Sarah - VANILLA BEANS - can' seem to find the place to add this and I'm brand new here - I often give home made Ku--it's been so long since I've bought it the name slips my brain - KALUA! -- and I tend to lean heavy on the REAL coffee (as in peets.com, heavy Italian Roast or Espresso forte or a more earthy Sumatra, or sweeter and lighter Latan American, or bitter African several differet flavors which do all come through) -- and grind it to a powder like Turkish, then add Vanilla, in a quart Mason or Ball jar and put it away for the next Christmas -- how many vanilla beans would I need for say a two quart jar of Stoli*, about a half pound of coffee, to make it come through as something really nice -- often I'll get some beans from the deli section of my IGA -- (well run) and so I'd assume they are Mexican -- I usually add some off the shelf vanilla infusion from a bottle to bring the vanilla forward. I generally make about 4 gallons all together with different flavored coffees. So it's both a get-on-the-BUZZ drink, and the COOH keeps it under control -- thanks.
* I once used ever clear when it was legal, and that was FAR too strong, as was 151 rum - so I'm back to Stoli that has good sales on their large bottles - Often I'll add the sugar to the COOH in a pressure cooker (Kuhn-rikhon so their's little to no venting) on an ELECTRIC stove to keep explosions to a minimum (EVERYONE!!!!: NO GAS STOVES, EVER unless you have had Chem 1A and know what you are doing -- meaing you understand that alcohol+fire=explosion, one reason for the Khun-Rikon, it keeps it all inside! without a vent until about 15 lbs/in/sq and I keepit at 10 lbs/in/sq) -- and thus press far more sugar into the COOH (alcohol) than I would by just letting it sit and turning it all the time -- let it cool completely so all he COOH goes back into the liquid, then cool to very cool and open the top, add a little stoli to make up for the COOH in the atmosphere and to please the gods, and then add the coffee and beans when the liquid is cool enough to not evaporate out the COOH -- and thus ruin half of the purpose.
ADULT RATED: I've always liked it, but if you NEED a reason other than flavor and vitamins and enzymes -- I once had a waitress ask me if I'd like some extra fresh Italian parsley sprinkled on top of some dish I had ordered, and when I said, sure I love it, she said -- Oh good, it makes your 'come' taste sweet! What better reason could anyone need?
why not just throw them in HOT chicken broth -- or veggie broth? then you have soup! -- you can also make a gravy from the soup and add that -- Now, honest, I read it here -- how about some whiskey? During the summer soneone mentioned his kid wanted to put the alcohol back into the corn -- and brought out some brown 'licker -- so I got Laphroig Scotch, and wraped the corn in aluminum foil -- I don't think i've have better corn in my life! (the COOH evaporates leaving behind a dark, deep, smokey peat flavor -- OMG I want fresh sweet corn right NOW!
I have camped a lot. A LOT. MRE's are O-U-T. I lived on a river for a winter for a masters, parts were fun. so -- with all that said: coolers, lots, dry ice if you can find it, and NEVER toutch it - it will keep stuff not just cold, but frozen. BLOCKS of ice they can break into LARGE pieces and covered with a LITTLE salt will freeze beer in the bottle -- so warn them -- cover dry ice with large bag of from the store ice-ettes. into this you will put SEMI prepaired food, like half cooked beans in double freezer bags, a HALF cooked chicken -- or half fried so they get the 'joy' of drinking beer around a camp fire and 'cooking' dinner. send your cast iron with them, it won't warp as badly, you will lose your seasoning if they are stupid, but I've seen good advice here on how to season your cast iron and it probaboy needs it, besides, it's rustic. NO teflon.
aluminum needs constant watching -- so the grill from your webber of pray that someone there knows how to camp.
breakfast: oatmeal, cream of wheat, ralston (aka these days as Bulger Wheat) -- milk will go with dry ice and ice. or a gallon with SCREW ON lid, in ice with salt and beer (ice will lower the temp and make the beer form little crystals of ice -- the PERFECT TEMP) and the ice can be used for brown licker if they do that too - another reason to send cast iron.
CORN WITH THE HUSK ON IT (that's the 'skin') -- and aluminum foil. people get too fussy about bacteria - so don't worry -- SHARP knives -- pull out your Chef's kinfe sharpener and sharpen all your knives and send your worst ones with him -- remember a K-bar (kind of knife) is a knife, hammer, screwdriver, fish scalier, can opener, bottle opener, etc.and all round toy. did I say Heavy Gage (heavy duty) long boxES of aluminum foil? a box of quart and a box of gallon size zip-lock plastic bags.
pancakes sound like fun but they take too much to make -- though upon reflection, all you really need to add is the riser - so make the dough, set the right amount of bakeing soda aside, or mix it with a liquid, and pour it into the already made -- scratch that, mix dry, mix liquid (your riser is dry) pour bag A into bag B and plop on bacon and you have pancakes -- remember to tell them cast iron has a hot handle -- aluminum sucks if you are car camping.
precooking chicken etc kills off a lot of the bacteria since they are mostly OUTSIDE and they can often wash the inside but won't if sent full chickens camping. So just a quick kill the bacteria half cook will do and BBQ is an option as is dumping in your dutch oven and adding some water to your pre-mix of dumpling and pre-cut veggies for chicken and dumplings.
hint: WASHED and dried whole sticks of cellery and onions are wonderful to put in the BOTTOM of a bowl and then put the hot beans over the top and let the heat of the beans cook the cellery and onions and tomatoes (whole caned, hand crushed and put into a double zip-loc bag) will flavor the entire dish.
Salad goes already mixed into a gallon zip-loc and into the ice only or ice with no water rather than the ice+h20+salt cooler so it wont' freeze -- and there is enough preservitive in things like mayo and non-organic salid dressing it really doesn't need refrigeration at all, keeping mayo cool will keep it from seperating, but if you are doing home-made mayo and want it to keep for more than a few days, add a tea spoon of best foods or Heilsman and it will keep for weeks, but not months -- when you deal with eggs you want to be ABSOLUTELY sure that they won't spoil and kill someone, which is why mayo never killed anyone, even if left out for a few days - they make sure you won't even get the notion that you MIGHT get the notion to sue them.
THEY chose a hot sauce or two - and that's it. And remind them -- hot is a flavor not a contest. And they don't want to make it a contest or they will learn that there are far more than just 'two burn' hot sauces.
Green veggies: 7 minute rule: after 7 minutes they begin to look olive drab so if pre-cooking - 2 minutes plunge into ice and cold water sink -- let set 10 minutes to get any hot from the center, then plastic bag up and put in with water and ice or just plain ice and salt (I like stuff COLD, but ice and salt while coler, will melt faster too -- blocks melt slower than the little squares, and cold sinks, so ice goes on top food on bottom.
boy-scouts 101 A -- 'hunters stew' - hollow out bread or make dough or not, put in foil, carrots, onions, mushrooms, some herbs and/or spices (pepper is a spice) lots of cubed potatoes, tokeep potatoes from browning, though you'd never know at end, some kind of acid Lisergic Acid Diethelmide is nice, but hard to find, so go for lemmon juice or some good -- look at label, apple cider vinegar (Heinz has gallons that just have apple cider FLAVOR) -- read your labels -- or tomaotes -- and if you are afraid of the aluminum atracting alians who use various probes, put in plastic bags, then transfer to DOUBLE aluminum shiny side in (reflects heat) -- and they can cook a reasonably good stew, but slice your carrots thin since they take longer to cook.
a food processor that slices and chopps makes it easy work to make veggies for the salads -- shove in a vew carrots, put in plastic bag - done.
CLOROX -- why? because it'll kill you. everyone should remember this formula -- get a bottle and eye dropper -- and carry it with you at all times along with your knife, string, fishing line and hook, and salt etc -- 5 DROPS per canteen -- wait 20 minutes, you should smell a SLIGHT -- AS IN **SLIGHT** odor of clorox -- and your water will keep you alive. the general rule is 10 drops per gallon is max, 5 drops of clorox per gallon in 'clear' water is enough.
Don't forget coffee and cone filter and make sure the filter is taller than the cone -- so water is forced through the coffee. Fresh ground? well the big brass pepper grinders with the cup at the bottom are middle eastern coffee grinders -- but at a good food store you can buy one powered by AA or AAA batteries -- and use it for coffee beans -- I like mine STRONG so it takes two fillings to make me one cup of coffee -- about 2 minutes start to stop -- the brass or metal hand-cranked ones take me about 10 - 15 minutes start to stop. let the water heat first, then filter it -- no need to ruin coffee by percolating it because you are camping or enjoy 'turkish' coffee -- and egg shells really do 'settle' the grounds.
olive oil -- extra virigin will ruin with light and air - just think what heat will do to it -- send along regular olive oil and they will be happy.
a green salad with just lemmons and limes as a dressing is GREAT -- and they go good with beer and gin too, heck, even wine coolers NEED fresh lemons and limes.
NO fresh fruit -- I once traveled 20 miles with what i thought was very well packed peaches and nectarines -- only to find the bottom of my ALICE pack full of fruit soup.
So: pre-do most of what you do - rice is good from scratch as it's only 20 minutes and goes with nearly everything, brown is call it an hour, no matter what the package says -- get bean mix -- it has a flavor packet in it full of chemicals that taste like bacon and other stuff.
when camping you are generally limited to veggies -- unless you hunt and make jerky that can be made back into something resembling a meat like substance.
So think along the lines of binary or terciary mixes - add A to B, stir, then add C and serve.
There is so much left out -- but if you follow the above rules, you should be OK -- and there is ALWAYS PJ sandwidhes and Peanut butter now comes in plastic, and guys like sugar -- and don't forget salt. No body doesn't like brownies, even real ones. Most weekend-warriors don't know how to make an oven out of rocks and foil, so make them ahead of time.
and DEET, while not great to eat, is always nice to find here and there scattered about because everywhere has insects, and while some follow the sun up the ridges, some will be big babies and always hang out down where it's cool and damp and comfortable.
Because I'm generally not too afraid of bugs in the water and use sand to clean my dishes, pay attention and DO go get real use in the river soap. Otherwise you really WILL do damge, little by little to our water -- the only place for real soap is in your shower, if then -- sand will clean you as well, if not better than soap, and before you ask, no, it's not a good idea to clean your ears with wet sand poured into them or to brush your teeth with it -- use wood instead.
Rainbow type bread mashes and mushes, real bread like 'french' (sic!) bread holds up better, and remember that most of your 'cured' meats like salami and such were made without using refrigeration and so they don't need to be refrigerated if you get the real thing from the deli counter and there ARE a million different 'salami's' around -- so a salami sandwich is great! --
also, rope, get a couple of hundred feet of rope so they can take their ice boxes and used food and hoist it out of bear range. And this goes for mice, rats, coons, possims, ants, skunks, stray dogs, etc -- though mice, rats, and squirrels can climb down quarter inch rope or jump from a limb onto the top of the cache -- it's up to YOU to prevent the feeding, and thus the killing, of camp-ground bears.
you didn't give much info -- but then like you said, you can't tell us what you don't know -- and we need to respect that and presume certain senerios -- like cast iron, I admit that yes, even while back-packing I do carry a cast-iron chicken fryer and lid -- why? because somethings required SLOW cooking.
how about dig a hole, build a fire, take a leg of lamb (and yeah, I love mine rare, it just aint gonna happen here) and after fillingit with rosemary and garlic and some salt, burry it in a couple of wet burlap (hemp) feed sacks from a feed store which should be free or never more than $1.00US if you are being ripped off, get them wet, put in some potatos and carrots and onions into the boned or unboned leg) then burry it for the day -- put rocks over the fire while it's really blazing if you want to keep a heavy burlap flavor out of the lamb -- then burry it, mark the top with more stones and go play for the day, come back, pop a cold one, take turns digging until you hit some of the wood you threw in on top to 'charcoal' up, and warn you to go easy and not shove your shovel all the way through meat so tender that if boned, you would never know was there -- and pull it out, unwrap it right away -- so the flys can find it -- and keep the burlap from sticking to the cooling fat -- and you should be able to eat it with a fork only -- I've done this with hind quarters from deer which are VERY lean, and they still come out tender enough that you don't need a knife to cut them into portions.
and they will be happy -- and if they aren't too macho, they will say thank you, and then listen to what they say about 'next time' -- unless you don't want there to be a next time. then make the bean soup with 1 part beans to 2 parts water, and rice at one part rice and one part water. And forget the salt. buy them meat-bee traps and tell them to ring the eating area with them instead of setting them at LEAST 100-200 feet away -- and telling unpacking the pheromone and mistaking it with repellent and tell them to be sure to just put it on the brim of their hats and cuffs of their shirts -- "a little dab'll do you' -- and fill the traps with DEET.
They won't EVER ask you -- and heck, everyone makes mistakes, what with all the other things you had to think about that week . . . . remember you HAVE been thinking of switching wash day from Wednesday to Thursday -- and that's not a decision any man would understand the gravity of --
good luck -- and hope this helped -- also, put bacon in microwave and get the fat out, then bag it, and they can fry their pancakes in bacon fat, and the crumpled baccon can go on the salad, or in a grilled cheese sandwich as suggested in the first edition of the Joy of Cooking.
While most think of multi-tasking you now have to think of this as multi-using.
Boy am I glad i was mostly a veggie when i did my masters work -- the only things that really need to be kept cool are meat and milk -- remember, eggs used to be warm before they got cold, so look at the date -- and what's wrong with 'natural' eggs from a freind with laying hens, they don't WANT to be refrigerated, the worst that happens is he leaves you, and a few weeks later he's eating little baby chickens and I'll guarantee you he's NOT having then 'easy over' -- and if civilization is destroyed while he's out caming, he can start his own flock of chickens and have all the eggs he'll ever want in just a few months!!!!!!
Go to library or friends house and look in their JOY OF COOKING -- I used to have every edition and sub-edition ever published until a girlfriend thought having the books made the cook. with many things it might be true, but you and i know that with art -- having every art book ever published won't help you at all. I look to get an idea then close the book and cook, 99% of the time it can be saved, 1% of the time we go out for Chinese.
But they DO have a fair grasp of the current -- first edition had huge chapter on how to skin and prepare wild game -- not just what everyone knows like deer or dove -- but how DO you cook a squirrel pie? how DO you get all that fat off a possum? -- even sections on how to grow 'victory gardens' and what to plant and when and why. Some are better than others, they no longer tell you how to skin a sheep or dry-pluck a chicken or WHY you would want to use the hot water in a bucket way.
so go back and peruse their period cook book(S). If you can, go back to when Sandwiches were first introduced -- and read how they said to make a grilled cheese sandwich -- any doc, GP to Cardiac would drop dead in their tracks after reading how you need butter AND bacon fat and how to make sure it gets soaked into the bread! --
So - with a month, you might find the right edition on e-bay -- or your public library or a friends grandmothers house -- or your parents house -- it really is one of the finest snap-shots of our culture ever produced AND you can bet that nearly every recipie works if you do 'chemistry cooking' which you will have to do -- remember fresh peas weren't always in season, and frozen spinach still had a way to perfection unless you craved frost bite, and ice cream that never melted -- thanks to the Gar, one of the more insidious animals of the Serengeti Plains at 80 degrees Crystal and Bordons and other 'Ice milks' would drip a bit, but the gar-gum and air bubbles sure were terrible eatten warm! --
so -- JOY OF COOKING in the right editon, an maybe the edition before since food culture changed slower then, and you might be a young couple using your mothers recipies from HER copy of JOY.
I’ve had cast iron forever – a house fire destroyed most of it – and, no, it wasn’t due to cast iron. The cast iron was just scooped up and thrown away to my horror. I’ve learned many things – sometimes slow is fast.
The thing you’ll learn about seasoning cast iron is that there is so much lore surrounding it you’ll just have to pick your version of what’s right. From horror stories of people painting it black with terrible pains or chemicals to the perfect mixtures of oils to make it smoother than snot on a wet bar of soap. Forget the horror, most cast iron is fine, even it it’s been used to water the dog and is well rusted.
CLEANING IT: clean it well – you are NOT going to keep what’s there, so bare metal is fine. Steel wool or sand and a rag and water, or SOS, or sand-blasting are all good places to start. You don’t cook on the outside of the pan so don’t worry soap and water is fine, but do clean the edge case stuff does touch it. You can also use sand-or-emery-paper – start at around 120 grit and move to around 220 grit for the fastest clean try using a orbital sander. If you do, heck, in only a few more minutes you can take it to 800 grit or 1000 grit – about the top of the line when it comes to sand or emery paper. Now you have a good, clean surface. Or you can just soak it in some water and soap and scrub it with steel wool until YOU are happy that it’s clean – then rise it well in water. Grandpa taught me that if you could see yourself in the bottom like a mirror that needed cleaning, it was done enough. I think that came from when they ‘flattened’ the bottom by using a high-speed lathe of some kind that left small ridges behind that would disappear when you had enough seasoning done and could stop. But looking at it, it seemed like that would be forever, that I’d still be working on it today. So I was given he job of ‘finishing’ the pan and that included the prongs that dropped down from the lids of some of the tops to help keep the water and flavors inside the skillet or oven.
But using emery paper or sand paper or not, it needs to be smooth and there should be no ‘sticky’ spots on it. That’s why there is the cleaning between each layer – starting with the first which is fresh from the box or garage sale.
Fill it as full as you are comfortable and bring it to a boil – and toss the water – do this several times – the idea is to get the soap and small grits of metal from the pours of the iron. NOW you are ready to season it. It also helps to ‘sterilize’ it, from what ever might have tried to start living inside the microscopic pours of the metal
NEVER leave a cast iron pan without a greasy covering no matter what it is – and never leave it wet – so practice – put it on the stove, and watch the last of the water evaporate, now take some oil and put it on a paper towel and wipe the inside and outside with it. Now you can put it away until you are ready to season it.
Some people (like me) keep a rag in a small glass bowl of oils, and when I’m done cleaning a pan, I’ll set the pan on the flame for a bit until I can’t see any water in it, and then ring the rag and wipe in and out just lightly – NEVER leaving a pool of oil or grease. (yes, you CAN mix bacon grease and olive oil, I only use peanut oil to season the pan since most of my cooking is low temp and I use olive oil – you can add a little fresh peanut oil to the olive oil to raise the burning point a bit, but remember you are using olive oil for a reson (what ever that reason might be)).
SEASONING THE PAN: having seasoned cast iron from when I has a small ranch to when I was a veggie to now you learn that different oils season differently, some better than others. When a veggie I used olive oil, sometimes mixed with peanut oil, when I was ranching I used animal fats. I learned that there is a difference.
Vegetable oils tend to leave a sticky surface – and you CAN season a pan using nothing but olive oil, but it takes forever to get that smoother than smooth surface you want. Like six or eight months of cooking in it nearly every day.
Now I do it a different way, and everyone will have their own way. Remember seasoning is full of myth – this is MY story of that myth. I’ll fill up the pan with peanut oil (despite the above, it’s ok because you aren’t going to keep it for much – and I keep it filled over night – to let the oil seep WAY down deep into the pours of the iron. I might even leave it a few days in a warm oven. This is easier when you have a wood stove, but most of us don’t and most of those who do, don’t use it to cook in or on – so over night in an oven set to warm will keep the pours ‘open’ and allow the oil to seep in -- and deep. On a hot summer day, putting it inside a larger cast iron pot or under some metal painted black and in the direct sun will make it warm enough – a day or a week is really all the same though I have it in MY head that a few days is better than overnight.
When YOU are ready, pour out the peanut oil (peanut oil burns at a higher temperature) and keep it on the side – remember that it will go rancid, it might even go rancid in the pan if you leave it there for a few weeks – but don’t worry. It’s all myth, the rancid part is true, but it is part of my myth).
Now, wipe it dryish. And warm in, and rub a slab of bacon on the inside – OR if you have a bacon container, get some bacon and rub it so all surfaces, in and out, are covered in a thin coat, just damp. I’d never heard of turning the pan over – but now I might, though it would let he oil that had seeped into the metal to start to come out – so on second thought I’d keep it up right. Then put it in the oven (remember you are seasoning the PAN not the bottom – so you want heat to surround it. I’ll turn an over up to about 100-125 and cook over night.
Then I’ll take a rough cloth, like a terry cloth wash rag, and wipe it out using some of the peanut oil, then I’d use more animal grease and coat it about the same, and leave it about 6-10 hours in the oven, then I’d wipe it out again, and do the same thing – take it out of the oven – it should be starting to turn black by now – and wipe it down with peanut oil and a terry cloth wash rag, and put on another coating of bacon or other grease.
Seasoning is building up layers of ‘carbonized’ fat – filling up the pours in the metal, sealing them, and forming a film. Just like painting using a spray can – several coats are better than a single one, and when covering a wall, especially a fresh bare wall, you might need three coats or more to cover it to the same color – but in the end it’s worth it. So twice a day or so I’d clean out the excess oil that’s formed and any lose carbon that may have formed using the terry cloth, and then add another coat of animal fat (grease) and continue.
After about three days, I’d turn the oven up to about 250 degrees and continue for two more days – this will help ‘set’ the layers together – remember this is all myth – everyone has their own way. I had a friend who said that the best way was to get a pan full of bacon fat, put it on a camp fire and keep it bubbling hot all day, setting it down on the wood during the day, and at night keeping it on a grill just above hot coals, you didn’t want the grease to catch fire. After a day, it was seasoned – you could pour out your fat – from hog to sheep – didn’t matter – and you were done – wipe it all down with a good coarse terry cloth rag with grease, let it cool a bit, add some water, let it skittle across the pan – add a little more – until you had about 1/8 inch simmering – then take another rag and clean it out – it would come out brown and black and sticky and all – and the pan was seasoned.
I go slower, but the last step is important –
LAST STEP: CLEAN AND PUT AWAY. Turn the oven off and let the pan cool. Now take the pan and put it on your cook stove – heat it up until when you splatter a little water in it, you get steam, then you just add water by the half table spoon and rock the pan so that the water reaches all corners, keep this up until you have water that’s about 1/8th-1/4 inch deep and has oily stuff floating on top – sop up this water, and add some more water, this time by the teaspoon and when it’s about ½ inch, you’ll also have some foating oily liquid, sop that up – rubbing the inside with the terry cloth to get the small pieces of this and that lose, and keeping the pan about the temperature where water will steam and just start to skittle, add about half an inch of water, and take the terry cloth and wipe the pan – then turn it off, add some water, whipe the pan until it’s dry, and you’ll have a dry pan because it’s hot – take your cloth that has some oil or grease on it and wipe it all over – inside and out – this keeps it from rusting, and helps keep seasoning the pan.
NOW use it – start with something hot – like say sautéed veggies or shrimp – and serve them with a sauce that you like – they will have some flavor of what ever you used to season the pan.
To clean – I’ll use a rag with water – not soaking the pan in water – but wipe it well, and making sure that the pan is warm, add a thin coat of oil in and out. To keep it from rusting. Don’t make things like bean soup, or use it for anything with an acid in it – like vinegar or tomatoes. Bacon and eggs, fried chicken (done right, it cooks slow not fast, and browns slowly, not fast, or potatoes of some kind – and turn often to brown – keep the temperatures medium to medium hot at first – this helps keep the seasoning process going, AND mixes the types of oils and fats in the pours of the iron.
The more kinds you have, the more kinds of abuse it can take.
Once you have cooked in your seasoned pan for a month – treat it like any other kind of pan --- just try to keep soap out. I’ve never used soap, though I have soaked a pan overnight in water and used plain steel wool to smooth it out—but I then heat a bit warmer but don’t use more grease – this kind of makes up for the thin layer of seasoning I’ve removed.
Some people say you have to be careful because of flavors – well that would mean you could never cook lamb, or salmon or liver or tuna or bacon in the pan – let alone something like chicken cacciatore or anything that has tomatoes or wine in it – just treat it like normal pots and pans, but keep the soap away.
I use wooden spoons and what looks like a spatula. But if I have something stuck on the bottom, like say beans that burn – I’ll switch to a metal spatula and scrape it clean with some liquid in the pan – and do it on the stove – and then wipe it with grease or oil – and put it away.
The pans lost in the fire came from my grandmother, great- and great-great grandmother – and God alone knows what’s been cooked in them and how they’ve been treated – from a small ‘chuck’ wagon, through the camping craze of the 1950’s, some coming to me as wedding presents – and the secret is low heat. When I took over the ranch in Nevada we had only a wood stove in the kitchen – even in the summer it was what we boiled water on and cooked bread in – we shoped in town every two weeks. One week we left a bag of groceries somewhere – in the cart, on the fender of the truck – somewhere – and we had no oil or bacon – just the grease can on the stove.
We decided that we wanted to see how long the finish on the pans would last. We cooked eggs for 4 every morning without bacon and without grease, ‘non-stick’ surface – and I can only guess that we cooked 50 eggs without extra grease or oil. Pancakes were different, I think we went just under a week of breakfasts before we had to start adding a thin layer of bacon grease to the pan. But dinners were fine – washing the pan was normal – a bit of hot water, wipe it dry – leave the grease for the pancakes, and use olive oil in the Dutch ovens and chicken fryers and pop-over pans.
So – it’s all myth – but that is my version of the myth. From filling the pan with bacon grease and Crisco and just setting it on a camp fire – from ON a hot coal log, to using a grill over coals when they got too hot tossing it out the next morning and calling it done, to heating it up small layer by small layer – they all work fine. Just keep soap out — and soaking overnight in plain water, while not recommended is better than soap.
The ONLY words that have real truth when it comes to cast iron is NO SOAP – EVER. And if you have to, then all you can do is put down several coats of seasonings before you use it again – and that’s just to fix what the soap has done, and maybe to get rid of the taste – I don’t know, I’ve never put soap in my pans, though I have used sand and a rag from the river every so often when I burn some rice to the bottom – but put it back on the stove, LIGHTLY oil or grease it, and forget it –
I’m sure someone has some ‘science’ behind seasoning – but to me it’s all myth – it’s what’s worked for you and your family, or others and their family. It bonds you to your pan, and your pan to you –you and your pan have energy invested in each other, so you won’t do things to hurt your pan, and it won’t hurt you.
Once I thought ‘blackened fish’ meant ‘black’ as in burnt – so I heated my skillet so hot it was about to glow and tossed in some oil that burst into flame and added the fish. Needless to say, I’d ruined my dinner and my seasoning – but keepiig my head, letting the pan cool evenly, I was able to take that pan and starting from the very beginning – using strips of bacon since I was out camping – I brought back a beautiful glass smooth seasoning in just a few days of paying attention to the pan, and keeping the pan damp with bacon grease.
In a few meals, I was able to boil water and make rice in the pan without much trouble at all –
When you see patterns of oil (or water) on the bottom of your pan, make sure they don’t match the grate to your stove – one day I came into the kitchen after my partner had gone out back for some more eggs as we saw company coming – and was amazed to see a perfectly round area devoid of oil – well, the center part of the wood stove lid had been removed! We’d often do this, or take the entire lid off just to heat the pan a bit faster if it had not been in the oven or on the surface, especially over the fire-box where we normally moved it when starting up the stove first thing in the morning as we saw if we could get a flame by cranking the side blower.
Cast iron has about as many myths as blonds – or composting (the juxtaposition is purely co-incidental!)
So, I hope I’ve helped you a bit, and not only do you get lots of iron from using cast iron, you can even use imperfect pans --- they warp because they got too hot or cooled too fast? They’ll still cook beans, a casserole, soup, fry a chicken, make poached, fried, or scrambled eggs, and even pancakes if you are in the unlikely position of not cooking pancake and egg sandwiches for the Queens breakfast. In which case you MIGHT be in trouble. Even cracks can be fixed, though a new pan or set of pans is cheaper. And if the crack is paper thin, a friend used a product made for automobiles, JB WELD, by simply heating up the pan, starting a screw at each end of the crack just to hold it open a bit, and when the pan was too hot for me, but barely cool enough for him to hold, shoved the paste into the crack as hard as he could and took out the screws. As hard as he could push the JB Weld, it never made it into the bottom of the pan, leaving a tiny crack to season itself closed.
It doesn’t even drip. But like he says, it’s an egg and potato and bacon pan, not a slow cook stew pan – just incase there’s something in the JB Weld that might come through with enough concentration to hurt him – but, as he pointed out--- a few uses and it would be ready for regular use again once it had seasoned up enough.
There are as many myths about seasoning a cast iron pot, pan, pop-over maker, poacher, or oven as there are people who think they know the best way. My way, although the best, is only one of many. I’ve skinned enough cats to know that most ways work just fine, the others just take longer and are more difficult than the others. And I’ve seasoned as a vegetarian using no animal fats or oils of any kind, to using mixtures of mutton lard, bacon grease, bear fat, Crisco, and peanut oil – and each method worked fine, olive oil was not a favorite, but worked best with a little peanut oil – but what remains a constant is that you have to keep the pan ‘smooth’ between oilings and while using a real piece of clean venison hide (or other untreated animal hide), is best, terry cloth is easier to get, and advantages over other materials is that it can ‘scour’ without scratching which is very important – the ‘smoothing’ should be done BEFORE seasoning starts, not during, and certainly not after. But a well seasoned pan will out-do Teflon in many respects, and will always give you your daily amount of iron – and don’t use soap.
I once thought I’d do my step-mother a favor and cleaned her seasoned pans handed down to her when her mother died. I took me three days, but I got them so clean you could see your face as if in a dirty mirror. I didn’t understand many of the words or contortions used for the next three to five minutes. They became the foundation of my first sets of cast iron. The one thing my grandfather kept telling me was to make sure that the pan is bright and shiny and smooth BEFORE you start, and once you start, do not stop, unless the pan is FULL of what you are using to season it – from bear to pig to cow to seed to legume – make certain that once you start, you don’t stop because the idea is to bond one layer to the one below it, and to get it ready for the one above it. And there goes the flaming campfire technique – but I’ve no doubt that it works.
I hope this helps you, and remember it is all about Myths and how much you believe in what you are doing. The more you believe, the better a pan or oven or poacher or egg fryer you have, and the better it will work, for you, and your great-grand children, and their children. Just remember you are using old technology where people moved slowly and cooked slower. So the best fried chicken is cooked slower so black never has a worry even in the back of your mind, let alone in the pan; and the slower you season your pans or griddles the longer they will last, the better they will work, and the happier your great-great-great grandchildren – and the better deal someone will get a t a garage sale.
Just as pressure cooking is the microwave of your grandmother – only it tastes better – cast iron is the quality that can’t go away, and a love that grows over the years. Grandma had my grandfather make a cast-iron skillet holder so that at 89 she could use a 16 inch skillet and fry a full chicken with potatoes, and then make the gravy as the chicken wept just a tiny bit oil onto the kitchen towel wrapped platter so dinner was done with the peas – and using the handles she could move the 5 pound skillet around on the stove like it was aluminum. Not only was it dinner from cast iron inherited from her mother, it was true love too. Grandma! What’s for dinner tonight? True Love, son, True Love. Go wash up.