**Please note: To see the photos contained within a post, you must click on the title of the post to open it separately. Why? I don't know. I just know that it needs to be done to see the pics. :)

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Shepherd's Pie09

The weather is chilly here in the frosty North, which calls for comfort food. I saw a recipe on the Food & Wine website which looked intriguing, so I decided to give it a try. And I know this is hard to believe, but this is the first time I have ever made Shepherd’s Pie! I did modify the recipe a bit (I didn’t want to use the wine, and I tried to take out a bit of the fat – watching calories, don’tchaknow).

Shepherd’s Pie: Braised Beef with Potato / Celery Root Topping INGREDIENTS 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1-1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 4 pieces Freshly ground salt and pepper 4 long skinny carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice 2 medium onions, diced (I like onions, so I left them pretty chunky) 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3-1/2 cups Swanson’s beef broth 1 pound white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice 1-pound piece celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice 3/4 cup skim milk, warmed (admittedly, the potatoes would be tastier with whole milk or cream, but like I said, I try to cut out excess calories when I can) 2 T unsalted butter 1/2 cup coarse, fresh bread crumbs (I did not have coarse fresh bread crumbs, so I used canned fine bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs would also work great in this recipe). INSTRUCTIONS Heat the olive oil in your Griswold Iron Mountain cast iron chicken pan (you can use a different cast iron pan if you insist). Season the meat with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook over medium heat until browned on 2 sides, about 3 minutes per side. Add the carrots and onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables and stir until dissolved. Add the broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat, turning the meat once or twice, until very tender, about 2 hours. About 1/2 hour before the meat is done, boil the potatoes and celery root in water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Return them to the saucepan and shake over moderately high heat to dry them out, about 1 minute.  Using a potato masher, ricer, or hand-held mixer (which is what I used), mash the potatoes and celery root until creamy. Gradually mash in the milk. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the meat from the pan and coarsely shred or chop. Boil the juices in the pan until thickened, about 8 minutes. Return the meat to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mashed potatoes and celery root over the stew in your cast iron pan and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the stew is bubbling, the topping is hot and the crumbs are crisp. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Eat and ENJOY!
"Hazel Friend cooking lunch in her little mountain home." Vicinity of Richwood, West Virginia. June 1942. Library of Congress Photo. Cool to see the string of chili peppers in the background on the wall.

Recently I became kind of transfixed by some of the photos maintained at the Library of Congress. I love to think about the history of the old cast iron pans that come into my hands – where they might have been and the stories they could tell. Our pans come from all areas of the United States, and are vintage mid to late 1800s to around the 1960s. A great many of our pans were manufactured between 1920s to 1950s. During that time, of course, the United States entered into a time of great poverty with the Great Depression. World War II followed. I’m certainly not a historian, but I did enjoy looking through photos from these time periods, and seeing some of this old iron in use. I put together this little post with a few photos and a timeline, so you can see how pans were being used during this time of American history.

I do wonder where my pans have been and what they have seen; I wonder where yours have been as well. I hope that these photos give you a little inspiration in your flights of fancy.

1797: John Adams elected second US president.

“The Old Kitchen in Cottage of John & Abigail Adams.” Date unknown. Library of Congress photo.  I can see at least two cast iron pots in this photo; one on the fire grate and the other on the floor.

June 1812 – December 24, 1814: War of 1812

April 12, 1861 – Spring 1865: Civil War

December 6, 1865: Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ratified, abolishing slavery.

1898: Spanish-American War.

Two Native American “women and a child seated on ground, by pot on campfire.” 1899, unknown location. Library of Congress photo. Cast iron kettle on campfire.

“Photograph shows Theodore Roosevelt stirring a pot cooking over an open flame at an outdoor campsite.” 1903, Hugo, Colorado. Library of Congress photo.

“Mr. and Mrs. Henpeck get supper.” He’s cooking in cast iron, but I can’t tell what it is. Fun to imagine! Circa 1903, Library of Congress photo.

“‘She said she’d come early today, boo-hoo.” “Never mind, dear, I’ll do the cooking'”. 1903, photo from Library of Congress. Sad irons on the stove; griddle hanging on the wall.

Postcard shows early American cooking utensils and dishes displayed at a museum in Deerfield, Mass. Library of Congress photo from 1907. Many pots and pans hanging on the mantle.

July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918: World War I

August 18, 1920: 19th Amendment passes, giving women the right to vote.

October 29, 1929 – 1939: Stock market crashes; Great Depression follows.

“Brooke Manor, Ashton vic., Montgomery County, Maryland.” Library of Congress photo, 1932. Cast iron cooking pots hanging in fireplace.

“Photograph showing a number of three-legged iron kettles being used for cooking the Southern food staple known as chicken pilau (or perlou) at a cookout in Florida.” Library of Congress photo, exact date unknown but circa 1930 – 1941.

“Mexican woman cooking tortillas.” San Antonio, Texas. In a cast iron skillet, of course. 1939 Library of Congress photo.

“Adam Thoroughgood House, Norfolk vic., Princess Anne County, Virginia.” Between 1930 and 1939, Library of Congress photo. Cast iron pots hanging in fireplace.

“Farmer’s wife cooking meat preparatory to canning. Lakeview Project, Arkansas.” December 1938, Library of Congress.

“[M]igrant woman cooking cabbage in tent home. Edinburg, Texas.” She is using one of those old long-handled steel skillets, as well as a cast iron skillet. February 1939, Library of Congress photo.

Library of Congress, January 1939. “Wife of evicted sharecropper in tent along highway cooking beans obtained from surplus commodities.” New Madrid County, Missouri. She is cooking the beans in a cast iron skillet.

“Mrs. Shorts Cooking Dinner” (in a cast iron skillet, of course). July 1938 Library of Congress Photo.

“Daughter of Minnie Knox, Cooking Soup.” Library of Congress Photo, December 1937. She is cooking the soup in a cast iron kettle.

“Cooking Hog Soup.” Library of Congress Photo, October 1936.

‘Mexican man sitting by makeshift cooking stove. It is not unusual to find Mexicans cooking over these fires and coals in galvanized tubs.” San Antonio, Texas. March 1939, Library of Congress photo.

December 7, 1941: Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. US enters WWII.

Lititz, Pennsylvania. Scrap collection drive. “Each household placed its contribution on the sidewalk. It was then picked up by local trucks whose owners had volunteered their services for civilian defense. Old iron cooking utensils.” Library of Congress photo, November 1942.

“Why greases must be saved. A soldier of the home front–and there’s one in every American kitchen–saves all waste fats and greases so that they can be processed into ammunition for America’s soldiers on the battlefronts. Pan and broiler drippings, deep fats, renderings from bacon rinds, these are some of the fats which should be put through a strainer to remove meat scraps and other solids, and poured into wide-mouthed cans such as coffee or fat cans.” Library of Congress photo, June 1942.

“Manpower, junior size. Junior commandos of Roanoke, Virginia, follow up on their fat collection drive with a visit to the local rendering plant to see what happens to the household fats they have collected during the week. They’re learning firsthand how explosives are derived from bacon grease and meat fats.” Library of Congress photo, October 1942.

1942 photo from Library of Congress. Shows conversion of frying pans to aircraft parts. “Using a lathe converted from manufacture of egg poachers, frying pans and radio parts, this employee of a small Eastern plant is milling an aluminum alloy flap hinge forging to be used on American fighting planes.” Precision Metal Company, New York, New York.

“Escambia Farms, Florida. Mrs. McLelland cooking fried chicken for Sunday dinner.”She is cooking in a Wagner chicken pan with lid. June 1942, Library of Congress photo.

“Hazel Friend cooking lunch in her little mountain home.” Vicinity of Richwood, West Virginia. June 1942. Library of Congress Photo. Cool to see the string of chili peppers in the background on the wall. I see she is using a tin lid; I wonder if she gave her cast iron lid to the scrap drive. My friend’s 87-year-old mother told her that many homemakers did so, as they wanted to do their part for the scrap drives and the lids were less necessary for cooking than the cast iron pans.

“Washington, D.C. Jewal Mazique [i.e. Jewel] cooking dinner after a hard day’s work in the Library of Congress.” Winter, 1942. I found it interesting to note that she was not using a cast iron lid on her pan. This was around the time of the War Scrap Drive effort. I wonder if she donated the lid to the cause?

“Batavia, New York. Elba FSA (Farm Security Administration) farm labor camp. William Sloan is looking after these boys while they work in the harvest. He is doing the cooking and keeping them out of trouble. They will return to school later in the fall.” Library of Congress photo, Sept. 1942. Mr. Sloan is cooking in a small cast iron skillet.

“Trampas, New Mexico. Maclovia Lopez, wife of the majordomo (mayor), cooking tortillas directly on the stove.” January 1943, Library of Congress photo. She is also cooking something up in a cast iron skillet.

“Washington, D.C. Lynn Massman, wife of a second class petty officer who is studying in Washington, cooking dinner.” Library of Congress photo, Dec. 1943. She is cooking in a cast iron skillet.

August 15, 1945: WWII ends.

Served at table on cork trivet, with holiday red panhandler.

I want to serve food in cast iron pieces at the table more often. This was my first skillet | table service breakfast effort; made and served in two #3 vintage cast iron skillets.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit recipe so as to make it lower-calorie. Makes two servings.


2/3 cup plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt 1 garlic clove, halved

Kosher salt to taste 1 T unsalted butter, divided 1 T olive oil 3 T chopped leek (white and pale-green parts only) 2 T chopped scallion (white and pale-green parts only) 10 cups fresh spinach (10 ounces) 1 t fresh lemon juice 4 large eggs ¼ t crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of paprika 1 t chopped fresh oregano


Mix yogurt, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Preheat oven to 300°. Melt ½ T butter and olive oil in a #8 cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add leek and scallion; reduce heat to low. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add spinach and lemon juice; season with salt. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, turning frequently, until wilted, 4–5 minutes.


Divide spinach mixture equally between two #3 cast iron skillets. Make 2 deep indentations in center of each small skillet. Carefully break 1 egg into each hollow, taking care to keep yolks intact.

Bake until egg whites are set, 10–15 minutes.

Making the chili oil.

Melt remaining ½ butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of paprika and salt, and cook until butter starts to foam and browned bits form at bottom of pan, 1–2 minutes. Add oregano and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove garlic halves from yogurt; discard. Spoon yogurt over spinach and eggs. Drizzle with spiced butter.

Served at table on cork trivet, with panhandler.

To serve at table: cover handle of pan with panhandler to protect from heat. Serve in pan at table atop cork trivet.

Eat and enjoy!



Leslie's New Zealand spice gem cakes, made in a Griswold cast iron Aebleskiver pan.

Leslie K from California has purchased some wonderful cast iron pans including an aebleskiver pan from The Pan Handler LLC. She was kind enough to send in some photos of her Aebleskiver pan in action! I asked her for the recipe, so that I could share it with you.

Leslie made New Zealand gem cakes in her Griswold Aebleskiver pan. She explained that New Zealand gem cakes are like little spice cakes, traditionally made in a French roll gem pan. Her recipe turned out 7 Aebleskivers and 1 muffin.

Leslie found the recipe here. It is reprinted with just a few variations for brevity and Leslie’s substitutions, below.

Leslie K’s New Zealand Gem Cakes

Takes about 30 minutes total to prep and cook.

Serve warm with butter, or jam and cream, or lemon curd.

Ginger flavored ones are classic; apple spice is also popular.

There are special baking pans for Gem Cakes. Older baking pans for Gem Cakes are made of cast iron; newer ones are aluminium. The classic pan consists of small rectangular moulds, with convex (rounded) bottoms, all joined together as a tray (e.g. the Griswold French roll pan). The cast iron pans are also referred to as “gem irons.”

You heat the pan first in the oven, then put a bit of butter in to melt, then put your batter in. Gem Cakes cooked in cast iron molds cook particularly fast, as the pre-heated cast iron holds its heat.

Leslie’s New Zealand spice gem cakes, made in a Griswold cast iron Aebleskiver pan.

(makes 12 in a French roll pan, or 6 aebleskivers and 1 muffin)


1 c. flour 1 t. baking soda 1 t. ground dried ginger (Leslie used 1 t. apple pie spice instead of ginger) pinch of salt 4 T. brown sugar 2 T. butter 2 T.  golden syrup or corn syrup (Leslie used 2 T. maple syrup) 1/2 c. milk 1 egg 12 mold gem pan, or Aebleskiver and muffin pan.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the gem pan (ungreased) in the oven right away so that it heats, too. Sift into a large mixing bowl the flour, baking soda, ginger and salt. Stir in the brown sugar. Set aside. Put the butter and syrup into a small mixing bowl, and zap in microwave just until the butter is melted — about a minute. Take out of microwave, stir to mix with a fork. Add the milk; beat the egg in a separate cup, then add it to the milk and syrup mixture. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and mix well. Carefully take the hot gem pan out of the oven. Put a dab of butter into each mold where it will quickly melt (some people spread it around with a pastry brush; others say they never bother.) Divide the batter up amongst the moulds. Put the pan back in the oven, bake for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove pan from oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.

Leslie said they were tasty!

Leslie K’s Japanese Aebleskiver Cakes with Red Bean Paste


2 c flour 1/4 c sugar 1 egg, beaten 1 c milk 1 t baking powder 1/2 t salt 1/2 t vanilla Sweet red bean paste (available at Asian groceries in cans and plastic pouches, or you can make your own. Here is a recipe from the web for red bean paste).


Heat the aebelskiver pan over medium to medium low heat on your cooktop.  It will probably take about 10 minutes (Leslie says that you should not be impatient, like she is!) Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix into a batter.  It should be like pancake batter.  If it’s too thick, feel free to add a little milk. Once the iron is hot, turn the heat down to low and grease the wells with butter. Fill half the wells with the batter, add about a teaspoon or more of red bean paste (it tastes better with more red bean paste — I didn’t measure the amount I put in, I just plopped it in with two spoons because it’s kind of sticky), then pour batter over the red bean paste to fill the wells. Cook on stovetop. Flip when tiny bubbles start to appear.  Cook until done.Note: You may have to let the little balls sit in the iron a little longer after they seem finished, to make sure they are done.  The little aebelskivers are fat so it takes a while for the center to cook.  I found that the center well got the hottest on my iron, so once they seemed cooked, I rotated them in and out of the center well to make sure they were done.

Leslie’s Japanese with red bean paste gem cakes made in an Aebleskiver pan. Here, half of the cakes have been turned and half have not.

Leslie hopes that you will give these a try. She tells me that they taste the best warm, right out of the iron.  They sell a larger, flatter version of this in Little Tokyo in downtown LA, and there is always a line!

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Leslie!

And just for fun, here is a photo of some blondies that Leslie made in her Wagner style A gem pan. Yum!

Leslie’s blondies.

Thank you for sharing, Leslie. I am so glad you are enjoying your new old pans! Keep those photos and recipes coming!

Have a Question?

Catherine M from California wrote:

“I found this great pan it cleaned up nicely it looks exactly like the 701H you are selling has all the same measurements heat ring and logo markings on the back only difference I see is it has 701 & directly under the 701 E I can’t find another marked with an E under the 701. Is this a rare skillet? Thanks.”

Michelle M from Ohio wrote:

“I have a Griswold #8 704 T cast iron-age and value? I cannot find any information about this with the letter T..I bought it years ago at a local flea market..use it all the time 🙂 it was made in Erie, Pa. large block logo bottom center and ringed bottom. Thank you!”

Hi Catherine and Michelle. Isn’t it fun when you find an old pan and you rescue it and restore it and put it back into use? That is one of the things I really love about doing this work. Preserving history!

I cannot identify pieces without photos, and unfortunately neither of your emails contained  any photos of the markings on the pan. The specific markings on the pan, as well as other aspects that need to be seen, are all important in dating or identifying a piece.

Also, Michelle, as the Ask The Pan Handler contact form states, I do not provide opinions as to value. That is totally subjective and depends on many factors; you need to do your own research. You might want to take a look at the “Ask The Pan Handler” post I made in reply to Robert W’s question, here.

Both of you, however, are asking about the letter on the bottom of the pan that is – or is not – present after the 3-digit number. The 3-digit number you refer to (701 and 704) is the “pattern” number. Catherine asks whether her Griswold number 7 pan (which is Griswold’s pattern number 701) is rare because it does not have a letter after the pattern number, whereas the pan she apparently saw on my website does have a letter after the pattern number. Michelle asks about her pan because it has a letter T following the pattern number (Griswold’s pattern number on Michelle’s skillet is 704), and she has not seen any other letter T’s following the pattern number.

As to the letter – or lack thereof – following the pattern number on a pan, here are photos showing the pattern number of two of the Griswold number 7 skillets I presently have on the site. As you can see, one has pattern number 701 G, and another has pattern number 701 H.

Griswold large block logo EPU number 7 pan, pattern number 701 G.

Griswold large block logo EPU number 7 skillet, pattern number 701 H.

Other Griswold number 7 pans may have just the pattern number (i.e. 701), or an entirely different letter following the pattern number.

Is the skillet rare or unusual because of this? No.

I wrote an Ask The Pan Handler blog post on the smoothness of vintage cast iron pans vs. pans of recent manufacture; you can find it here. That blog post has embedded videos which show how the casting process works – there is a video from Lodge and an old British video embedded in that post, which give a nice overview.

To put it in simple and general terms, in the sand casting process, the sand is tamped and packed around a “pattern” skillet, to create a mold into which molten iron will be poured. Once the sand is tamped just right, the pattern is carefully removed from the mold, leaving a vacant space into which iron is poured, creating the final product. The number Catherine has on her skillet – 701 – is Griswold’s pattern number for that number 7 skillet. The letter which follows the 701 (or the lack thereof) is simply a mechanism by which Griswold identified which of the particular patterns were used in that pour; i.e. a quality control measure. Similarly, the letter T on Michelle’s skillet following the pattern number 704, is simply a reflection of the particular pattern that was used in that pour.

While I am sorry to tell you that the letter – or lack thereof – does not make your pans “rare” or unusual, it doesn’t make them any less collectible, valuable or useful.

I am glad you both are using your old Griswold pans –  now go enjoy them and get cooking!