Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ghost Markings

If you look between the FAVORITE and the PIQUA on this old Favorite griddle you will see a ghost mark.

The ghost mark reads "ERIE".

Erie is the name used from 1880 to 1905 or 1906 on the products of the Griswold Manufacturing Co. After 1905/6 the brand would change to Griswold and continue until 1957 as the premier maker of cast iron cookware (or hollow ware as it was called).

Favorite cast iron cookware was produced in Piqua Ohio by the Favorite Stove and Range Co. 1916-1934 is the usually cited era of Favorite hollow ware production.

So how did a Favorite griddle get an Erie ghost mark? They used an Erie griddle as a pattern to create their casting mold. Later Favorite products used their own designs and were superb.

Ghost marking is prized by collectors as these pieces are less common.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Molasses & Buttermilk Cornbread

Some cornbread recipes should include frosting.

If you want Corn Cake you won't get it from this guy. IF you want it sweet put some honey or raspberry jam on it.

Crank oven to 425.

Put a #7 (9 inch) skillet in the oven to preheat.

2 TBsp. butter
One and a half cups cornmeal
3/4 cups AP flour
2 TBsp. Molasses
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup water
One and a half cups buttermilk
1 egg

Mix all that stuff up. Add 1 tsp. lard or bacon drippings to the hot skillet and swirl it to distribute. Pour batter into hot skillet.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes and check on it. If the top feels solid and the bread has pulled away from the sides of the skillet it is done. I let the pan cool for 10 minutes before I flip it over to get the bread to drop out.

I like to eat this in a bowl with pinto beans (frijoles de olla) and salsa poured over the top.

Jalapenos, roasted New Mexican chiles, crumbled bacon and/or cheese make great additions but are not necessary.

Absolute Nonstickosity

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another Seasoning Tip

This funky old Griswold breakfast skillet came my way with some cooked on, nasty looking, eggish residue and some minor surface rust.

I let the pan soak in the electrolysis tank overnight. Was I smart enough to take a couple of before and after shots? HELL NO!

The electrolysis tank did its usual fine job. I then scrubbed the skillet with hot water, soap and a stiff brush and put it into a 200 degree oven to dry.

The skillet at this point was just hot, naked, (words carefully chosen to ensnare search engines) cast iron, looking like it was cast that very morning.

At this point I actually had a good idea. The oven temperature knob was cranked to 550 degrees and the skillet stayed in the oven for a little over 30 minutes. When I removed it I needed to use 2 hot pads and it was still a little hot to handle but I rubbed it down with a paper towel soaked in a good extra virgin olive oil. The oven was turned off and I put the skillet back in with the door cracked to let it cool. I pulled it out after 10 minutes and wiped it down again to make sure the oil did not congeal. After 30 minutes the pan came out and sat on a cooling rack.

Looking at the skillet it is obvious that the super hot iron soaked up the oil. The 550 degree iron was well past the smoke point of the olive oil so some polymerization probably occurred as well giving it the nice dark brown patina. I've done no other seasoning, what you see is the result of a single treatment. I suspect I stumbled into something similar to what Lodge does for the "pre-seasoned" cast iron they sell.

I'll start using it tomorrow morning and report on how well it works.

Update: 4 fried eggs were cooked as a test for seasoning. They did not stick but this skillet still needs more use before it works like a well seasoned Griswold. I expect eggs to glide around inside the pan when it is swirled and this just takes a little time to develop.

This pan is not as versatile as a round skillet. Cooking bacon and fried eggs looks like it's forte but leftover rewarming is another use I can see. It sure is a well made and finished piece of black iron. Only Le Creuset produces cast iron of similar quality today.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


No! Not the kind Borat might use. I'm talking about using electrolysis for cleaning cast iron.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolysis : In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of separating chemically bonded elements and compounds by passing an electric current through them.

This is an exceptional way to restore some mistreated cast iron. It is also easy to do and inexpensive as long as you already own a battery charger.

This is the setup in my garage.
  • plastic tub
  • plastic dishrack
  • old steel grill (any conductive metal)
  • battery charger
  • Sodium Carbonate (the soap)
  • car battery cable cut in half
  • water

The way this works is you connect the positive clamp to the junk piece of metal you are using for the anode. I use the grill for this.

The negative line is connected to the item you want to clean which is the cathode.

You need to keep the anode and cathode separated and the dishrack works perfectly for this.

As the current flows all the rust, grease, carbon and crud comes off the cathode (skillet) and attaches itself to the anode (grill).

I set my battery charger to the 6 amp setting and it usually takes 8-10 hours. I add 2 or 3 handfuls of the A&H Washing Soda to the water and stir it up before adding the rest of the items to the tub.

I use the car battery cable so that I don't have to crud up my battery charger clamps.

This is very easy to do. No scrubbing or abrasion is needed. The only byproducts are hydrogen gas (vent well) and some iron rich water that I dump on my lawn. I have to assume there is a risk of electric shock but I haven't stuck my finger in the water to find out. Keep kids, pets and idiots away from this and you should be fine. If you are an idiot (ask your friends) don't try this.

If you hurt yourself it is your own damn fault so don't try to blame me.

Once the piece is cleaned you will need to begin seasoning it ASAP to avoid rust. See my article on seasoning here > Seasoning

The water solution lasts for a long time no matter how crappy looking it gets. If you are doing multiple pieces you will need to scrape off the anode now and then. The amount of crud that builds up on it depends on how disgusting the cathode was.

See part 2 HERE where I souped this puppy up.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mountain Man Breakfast from a Camp Dutch Oven

This is a pretty easy breakfast to make.

1/2 pound of decent sausage
1 white onion roughly chopped
3 green onions - use the tops for garnish
1/2 red bell pepper
4 pre-baked Yukon Gold spuds, chopped into 1" chunks
10 eggs, scrambled
extra sharp cheddar to cover

Brown the sausage and remove from DO. I swabbed almost all the leftover grease out and added some good EV olive oil. Add potatoes and brown. Add onions and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the sausage back to the DO and pour the eggs over everything and add the lid. I used 9 coals underneath and 15 on top for 25 minutes. The lid was removed and cheese and green onion added. Replace the lid and let everything melt for another 5 minutes.

The biscuits are the same recipe as my first post Biscuits but I substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of AP.

{I like the name "1/2 whole wheat" as I can imagine my 6th grade English teacher having a stroke over it.}

4 coals underneath with 18 on top for 12 minutes provided the heat. Next time I'll use 20 coals on top and shorten the time.

The whole wheat flour and lots of hot sauce makes this breakfast as healthy as oatmeal.