep moisture away from it.

All done! Nice and clean!

All done! Nice and clean!

 

Wait!  Still have trouble?  Have the ultimate stuck on mess?  Think you have ruined your skillet? I will post about that next time.

Why Cast Iron?

Cast iron is heavy, finicky, and old and I am *completely* enamored by it.  At any time I am surrounded by 20-50 pieces of it. Check out my Etsy shop to find my cast iron friends that are up for adoption right now.  Now that I have called my cast iron “friends” and completely cemented my spot in the weirdo zone, the question is, “Why?”

I found myself asking this very question as I stared at a wall of hanging cast iron pieces and continued to consider it as I scrubbed the rust off of a poor, almost forgotten skillet.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Practicality. I won’t ruin it.
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A early 1900’s pot as found in a barn. It was hiding 3 horseshoes and 2 cowbells inside!

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The same pot after careful restoration.

Most of the pieces in my collection have been lost in barns, covered in rust and who knows what else, and have been restored into completely beautiful and amazingly uses tools in my kitchen.

If I leave tonight’s pot roast mess in my favorite pot for a week, I still haven’t ruined it.  If my kids steal it and use the same pot to carry toy cars around their play ground, they most likely won’t ruin it.  Even if they leave it outside in a week long rain storm, it still probably won’t be ruined.  Rust can be removed; the surface can be cleaned. Not that I would ever try any of these things (ok, maybe I have been guilty of the pot roast thing), but compare that to modern pots and pans that you buy at the big box stores.  They won’t last.  They will not survive my family.  Cast iron can survive me. It can survive my kids.

2.  History.

There is nothing like knowing that the pan I am frying eggs in, my grandmother also used to make breakfast for my grandfather.  When my great grandmother passed away, I stoodmamaws floor.jpeg in her farmhouse kitchen staring at the worn floor. At that very spot, her feet had so often stood to prepare food for her family and anyone else who needed it.  I just stood there and stared and soaked in the memory of her. In that moment in my mind, her passion in serving her people was completely wrapped up in that worn floor and her hours of service to all around her. Using grandma’s cast iron is joining in and celebrating her in her passionate service.

Each piece has a story and a history.  Some skillets that are still useful have prepared flap jacks for pioneers who crossed our great nation.  Others have fed the dozen’s of farmer’s kids.  Thanksgivings. Christmases. Birthdays.  Many of our fondest memories are made around the table.  Using cast iron seems to be joining in its history.

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My daughter proud of her cast iron chicken pot pie. Made in a BSR #7 from the 1940s.

One day, I hope to pass cast iron pieces down to my kids and maybe, just maybe they’ll love joining in the history as well.

Being okay with Dropped Plates

Being okay with Dropped Plates

Sometimes I describe my life as a plate spinner.  Like most moms, even stay at home moms, I run from child to child, side job to side job, event to event, household chore to chore, hoping that nothing falls and breaks–nothing fails.  Needless, to say, something always falls.  I can never be the perfect person that has the clean house, the perfect family, the perfect jobs.  I will never be the perfect Suzy Homemaker.  Instead, I am learning to give those expectations to God and live each day giving my time to Him first and making each category of my life an intentional act of worship–fail or succeed.  I want my heart to be right first. You see, trusting in God and giving all to Him isnt another plate to keep spinning, it is the fuel to keep trying to keep them up.

It is my sincere prayer that this blog will be a place to remind myself (and maybe a few others) to live each day with intentionality to worship Christ in every dish I wash, every parenting moment, every meal cooked, every lesson I teach at church, every detail of my Etsy shop. Along the way, maybe I can find and share some tips to keep the plates spinning a bit longer and keep my focus on Christ in the mean time.