Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wagner and Wagner Ware

People are funny. When it comes to old cast iron the name Griswold gets the collector's heart to beat a little faster and to grab their wallets. Erie, Martin, BS&R, Favorite...collectors will be on those like stink on a monkey. Wagner and Wagner Ware (did you know there was a difference?) seem to get less respect and I think that's both good and bad.
It is good because as users of old cast iron we get to buy some superb pieces for a lot less money than a comparable Griswold. It is bad because I think the old Wagner and Wagner Ware pieces deserve a little more respect. A Wagner Ware #8 skillet like the one pictured above can be easily purchased for less than twenty five dollars. Mine will cook omelets better than some Teflon-coated sissy pan yet they do seem a bit under appreciated. Maybe there is resentment that Wagner eventually ended up owning Griswold right around the time the quality of both brands went sharply downhill?
The name "Wagner" did not appear on skillets after 1922. When you find one like this #10 shown above you are looking at an old piece. The Sidney, O. stands for Sidney Ohio. The Chicken Fryer, lid and the #8 skillet were probably cast in the 1940s.

The Wagner Manufacturing Company was founded in Sidney OH in 1891. It became one of the two largest makers of cast iron cookware along with Griswold and continued to be a family owned company until the mid 1950s. After being sold to the Randall Company, Griswold was also acquired in 1957 (you can find pieces with both markings). In the years that followed a series of transactions took place that ended up seeing the Sidney foundry close in 2000.

Lehman's is currently selling a Wagner Ware 3 skillet set that they report as being "USA made". I have not seen these pieces nor do I know where the foundry is located. It is possible that these skillets were cast prior to the closure of the Sidney OH foundry and are now being "finished" here.

Some production has occurred in China since the Sidney OH foundry closed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I didn't make this. Black Iron Chick did while I farted around in the garage. She was proud enough to take pictures so I figured I'd better post about it.

The recipe comes from my battered old "New York Times Cookbook" and it is unusual because it does not call for cornmeal. The cake reminds me of angel food cake in taste and texture but it has enough butter in it to keep Vermont and Wisconsin happy and in budget surpluses for years to come.

Stuff that goes in it:
1 and a half sticks of butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
pineapple rings, canned or fresh
1/4 cup pecans ~ We used 1/2 pecans and 1/2 walnuts.
1/2 cup granulated sugar (we use organic sorta brown sugar)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and a half cups AP flour
1 and a half tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk

What you do with it:
1) Oven preheated to 375 F.

2) In a number 8 (10.25") cast iron skillet { you could try another type of baking dish but some say you'll spend an eternity in a very hot place if it ain't a cast iron skillet } melt 4 TBsp. butter over medium low heat and add the brown sugar. Stir until sugar melts and add the pineapple rings and pecans.

3) Cream the remaining butter with the sugar, egg and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add alternately with the milk.

4) Spoon the batter over the pineapple mixture. Bake for 35 minutes or until done. Let cake stand for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

Whipped cream would be a good topping but this was good as you see it. Pears or peaches can substitute for the pineapple if that's what you have.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dutch Oven Ham and Bean Soup

Winter is here.

As I write this it is 12 degrees Fahrenheit and I've got 8 inches of snow. My garden hoses are coiled up under the snow and I'm feeling guilty about the stonewall I didn't build. More snow is due this weekend.

Time for soup!

A pound of Great Northern Beans were soaked overnight earlier this week. The next night they simmered in my Lodge 5 qt. Dutch Oven for a few hours in a mix of water and chicken stock with a bay leaf. I took them off the heat when they just had a little mealiness left to their texture. This sounds like more work than it really is but you can used canned beans if pressed for time. A quicker one night option is to use a crock pot to combine the soak and cooking. This works very well.
1 lb. beans in their simmering liquid from above
1 pound cubed ham, browned
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic sliced thin
1 celery stalk preferably with some leaves on it
1 big carrot
1 tsp. Herbs d'Provence
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
fresh parsley
water to cover + more for broth (I didn't measure but my 5 qt. DO was full)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Brown cubed ham in a well seasoned cast iron dutch oven, remove to a bowl
  • saute vegetables until softened
  • add soaked beans and ham to pot, add seasonings and water (or stock)
  • cook until beans are pillow soft but not turning to mush
  • Garnish and serve with cornbread and a salad.
A good variation would be to add collard greens, kale or any other dark green leafy vegetable towards the end of the cooking. You can also substitute sausage {like andouille, chorizo or linguica} instead of the ham or try another type of bean.

For those that followed my Wagner Ware Dutch Oven reconditioning back in August (see the archives) the lid is finished and I just acquired another #1268 Dutch Oven so hopefully you'll read about it soon.