Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Handmade Christmas

As a farm boy, I never knew I was poor, but I knew I had lots of other things other kids didn't have. I knew I didn't get the toys they had, the nice shoes, pants, and cool Trapper Keeper for school work. I did have my own 20 gauge/ 30-30 switchable barrel, barn and school boots, coat and other necessary items. At the time all those other things like the toys and nice clothes seemed to matter.

Taking you back to the house I lived in Clarksburg PA, it was held together by staples, and had been built a long time ago very quickly and not very well. The windows would be iced up for weeks and sometimes for months during the winter. Every morning my Step Dad Bobby was off early to work, Mom soon followed him, and I was taught to get myself ready and out to the bus stop all by myself at 7 years old.

The year was 1977, it was the same winter as the big snow here in the eastern United States... Prior to moving on the farm the following spring, this was the house where I learned life's first lessons on banking off a coal fire and getting wood in, although it was just a few logs with my Step Dad, it seemed like hard work to me. 

That Christmas I got some presents that were factory made, shinny and new. That was the first year those round plastic disk sleds came out and those huge Styrofoam Airplanes.... I got one of each of those and some clothes. Materialism has been around a long time, and for kids, at least us, it was all about the numbers, how many gifts we got...

I didn't know this would be one of the best Christmases of my life, a time that I would reflect on for the rest of my life, forever. But that year, I tossed to the side the handmade wooden toys made for me by my Step Dad and Mom. I got a spaceship from the show Space 1999, carved and the landing feet were made from screws. I got a wooden truck, I smashed that thing up after months of rugged 7 y/o abuse, and a corn bag toss game. The bags were made from our old corduroy/blue jean  pants.

Perhaps things are tight and you might be considering making a couple gifts, do it... Don't worry about the shinny and new look. Because you may just be creating the best Christmas of a child's life forever.  It really isn't about the wrappers, it truly is about the love...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seasoning Your Cast Iron, The How To Facts

Like anything else, there is different ways to accomplish the same goal. Although what I am about to explain to you is the correct way, it might not be the same way you know. Also we are not going to tear this whole process apart, we are going to keep this process as simple as it was done a few hundred years ago. Like they say, if it isn't broke why fix it?

In order to clear the slate for a good conversation, let us get straight into factory seasoning. Any good quality cast iron will arrive pre-seasoned. It is ready to use out of the box, a light rinse and your ready to start using it. Over time a non-stick surface will form, which brings us to the golden rule, never, ever wash your cast iron with soap, dishwasher or scrub it with steel wool... I strip all my new (even to me second hand) cast iron down using Kosher coarse salt and a lemon cut in half. With a little elbow grease, you'll be done in no time. If you desire to keep the factory seasoning, that is fine too.

Let's get to the small affordable list of things you're gonna need prior to seasoning your cast iron. A disposable aluminum pan large enough to set your cast iron into while it is seasoning and a tub of lard. Yes, pig fat... You can use a veggie based white spreadable stuff, but stores still carry just plain old lard, which is the best thing to season with.

Pre-heat your ovn to 350 degrees, okay let me stop here and pass along a note. Some will say you have to pre-heat the cast iron prior to seasoning. That isn't true, the concept in theory is there, but I have been working with metal all my life and we are not annealing, we are seasoning. Annealing is a whole different blog post... The whole open pore concept isn't necessary for seasoning. 

Get out your Lard, open it, and just stick your hand in and grab a big ole glob of it and start to smear it on your cast iron, all over, don't miss a single spot...  Go ahead and to the lid to the Dutch Oven as well, smear it all over it too... Place on your disposable pan, place into the oven for one hour.

By this time you're wondering if it will stink, yes a little. Anytime that it gets too much, if it does, just open a window or door to vent. After an hour has passed it is time to remove the cast iron and let it cool to room temperature and repeat at least one more time, two more times is best at this point, but one more will work.

Over time, using your cast iron, and washing it only with hot water and a brush, a non-stick surface will form. Never use metal utensils unless you have to, just use a little care when using them.

From time to time you may need to season your cast iron again. I once knew a woman by the name of Nancey, she had a cast iron skillet that hadn't been washed with soap for 60 years. Her skillet made some of the best fried trout I ever ate, better than my own and Mom's.

If your looking for a great deal on a starter set of cast iron, here is a great deal!!!!