Oh the humanity!

I was recently given an early Christmas gift from a friend.

As you know from reading this blog that I hold cast iron cookware way above any other type made. It is the most versatile of all cookware. No other type of cookware is generally passed down from generation to generation as cast iron cookware is. OK, in France, copperware is regarded as the chefs choice but let’s be honest here, has anything in France ever been worth passing down from generation to generation?

Let’s take a quick peek at famous French products before going back to today’s post. There is of course;

CARS: Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. Whew! Real collector items here. Don’t pass any of ’em down to me!

 AVIATION: Eurocopter. Sure we see tons of ‘em flying around here…Not!

WRITING: Bic pens. OK, if I want a cheap disposable pen I’ll buy a Bic.

PEST CONTROL: W. A. Flick. Is this where they got the term, Flick of a Bic?

COMPUTER HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE: Ingenico. I didn’t see any at Best Buy recently.

WATER: Evian, Perrier. (only because you can’t safely drink French tap water)

True, there are numerous clothing designers and toiletries made in France but I’ve yet to see good old  rugged Carhartts or Old Spice being worn by Parisians.  I think it’s too manly for Frenchmen, it gives them hives on their sensitive skin.

So, lets agree we could survive without French copper cookware too.

Now, back to today’s post…

While I tried my best on the outside to appear pleased, inside I was horrified! To me I was holding a Stradivarius violin that had been turned into an ash tray. Let me explain. Look at the Photo below.

What a quaint photo of an old time kitchen…permanently decoupaged onto the bottom!  It would have been OK with me if the photo of the old kitchen  had been decoupaged on an old place mat or even a Museum’s Claude Monet painting but on a GRISWOLD cast iron skillet? No way Jose’ !

Just look at what they ruined. A real Griswold from the early 1900’s is a rare collectors item. Definitely worth passing down. A close up of the pan shows their trademark grinding skills. It was this incredible surface grinding that eventually led to today’s non stick cookware.

After World War ll, aluminum was plentiful. It seemed everything was being made out of it. Pots and pans did not escape this transition. Cast iron cookware was out of vogue. Too heavy, black instead of shiny silver and it heated and cooled quickly.  (Aluminum is now being investigated for the increase in Alzheimer’s disease but that’s another story.)

So what could be better than an aluminum skillet coated in Teflon? Why not just cook in toxic waste?

Poor old cast iron. All it’s wondrous properties were nearly forgotten until it was discovered that Teflon coated (PTFE) cookware releases toxic fumes at as little as 395 degrees and has been proven to kill household pet birds. At 500 degrees, humans become ill. Now you know why the art of cooking at high temperatures has nearly disappeared too. When I lived in the Florida Keys, my favorite restaurant (besides my own) had an outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen was used to cook up many Caribbean recipes under extreme temperatures, including Blackened Fish!

 Now pay attention here  because you’re about to get an outdoor cooking lesson.

You have to get your cast iron skillet red hot! Really, really hot! Then toss in a hunk of butter. Instantly, an immense amount smoke starts to billow up. That’s when you drop in a thick hunk of Mahi mahi (Dolphin to us Floridians) on top of the smoking butter. Count to 18. At 18 flip the fish over on the other side and count to 18 again. It’s now 100% DONE! Get it out of the frying pan and onto a plate. That is real heritage cooked Blackened fish! You can add ‘blackened seasoning’ if you wish but you won’t be needing it. Just a light sprinkle of ground Cheyenne, habanero or if you’re really nuts, a Caribbean ghost pepper will add the extra heat you like.

If you cooked this fish indoors on a Teflon non stick pan, you very well could have been rushed to the hospital. Non stick cookware is so common today that it’s the main reason most recipes produced by corporation kitchens recommend ‘medium low to medium high pan temperature that never goes beyond 440 degrees. (PTFE as stated earlier, non stick cookware can kill birds at 395 degrees because they release toxic fumes beginning at that temp ). If you have the ability to cook outdoors, try cooking some recipes that require extreme heat to cook by in your cast iron skillet. You’d be surprised just what a difference it makes.

While Griswold cast iron cookware is again being manufactured today, they do not hold a candle to the old ones of yesteryear. I will hang this pan up somewhere so my friend will see it on visiting. To me though, it’s kind of like stuffing your pet after it gives up the ghost and putting it in its bed. Creepy!

Now please excuse me, I need to begin my grieving process. I’ll start by lighting a candle in memory of all the wonderful meals this innocent pan provided to an individual who cruelly turned it into a proverbial ashtray.

 

   

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Heritage apple butter (washday)

 

The story ‘Wash day’  is taken From my book, cooking with Maw Maw that I posted on 4/7/12

 

“When you hear the term ‘wash day’, you get the idea that one day a week is set aside for laundry chores. Back then, nothing could be further from the truth.

Laundry was an ongoing process. Soaking, washing, ringing, hanging, folding and that was just washing, ironing was another whole day!  Remember those old bushel baskets you used to get from the market each time you bought 4 pecks of apples? No? Let me refresh your memory some. A peck is one of those small cardboard carrying baskets with a wire handle that you see sometimes holding fruit or vegetables. Lots of times it’s tomatoes, peaches or apples. A peck is equal to two gallons, so a bushel equals four pecks or eight gallons, Got that?

Back then, we recycled everything we could. Jars held nails and screws, catalogs was toilet tissue, wood cask was filled with kindling for the cook stove and bushel baskets held laundry. It was like they was made for that purpose. Laundry was a bit wetter after washing because we had no spinning drum to dry them. Plastic hadn’t been invented yet and a metal bucket would have made rust spots on the wet laundry. Them wooden slatted bushel baskets was perfect, even had wire handles on ’em. They never rusted nor was bothered if they got soaking wet. Then they would air dry and the same basket would be used when hauling laundry off the clothes line. I think the folks who sold fruit vegetables was quite aware of the after use of these baskets so they made sure they was stamped permanent like with their company names on them. My favorite was peaches from Northern Ohio. That basket had a paper image of a young lady in a swim suite glued to the basket. She was facing away with a big ‘ol sun hat on her head while lookin’ backwards at you. Her bottom was the image of a peach! Cute it was.

I’m not going to go into the actual functions of doing the laundry but let me mention the wringer washer I got in ’40  from my Henry. I assume you all know what a wringer washer looks like. That big  head with the wringers on it was as dangerous as a fan without a guard. (we had them too!)

It was a design in genius though. Water logged clothes could be pulled right from the tub and guided right into the wringer head. Those two rollers would grab the laundry and squeeze harder than any hand wringing could ever achieve. We truly thought it was the greatest thing…until you got distracted and suddenly found your finger getting nipped. How many times my hand was drawn into that wringer, I could never begin to count. When that occurred, you had only a second to reach over and to the reverse lever handle to get them rollers spinning the other way. A few times I found my entire hand being squished but good before I was able throw the lever with it’s red ball on top into reverse. It was a painful experience and many a hand was broken back then.

My eldest boy once got his younger brother caught up in it and broke the arm on him. He may have been dumb in his actions but was smart enough to realize if the electric plug was pulled out, the machine would stop. It did and I came a runnin’ when I heard the bloody howling going on from the back of the house. If it had been in the basement, I never would a heard it and my young one would have suffered a lot longer before being released. As it was, being summer it was outside. Each spring, Henry would drag the thing outside on the back porch and under it’s roof for me. Come winter, I made a spot for it in the pantry room as Henry added a floor drain under a hose bibb. Climbing basement stairs with a load of laundry never appealed to me and since there was little in the way of ventilation, it would have turned that basement into a sweat lodge anyhow.

But it is the smell of the sun dried laundry I miss the most. A gentle breeze from the west would bring the smell of pasture grass, from the south, honey suckle. There was no need for smelly dryer sheets back then. Nothing compared to climbing into a fresh bed at night smelling Gods fresh air trapped in that soft sun dried cotton as you drifted off to sleep.

Speaking of good smells, making fresh made apple sauce and apple butter stirs up a whole house full of ’em. Try this easy recipe and you’ll never buy the store bought stuff again.”

 

“ When company is over and it’s going to be a late dinner, I set out fresh baked biscuits with a tub of Apple butter to spread on ‘em. It’s very down home and better than any fancy hor dourves in my book!”

4 cups applesauce,  *My recipe follows for making homemade applesauce. (Use unsweetened or natural without added sugar if using store bought)

2 cups of white table sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

Heat all the ingredients in a saucepan until you see bubbles form. Pull from stove and stir well. Let it cool then pour it in clean jars.

*Recipe for easy applesauce

8 apples – peeled, cored and chopped, 1 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher and save it in glass jars.

Refrigerate this as this recipe does not include the canning or preserving portion. It was meant to be eaten after it was chilled. I have found that it will last a number of weeks in the fridge.  Maw Maw.

Mia culpa, Mia culpa I’m not Rachael Ray!

Demonstration kitchen… it’s NOT what mine looks like!

Today was my day for re stocking my larder with homemade essentials. Birthdays and guest  have drained me of my hamburger buns, TVP  mushroom burgers, bread, chocolate ice cream syrup, homemade maple syrup and other baking syrups.  (everything is made in huge quantities then frozen, dehydrated or refrigerated in containers.) I also made up a 2 gallon pot of Jambalaya which I’ll divide up and freeze in containers when it cools down a bit more. I started this at 6am this morning and it is now 10:30am, which means I spent over 3 hours making about a months worth of supplies… give or take on some stuff. Afterward I realized I have another hour cleaning up to do. Most every pot, stirring utensil, mixer, shredder, mandolin, food processor,  measuring device etc, etc was used.  Which brings me to the point.

I was sent an email from one of the followers of this blog. In it she said that after trying out new recipes that no matter how hard she tries, her kitchen ends up a confusing mess of spices, pots and pans, kitchen utensils and clutter.

At first I just smiled as I knew exactly what frustrated her. Then, thinking about it, I realized how unfair many TV cooking shows and online video’s are to the average home cook (yes, even many blogs, including mine). They really do present a scene reminiscent to the middle aged lady looking at a Victoria Secret catalog. Wishes vs reality.

I’m guilty!  Before I take a photo for my blog, I clean up the goop hanging over the bowls rim and make sure I place the ingredients just so. So, from now on I’m not going to do that anymore. Let the mess be a mess, that way no one will ever feel less a cook because they can’t keep their kitchen picture perfect like Rachael Ray does. In fact, I think that is what made Julia Child so popular. Folks were able to resonate with her mishaps as something they too fall victim to. I was watching her TV show years ago where she was trying to manhandle a fowl of some sort and it flew right off of the table onto the floor! Not skipping a beat, she told the audience (in her high whinny voice) “Ooooo dear, well, that happens from time to time!”

Do we ever get to see ‘real’ cooking on our TV’s anymore? With digital editing, any mistake is immediately and seamlessly removed. It never happened. Even live shows are not really live. A ten second delay in digital editing is like hours compared to the old analog tape format. What we see is like the still photo’s we bloggers put up for our followers. Edited and  Sanitized.

Mia culpa, Mia culpa. I have sinned, I have sinned.

So, without further delay, I’m exposing my sins and ask for your forgiveness. My penance? To show you what my kitchen really looks like through un-retouched photos in a light hearted way. My kitchen, with all its clutter and mess still produces some mighty fine food. The only thing you won’t see is my cast iron cookware because I store each piece in its own brown paper bag on a shelf in the garage. A photo of a bunch of bags would be really thrilling! (brown paper bags absorb moister so the cast ironware inside never gets that rusty dust look to it).

So, without further ado, here is my larder and kitchen’s soul, bared for all to see that I am not Rachael Ray!

 

Lets start with my over stuffed kitchen fridge. Can you count how many rules I’ve broken here? (Peanut butter in the fridge is NOT improper. Peanut butter grows a dangerous invisible mold at room temperature. The mold, Aspergillus flavus produces a carcinogenic substance called aflatoxin.) I also keep cold  bottles of reverse osmosis water for cooking and a few Morning Star items for quick ‘on the run’ lunches.

Next is the fridge in my attached garage… the same garage I hide my cast iron cookware in. Notice how my freezer is over stuffed?

Then there’s the larder (food storage areas) I use 5 gallon buckets to hold my unopened stores such as specialty flours, unopened specialty sugars, my almonds for almond milk and  resealable rice packages. Note the little antique fully functioning cast iron stove between my bin of dry beans and pizza pans. I use that to teach folks how to use a cast iron wood burning cookstove. Someday I’ll do a blog on it.  It dates back to around the turn of the century and was used to teach folks how to use the real one and as a demo to sell this certain stove. It is a Cresent stove. I use small slivers of wood to burn and teach banking of fires, where to place pots and pans for different heat etc, etc.

Still in the garage, I have my deep freezer. In it contains 3 twenty pound unopened bags of different flours. A five gallon bucket of flour for easy access and assorted smaller flours and grains. I even threw my sons turkey inside!

Most of my oils are simple ones. Olive and Canola. I’ve really stopped using the sunflowers and others (except sesame oil) because I’ve really noticed little difference in their taste or cooking abilities. BTW Canola oil is a short version for the words “Canadian oil, low acid” It’s derived from Rape seed or Field Mustard seeds and makes an excellent bio diesel fuel for trucks…ugh! Another thing you may have noticed is many of my food stuffs are not necessarily of name brand. That’s because some things are identical, no matter who’s name is on them.

My dry spice area. While most of these are originally at first store bought, I’ve replaced the used up spices with ones I’ve dried and ground myself.  A dehydrator and spice grinder (I even use an old coffee grinder) will grind up most any spice. After a while, I pour them out and grind up some new stuff to keep them fresh. I once thought of buying those neat little jars that have the spices already named on a label but a case of laziness overpowered me and I never got around to it.

This is my catch all cabinet. Everyone has a junk drawer in their kitchen and a few catch all shelves. (unless you happen to be the owner of that Demo kitchen up top!) Much of the stuff in here is stuff I make myself,  like my homemade  Light Karo syrup, Nutella, maple syrup, ground TVP, and more. I use any old container that fits. Maybe it is time I look into those pre-labled bins, jars and containers…nah!

As far as gizmo’s and cool kitchen appliances go, they get an honorable storage place….Not!  I stuff them inside the lower cabinet and hope they don’t get broken when the fall out.

My stainless pots and pans hang from a ceiling mounted pot rack I built myself. I’m waiting for my kitchen ceiling to someday come down on my head!

Lastly, here’s the work horses in my kitchen collection. My Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker, my KitchenAid stand mixer (all it’s add-ons are stuffed in the appliance cabinet under the counter) and my latest addition is my Oster counter top convection oven.

So there ya’ go, Rachael Ray I’m not!  It goes to show that even a worn out old fashioned phony butcher block counter top can be used to knead some fantastic bread loaves and pie crust on it.  I remember watching my grand mother kneading her bread on top of her linoleum coated counter top.  That ol’ counter top sure produced some great bread and pastries. I think it’s hereditary… not the cooking part, hers was magical mine has curses put on it, I was referring to the clutter part 🙂

Heritage no knead Dutch oven bread

Dutch oven no knead bread is a true heritage bread.

It’s been a bit since I’ve wrote about cast iron cookware, so I thought I’d continue my past post by talking about it now.

One of the best things about Heritage trail cooking is the ability to make incredibly good tasting food from scratch. It’s really a thrill to have someone comment on how surprised they are. Most folks assume outdoor cooking cannot compete with the precision of indoor cooking. For instance, take this no knead bread recipe. Most folks would assume there’d be burnt crust or soggy insides. Well, maybe the first couple times it might look pretty unusual but the taste would still come through the ugly end of it. This recipe lets you practice indoors under a controlled situation. Practice makes perfect.

My desire in teaching you all this trail cooking and such is to get you to be able to survive in case a gas or electric stove is not available. I’m not a doomsday person so much as a believer that if I was ever put in a situation (unlike those folks in NJ for instance, I’d still be puttin’ out some mighty fine dinners on what I could scrape together).

I believe every cook should have the skills to survive in any situation. My great grandfather and grandfather were honest to gosh mountain men. They trapped for the Canadian  Hudson Bay fur company in Montana and Idaho. Those skills did not die with them, they passed down a lot of their ‘living off the land’ knowledge to their kids and us grand kids. learning to survive off the land does not start with hunting or trapping. It starts with learning what to cook and how to cook it.

So, try out this recipe and when you get it down, do it for your friends, they’ll wonder what else you’re hiding from them!

The time required for the recipe is about 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising.

Ingredients:

• 3 – 3 1/2 cups of any sort of flour plus a bit more for dusting. Start with 3, add more if needed
• 1¼ teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 envelope (¼ ounce) of yeast
• 1½ cups very warm water (not hot but around 120-125 degrees)

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. If mixing by hand, use a large bowl and a strong wooden spoon to mix the dry ingredients.
    2. Turn mixer to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute or by hand until well blended.
    3. Gradually add very warm water ( 120º F works well)  and continue to mix.
    4. Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.
    5. Continue to mix well until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
    6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
    7. Let dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature. the dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
    8. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice.
    9. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
    10. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.
    11. Generously coat a smooth cotton towel or bakers cloth with flour.
    12. Put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour.
    13. Cover with another similar cotton towel and let the dough rise for about 2 hours until doubled.
    14. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 500° F. (see note below for outdoor campfire cooking)
    15. Place your 6 – to 8quart  cast iron Dutch oven with its lid on into the oven.
    16. When dough is ready, carefully remove your hot Dutch oven from the oven using a pair of good oven mitts. Place lid temporarily on a trivet or the stove top.
    17. Remove your mitts and slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into your Dutch oven, seam side up. Now put your mitts back on!
    18. Cover with lid and bake 35 minutes.
    19. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven by turning it upside down on your towel or let it cool on a rack with one of the cotton towels covering it for at least 1 hour before slicing. (The towel will slow the escaping moister, leaving your bread soft and chewy.)

Chalk another one up on your trail cooking skills!

Note for outdoor cooking. Preheat your cast iron Dutch oven on the campfire by placing the oven over a large bed of hot coals. Place a heaping amount of coals in the lids top.

You can use charcoal briquettes too. See the chart below.

When hot, remove your Dutch oven from the deep bed of hot coals using the handle and your mitts or use your lifter. Use your lid lifter to remove the lid.

Wear mitts when doing this!

Make sure you place the lid on a clean surface, (but not a picnic table or anything else that can be damaged by heat!  A log works well for this).

Place your dough in the Dutch oven as listed above. Before placing your Dutch oven over the coals, rake them a bit smoother than pre heating. Bake as above. Check after 25 minutes.