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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cornbread and a Cast Iron Skillet

Ever since I received the Cornbread Gospels from my friend Crescent Dragonwagon, I have been SO in love with my cast iron skillet. Ok well maybe not actually 'in love', but I really really like using my cast iron skillet. My husband bought it for me a few years ago and I had only used it a few times. However, now that I have been reading the Cornbread Gospels, I have used it every day!

When I first got my cast iron skillet it was silver. The first thought that crossed my mind was that it certainly didn't look like my mother's skillet, hers was all black. Then I remembered that it needed to be seasoned! So I washed it well, made sure that there weren't any labels on the inside or on the bottom. Then I dried it by placing it over the flame on the stove top. Once the water was all lapped up by the flame, I allowed it to cool for a few minutes. I then dropped a few drops of olive oil in the skillet and with a paper towel then gently and carefully massaged the oil into the pan. Then I placed it in the over at around 350 degrees and let it bake for about an hour. After that, I allowed it to cool completely then I placed a dry paper towel inside of it to prevent dust from settling into the oil and making a mess.

The next time I used it was for baking a chicken and some vegetables in it. Each time I cooked with my skillet it became more seasoned and it began to develop that black surface that my mother's pan had. I was talking to my friend Megan the other day about Crescent's book and about how I was using my cast iron skillet again and she asked me how I keep it clean. So here is what I told her;

I make sure the skillet is completely cool first, then I rinse the pan out the best I can with water. The temperature of water depends on what was cooked in it. If you cooked eggs or anything with cheese you'll want to use cold water. Hot water will only cook those substances in harder. If you made anything else in it you can use hot water.
Once I rinsed the particles of food out I pour all the water out and sprinkle in baking soda. I then cut a lemon into a slice just big enough to get about a tablespoon of juice out of it and dribble the lemon juice into the pan. I then use that slice and rub the lemon and it's juice into the baking soda causing the soda to fizzle and break up any remaining particles of food. If the food remains stuck, you can use a wooden spatula and gently scrape the food off.

When I can feel with my finger tips that all the food is off I then rinse thoroughly and hold the pan up above the sink until the majority of the water has dripped off. Then I placed it over the flame to dry up the rest of the water. If you do not get all of the moisture off, it will begin to rust. Once the skillet is dry I turn off the fire and allow it to cool slightly and add a few drops of olive oil again and wipe it well with a paper towel. I store it in the stove, because I am sure to use it again with the next meal I make and it's just too heavy for me to try and fit into the lower cabinet and drag it out every time I want to use it.

If you haven't read about Crescent Dragonwagon's books you really must. Her Cornbread Gospels book is fascinating! Not only do you get hundreds of fabulous delicious recipes, but you also get the history behind many of them! How fun it has been to teach my children about where these recipes came from! The original homesteading women of our great country and many others.

Of course my favorite thing to do to a recipe is tweak it. ;O) So to the recipe I tried the other night I did make a change. The first one of course was to substitute the sugar with Splenda. In this particular recipe, as with many others, the directions say to heat up your skillet before adding the batter. You are asked to add a tablespoon of margarine to the hot skillet until it melts and begins to sizzle, then pour your batter. However, I just had to think that it would taste yummy with honey so I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of honey right into the margarine and spread it around until it all melted in. I poured in the batter and placed it in the oven.

When I took the cornbread out of the oven and sliced it, the bottom was crispy from the honey becoming crystallized and wow it was delish!

Here are a few things I'd like to draw your attention to in Ms. Dragonwagon's book:

The History of Cornbread
Personal testimonies of cornbread recipes
Nutritional information about the corn plant
The Difference between Northern and Southern Cornbreads
All about tortillas
Cornbread Accompaniments
Souffles and Puddings
and more!

In my opinion every bride should get a copy of this book for her new home! An excellent bridal shower gift! Along with a cast iron skillet of course and a bag of cornmeal!

The HomeSpun Life

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