Wednesday, July 6, 2022

SEASONED SOUTHERN STYLE: Remedy For Sticky Cast Iron


I have overheard so many complaints while shopping antique malls about cast iron skillets that have become sticky to the touch. . .and sometimes causing a sharp taste to foods cooked in them. . .So I decided to give you a simple remedy that will take less than 15 minutes. . .I can't take full credit for it. . .The Open Hearth Cook. . .Mercy Ingraham. . .who lives in Pennsylvania. . .taught me a thing or two about cast iron on one of her visits to the farm. . .

The secret to a well-seasoned non-sticky pan is low heat before wiping with bacon grease. Here's how:

First wash the skillet in hot soapy water, rinse, and dry to remove the rancid oil.

Place skillet on the stove burner closest to the size of the pan.

Turn the burner on a low setting and allow the skillet to heat up. You should be able to lightly touch it without burning a finger. 

Take a soft rag or paper towel and wipe the inside with a light coating of bacon grease.

Turn off the burner.

Leave the pan on the burner until it is cool. 

Once cool, take another soft rag or paper towel and wipe excess grease.

If you need to season the entire pan, these steps can be followed using the oven. (Be sure to place it on a cookie sheet so the grease doesn't drip on the stove.)

That's it! That's all you need to do. . .The heat opens up the pores of the cast iron and allows the seasoning to go deep into it. . .It will continue soaking up the good stuff as it cools and the grease will not just sit on top, making the pan sticky. . .

Once I have a skillet or pan well-seasoned, I only rinse with hot tap water after every use, then follow the same steps on top of the stove. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

The 4th of July Corn Shucking Tradition

It's July 2. . .and we have a long holiday weekend for the 4th of July this year. . .People everywhere will be celebrating the day of this country declaring freedom from the tyranny of British King George. . .the beginning of the Revolutionary War. . .the war that brought independence for our country. . .

While I don't claim to have been under the king's tyranny during my childhood. . .I sometimes thought I could empathize greatly with those revolutionaries. . .because my "tyranntical" parents engaged every helping hand--child or adult--they could conscript for the task of picking, shucking, and "putting up" corn. . .Every 4th of July celebration had to take a backseat until the task was done and declared finished. . .When corn was ready, there was no putting it off. . .It might not fall exactly on the 4th every year, but always managed to be within a day or two of it. . . 

We all rose early. Daddy went even earlier to the garden to pull the ripened corn, putting them in big, galvanized tubs in the shade of a close-by apple tree. He then circled chairs around the huge pile for everyone. Shucking and cutting corn off the cob is a very messy thing, so it was always done outside. . .in the heat. . .while batting flies. . .When I was too young to cut corn and too afraid of finding worms while shucking the corn, my job was to keep a constant motion around the diligent workers to keep the flies away. I also helped pick up the mound of shucks and delivered them back to the garden to decay, adding nutrients to the soil. 

It sounds like an ominous task, but actually even I have to admit it had its fun times. Grandmother, Aunt Mamie, Daddy, Mom, and whoever else was helping, sat shucking and cutting that sweet goodness off the cob, talking downright gossip at times but a lot of the day the gossip turned to stories of family members past and present. It was times like this that I learned about the people of the Delta that was my world. 

By noon, the corn was ready to process for the freezer. Huge pans sat on the kitchen counter, filled with the golden creamy veggie. It was truly a sight. I loved it raw. Every time I found myself alone, my fingers somehow were uncontrollable, dipping in and proceeding to my mouth.

Before the women started preparing it for the endless stacks of freezer containers, we all sat down to eat and restore some of our energy for the long afternoon ahead. No hot meal on that day. Only sandwiches, salads, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, a cake for dessert, and a lot of iced tea. We ate on paper plates for easy clean-up. 

The ladies tackled that corn afterwards, heating it in huge skillets in small batches. When it was "hot through" it was spread out in large, long pans under several fans to cool as quickly as possible. Then it was time to pack it in containers and put immediately into the freezer. In this manner, the freezer corn tasted as if freshly picked all through winter. Once all was finished and frozen, a bunch of tired souls took a rest before washing the skillets, pans, and utensils. A sense of accomplishment and pride with the count of filled containers prevailed. They knew it would help sustain us through the winter. I was happy because I knew that the 4th celebration could go on as planned, when the entire Magers clan would be gathering at Grandmother's house. Just the thought of barbeque chicken, baked beans, onion dip and chips, sliced tomatoes, fresh pickled cucumbers, corn on the cob, and homemade ice cream and cake made my mouth water.

So, actually the corn shucking tradition was worth it. There is never a 4th of July that I don't remember with a smile. And, I often feel the urge to visit a local farmer's market for a tub full of that fresh golden goodness to shuck, cut, process and freeze, thinking all the time what a gift my parents gave me all those years of watching and helping with a family tradition. 

I guess they weren't tyrants after all. . .but I still hold that opinion of King George. . .(grin).