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Posts Tagged ‘cast iron’

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full links are welcome.

Seasoning cast iron can be an unpleasant task.  Lodge Manufacturing, the best American cast iron company, recommends re-seasoning using vegetable shortening and a hot oven for an hour.  The Lodge method works, but it leaves the house smelling of overcooked vegetable shortening, plus it uses a lot of energy.  When my cast iron surface needs a little work, I prefer to either fry in it (something we don’t do very often) or just pop popcorn!Earlier today. my 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven looked disreputable.  I know; I should be ashamed for mistreating my cast iron this way, but I swear it just happened because I cooked high-acid tomato sauce in it.Here’s a close up.  I know, I know.  I may get kicked out of the Cast Iron American Society.The solution?  Make popcorn!  Start by pouring enough oil in the bottom of your warm Dutch oven to coat the bottom, at a depth of about 1/8 inch.  The warmth will help the oil spread.  Otherwise, you may end up with too much oil and greasy popcorn. Now pour in just two corn kernels.  Heat the pot on high (medium-high for some electric burners!–or use a pyrex wire diffuser (example) to get less direct heat on high) until the two kernels pop.  Scoop out the two kernels with a slotted spoon.  Now pour in the rest of your kernels, about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup for a 2-quart Dutch oven, 1/2 to 2/3 cup for a 4-quart Dutch oven, and so forth.  Put the lid on the pot immediately, because the kernels will start to pop right away.  Position the lid so that it vents steam.

Do you like real butter?  Do not use “lite” margarine!  If you have real butter and want it in your popcorn, make sure you have it standing by.  Cut off a pat and slip it in under the lid, taking care not to let kernels escape.  More butter????  Sure, just slip it in on the other side of the pot.

Very quickly, the corn will go from exploding rapid fire like a hundred machine guns to sounding more like an occasional pop. Turn off the heat.  If you have an electric stove top, remove the pot from the hot burner, or else you’ll burn the popcorn on the bottom.  A few kernels may still pop after you turn off the heat, so don’t open it yet.  Instead, get the salt.  Okay, now open the lid carefully.  Shake on some salt.  Taste.  Add a little more if you want.  Scoop off the luscious popcorn.

Mmmmmmmm.  Let’s eat!

Oh, you say I was talking about cast iron?  Oh.  I remember!  Yes, we’re making popcorn to re-season my neglected cast iron.  Yes, I ate the popcorn.  Then I rinsed the salt out of the Dutch oven and dried it off.  Do you want an “after” picture?  Here it is, showing the thin layer of hot oil that the popcorn neatly distributed across the surface of the Dutch oven, re-seasoning it all over.I wonder if my 4-quart Dutch oven needs re-seasoning too?  Yes, I’m grinning from ear to ear.  Oh, I’m so sorry for getting corny! Oops, there goes another pun!

Thanks to Linda Watson at CookforGood, who referred to this post in an article on making turmeric-seasoned popcorn.  I do have one little correction to the CookforGood article.  Watson said you need to shake the cast iron pan while you’re popping.  No, you don’t have to do that!  The heavy bottom of the cast iron, the high heat with which you start (after you test pop those two kernels) and the short popping time will allow you to pop without shaking the pan.  Just be sure to turn off the heat (and remove the pan from the burner if you use an electric burner) when the popping slows.  You’ll have great, burn-free popcorn.

Do you have questions about caring for cast iron or making old-fashioned popcorn on the stove top?  Feel free to post here!

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I can’t help but notice how many people find this blog because they are searching for a recipe for winter squash, especially butternut or acorn squash.  You’ll find both savory and sweet recipes at Ozarkhomesteader, because these squashes are incredibly versatile.

Tonight, for instance, I was working with green European cabbage, red onion, and turkey bratwurst.  These ingredients scream German or Austrian food (at least to me), but I was also staring at a butternut squash with a little damage, one that I needed to fix soon rather than keeping through the winter.  Ultimately, I boiled the brats in beer and then mixed just a touch of molasses in with a tiny bit of the beer to make a glaze, allowing me to get nice grill marks when I put the brats on a hot cast iron grill pan.  I served the brats on cabbage sauteed with red onion, cider vinegar, prepared grainy mustard, a touch of honey, and some soy sauce.  (Darn Alton Brown for mentioning umami right about the time I was reaching for the salt!)  I decided that the squash could be seasoned to stand in for pumpernickle–or maybe gingerbread.

DSCN2091I began by peeling the butternut squash.  Butternut is the only winter squash that peels easily when uncooked. Then I cut the squash into chunks, popped it in a casserole with a little water, and baked it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then I mashed it with about 2 tablespoons dry ginger and two generous drizzles of molasses (maybe about a tablespoon).

I served the brats on top of the cabbage with the squash to the side, some green beans, and some tiny sliced radishes.  Sure the squash looks like baby food this way, but it tastes rich!  And our entire meal celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It’s hard to believe that was twenty years ago!

Regardless of whether winter squash with ginger is your idea of a good time, know that you can bring its warm, comforting flavor to all sorts of cuisines, including Indian (try it with curry and coconut milk!), Italian (think ravioli with nutmeg, a little garlic), or even New England colonial (acorn squash stuffed with apples and dried cranberries).  Enjoy those squash you found at the farmer’s market, in your CSA basket, or even–like us–in your own garden.

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I refer in my “easiest bread ever for camping and home” to a camping, or outdoor, Dutch oven.  I’ll talk today about how indoor and outdoor Dutch ovens differ from each other in appearance and use.  First, I’d like to sing the praises of cooking equipment that looks like it belongs in a shop in J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley rather than in a modern kitchen.

I am a big fan of cast iron because of its durability and health benefits.  My oldest piece of cast iron is probably my 1883 frying pan from Cleveland Stove Company, although I have a few unlabeled pieces that I suspect may be older.  Well kept for a century and a quarter, the cast iron delivers the same great service for me as it did for my great-great grandparents.  Cast iron has never been implicated in any adverse health conditions (unlike aluminum, plastics, etc.).  It even delivers an iron boost to you as you cook in it and foods absorb small amounts.  For these reasons, I believe cast iron is a frugal, healthy choice.

Twodutchovens.jpgCast iron comes in many sizes and shapes, including today’s subject, Dutch ovens.  Dutch ovens are pots with nipped handles and specialized lids.  I’m picturing two Dutch ovens here.  The one on the left is a typical Dutch oven for use inside.  The one on the right is for use with charcoal, although you could use it inside in a standard oven or on a gas stovetop.

Let’s look at how the indoor and outdoor versions differ.  First look at the bottoms.  The indoor Dutch oven has no legs.  You can easily use it on a stove top or in a standard household oven.  Now look at the outdoor Dutch oven.  It has legs that are designed to keep it just above coals, preventing direct contact with the heat and permitting oxygen to get to the coals.

Let’s move on to the lids.  The indoor Dutch oven lid is domed indoordutch.jpgon top.  It also has spikes spikesonlid.jpgthat are supposed to transfer juices back into roasts, basting the meat. 

 

 

The outdoor Dutch oven lid has a raised rim on a relatively flat top.flangedlid.jpg  This construction allows you to pile coals on the top as well as the bottom, letting you create a standard oven effect wherever you can collect coals from a fire or burn charcoal.  The underside of the lid is flat too, so you can flip it over and use it as a griddle.

Both of the Dutch ovens pictured here are from my favorite cast iron manufacturer, Lodge in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and both are the same size:  8 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep.  Lodge calls them 2-quart Dutch ovens, but you should only plan on filling half way for breads and cakes that rise.  These 8-inch Dutch ovens are ideal for today’s family, holding easily two chicken quarters with fixings, a good number of servings of soup or stew, a small loaf of my variation of easy-fix yeast bread, etc.  (I’ll talk in future blogs about recipes for home and camp.) 

 

Thanks to combining two households of Dutch oven lovers, two competitors in Dutch oven contests (and a few wins), and a general appreciation of Dutch ovens, my family has a variety of Dutch ovens in size, shape, and construction material.  Today I’ll stick to talking about cast iron.  Lodge’s largest Dutch oven holds 12 quarts and is 16 inches in diameter.  Lodge’s smallest, pictured here next to one of the 8-inch ovens, is 5 inches. DSCN1719 It’s cute, but beyond that I’d say you can live without it.

 

 

Next we have a Dutch oven from (shhhhhhh) China, shown on the right.  Something tells me J.K. had this kind of Dutch oven in mind when she wrote about Percy Weasley’s obsession with inferior, imported, thin-bottomed cauldrons.  This Chinese-manufactured Dutch oven cheapChineseimport.jpg has skimpy legs and thin walls.  I’ve used it successfully, but you really have to watch it to make sure it does not burn.  Can you figure out if it’s for indoor or camping use?  Yep, camping.

Do you have questions about cast iron or Dutch ovens? Post here and I’ll answer what I can.

Remember:  all rights reserved.  Copyright Ozark Homesteader.  I appreciate it when you link my work on your site, but please use only a tiny excerpt, and make sure you include not only a link to the original post but also the full URL, typed out.  Thanks!

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