**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. :)

Page 4

IMG_9231

Man oh man, I could eat this every day of the week. It is DELICIOUS!

If you read my blog, you know that I have been enjoying cooking Blue Apron meals for about a year now (no, I’m not a paid sponsor, yet…Hello, Blue Apron, are you listening?) This recipe for sure is one of my favorites. I made very few modifications to the recipe; added more veggies and liquid and cooked a bit longer. The version below is my version; you can find the original Blue Apron recipe here.

Of course, I made this soup in my Iron Mountain (by Griswold) cast iron chicken pan. That pan sure does get a workout in my kitchen!

Italian Wedding Soup with Pork Meatballs

Makes: 2 servings Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 35–45 minutes (I let it simmer longer than this, to ensure the pork was cooked through)

Note: as I added additional veggies; my version easily would have served 4 people or 3 very hungry people.

Ingredients

10 Ounces Ground Pork 1?2 Cup Semi-Pearled Khorasan Wheat (if you can’t find this in your market, I expect that barley or wheat berries would work equally well) 1 15-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced 2 Carrots, peeled and diced 2 Stalks Celery, diced 1 large Yellow Onion, peeled and diced 1?2 Bunch Collard Greens (Blue Apron sent me two HUGE leaves – bigger than the size of my head!), stem removed and chopped 1?4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese 1?4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – more or less to taste. 1 Teaspoon Pork Meatball Spice Blend (1/2 t. ground fennel seeds & 1/2 t. ground dried oregano)

Directions

Cook the khorasan wheat:

Heat a medium pot of salted water to boiling on high. Once boiling, add the khorasan wheat and cook, uncovered, 16 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Drain thoroughly, reserving 4 cups of the khorasan wheat cooking water.

Form the meatballs:

Combine the ground pork, spice blend, half the cheese and the red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Gently mix until just combined. Using your hands, form the mixture into 14 equal-sized meatballs; transfer to a plate.

Brown the meatballs:

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in your cast iron chicken pan over medium heat until hot. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel- lined plate and set aside in a warm place. Drain the oil from the pan and wipe it out, leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pan.

Start the soup:

Add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic to the pan of reserved fond; season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until slightly softened and fragrant.

Finish the soup & plate your dish:

Add the collard greens, diced tomatoes, browned meatballs, cooked khorasan wheat and about 3 cups of the khorasan wheat cooking water to the pan; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Once simmering, cook, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add additional khorasan wheat cooking water if you think it necessary.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the soup into bowls. Garnish with the remaining cheese. Enjoy!

s-l500

Malinda J. from Indiana wrote to Ask The Pan Handler and said:

“I was told this dutch oven is worthless b/c lid is warped. By pressing on the rim of the pan at various points, you can feel and see the movement, and listen for the clicking sounds that are tell-tale signs of warping.” Yes, it does move when you push on the lid a bit but I used it for years and years with no problem. Is this really a major issue? THANKS!”

Malinda attached these photos:

Malinda, your well-meaning (I presume) friend is incorrect. If you have used your Dutch oven for “years and years with no problem,” then it obviously is not “worthless.”

I suspect that there is not warpage to the lid, but perhaps the Dutch oven itself has some movement when pressing along the upper rim. This is not at all uncommon. It does not render a piece “worthless.” 

Interest in vintage cast iron cookware has soared since I began this business. There are many well-meaning people who put information out there that is incorrect, exaggerated, or “guesses” presented as fact. I suspect that is the case with the person who told you that your pan was “worthless.”

I recently wrote a blog post about warpage in cast iron skillets – you can find it here. I wrote this, in part, to try to dispel this widespread notion that pans must sit completely “flat” to be of use and value. That is not at all the case. The amount of movement might matter to you, however; it all depends on how you are using the pan. In your case, you love your set and it has worked wonderfully for you for years, so feel free to tell your doubting friend that you disagree and that they are incorrect. The set works for you, is a great cooker, and movement does not always equate to value. And even if a pan sits completely flat when placed upon a cold cooktop, it can have movement when heated. Moreover, even if it does sit flat, it could have an upward bow to the cooking surface. Ask yourself what kind of cooking you do – do you do some kind of precision cooking that requires that your pans have no differential in the cooking surface? If so, what kind of cooking, exactly, is that?

Thank you for your inquiry, Malinda. Now go enjoy that beautiful Griswold Dutch oven…I can almost smell the stews and roasts that you’ve made in it!

FullSizeRender 39

In collecting information around the world about vintage cast iron cookware, I keep running across the great “soap \ no soap” debate. Just do a google search for “soap cast iron” and a myriad of articles will pop up. Many sources routinely emphasize that use of soap will destroy your carefully-built up seasoning.

Nonsense. Using a drop of soap when you want to use a drop of soap is not going to remove the seasoning from a pan that has been properly seasoned. I use soap when I feel like my pan needs soap. Just use your common sense! Don’t soak your cast iron pan in hot soapy water, don’t scrub heartily with stainless steel (moderate is fine – just don’t go nuts), and use your chain mail scrubber when wanting to remove bits of food. Some folks use kosher salt – whatever works. And of course, never ever put your cast iron in the dishwasher!

After cleaning to bare iron, we heat-season most all of our pans with either one coat of Crisco vegetable shortening or one coat of a mixture of coconut and canola oils and beeswax. Our process is discussed in the FAQs section of the site. When I use my pans, I clean it of all food debris (using a drop of soap if I feel like it), dry it thoroughly with paper towels (sometimes I also put it into a warm oven), spray some Pam on a paper towel, and wipe it down. My pans are beautiful, seasoned well, and the soap doesn’t hurt the seasoning one bit. You can see my process on my youtube channel.

The misconception about soap use arises, I think, because people think that the “seasoning” is just a thin layer of oil put onto the pan. It is more than that – the heating process changes the chemical structure of the oil and it polymerizes and bonds to the iron. Continued use builds up more layers of that polymerized oil,  eventually resulting in the almost-non-stick surface that is so desired on vintage cast iron pieces. A drop of soap is not going to remove that polymerized coating as it would a simple layer of vegetable oil that has just been smeared onto the pan.

As long as your pan has been properly seasoned, feel free to use a drop of soap to clean it when your common sense tells you that you should. Just be smart about it!

 

 

July 1940. Berrien County, Michigan. "Migrant mother of family from Arkansas in roadside camp of cherry pickers."

I love thinking about the history of the old pans that come into our hands. I love to think about where they have been and what they might have cooked, for whom. I am very proud to be a part of preservation of these pieces of American history, and I love sending these restored pieces off to homes where they will be used, enjoyed, and handed down through the generations.

Earlier this year I spent some time looking through old Library of Congress photos and finding pictures of cast iron cookware in use. I wrote a blog post about it, which you can find here.

Here are a few more photos I came across. Captions in quotes are as printed with the photos. Enjoy, and just imagine where your old pans have been!

 

1808, “Cooking Dinner for the Hungry Soldiers.” Big cast iron pots over the fire.

“Hermit’s House.” Cast iron pans on wall. Circa 1865.

“The kitchen of a pullman car.” Circa 1882.

The Lone Star State circa 1901. “Camp wagon on a Texas roundup.” Dry plate glass negative by William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Co

“Cast Iron” cartoon cigarette card, 1901.

“Approximately 10 irons on stove.” Circa 1902 – 1914. More irons on nearby table, too!

“Kitchen with stove, sink, and utensils.” Circa 1902 – 1914

“Kitchen with stove (having two irons and kettle and hot water tank above it), cupboard (filled with dishes), and table (covered with figured cloth)” Circa 1902 – 1914.

Bethlehem Steel Company. “Cupola for producing cast iron.” Circa 1860 – 1920.

October 1935. “Making cornbread with relief flour. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.”

“Slum kitchen, Washington D.C.” October 1937. Sad irons on stove along with what looks like a cast iron baking pan.

November 1935. Washington, D.C. “Kitchen in Negro home near Union Station.” 35mm negative by Carl Mydans, Resettlement Administration. Look at all the sad irons on the stove!

June 1937. “Child of Earl Taylor in kitchen of their home near Black River Falls, Wisconsin.” Photo by Russell Lee, Resettlement Administration. Sad iron on stove, cast iron pan on top.

“Tent of migrant stove maker and repairer on U.S. 90 near Jeanerette, Louisiana.” Photo by Russell Lee for the FSA. Cast iron Dutch oven.

Placing bread in deep skillet to bake near Marfa, Texas. May 1939.

Placing coals on lid of dutch oven for baking bread. Roundup near Marfa, Texas. May 1939.

Cook of the SMS Ranch frying meat at chuck wagon on ranch near Spur, Texas. May 1939.

Victuals and frying pan of migrant family along roadside near Henrietta [i.e., Henryetta,] Oklahoma. July 1939.

Placing bread in dutch oven to bake near Marfa, Texas. May, 1939

“Mrs. Wardlow baking corn bread in her dugout basement home. Dead Ox Flat, Malheur County, Oregon.” Oct. 1939.

Count your blessings. According to “The American Consumer Home Front During World War II,” 33% of all Americans had no running water in 1940, 67% had no central heat, 47% had no built-in bathing apparatus in their homes, 48 % did not have interior access to automatic or other washing machines, 48% did not have a refrigerator, and 33% percent cooked with wood or coal (citations omitted).

 

July 1940. Berrien County, Michigan. “Migrant mother of family from Arkansas in roadside camp of cherry pickers.” Sad iron on table.

SHARE THE MEATThe military needed huge amounts of food, too, to feed soldiers, and by late 1942 food at home was running short. Grocery stores started rationing canned goods to customers to prevent hoarding. Meat was in especially short supply. The government limited the amounts shipped to grocers and restaurants and set a “voluntary ration” of two and a half pounds of red meat per adult per week. But stores often could not get even that much, and residents of some cities faced a meatless Christmas. Shoppers in San Diego crossed the border into Mexico in search of full shelves. Time magazine blamed the government’s “blundering” for the shortages.U.S. War Production Board.

October 1942. “‘Share The Meat’ recipes. Braised stuffed heart. Brown the hearts on all sides in fat, then place in a covered baking dish or casserole. Add a half of cup of water, cover closely and cook until tender in a very moderate oven (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit). Calf hearts require about one and a half hours, beef hearts will require much longer — four to five hours to cook till tender.” Photo by Ann Rosener for the Office of War Information

“Bantam, Connecticut. Defense homes. The heating unit is in the kitchen of Fred Heath’s four-room apartment in the new federally-financed homes for eighty families just a few minutes from the Warren McArthur factory in Bantam. The well-insulated coal fire puts steam in the radiators and provides the heat for cooking. The tenants are well-pleased although on several nights when the temperature dropped to ten degrees below zero they were forced to replenish the fuel every two or three hours. That cigarette Fred Heath holds is not tailor-made, by the way–he likes to roll his own.” January 1942, Library of Congress photo.

Daytona Beach, Florida. Bethune-Cookman College. Southern fried steak and onions to be served in the cafeteria for students. February 1943.

“Man and woman at stove cooking.” Circa 1950s.

CampFood18

I love camping, and I love cooking. And we all know I love cast iron cookware!

On a June 2016 camping trip – at Frontenac State Park – I brought along a Griswold no. 10 cast iron camp oven / chuckwagon, and made a tasty side dish for the twelve tent campers we had along.  Our group typically has a big pot luck supper on Saturday nights. Since we are all a group of “foodies,” it is fun to try something new and hope that the group will applaud.

You can see that the group is on pins and needles awaiting the taste test of the root gratin vegetable dish. We are a pretty high-strung group. 🙂 Anna and her husband, Rob, are in the middle of this photo.

Applaud, they did. With help from my friends, we made a wonderful root vegetable gratin. The recipe was adapted a bit from one I found somewhere on the wild, wild web.

Here’s how I did it!

Root Vegetable Gratin

Recipe said it serves 8; it served 12 with leftovers for the next morning’s breakfast hash.

Ingredients: 4 T unsalted butter, divided 1.5 c. Panko breadcrumbs 1.5 c. shredded parmesan 6 or so sprigs thyme, plus 1 T leaves Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 3 c. heavy cream (I used 2 c. heavy cream and 1 c. half and half) 1 c chicken broth 1.5 lb hunk of celery root, peeled and sliced 1/16″ thick 1 lb hunk of rutabaga, peeled and sliced 1/16″ thick 2 peeled sweet potatoes, sliced 1/16″ thick 1 lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/16″ thick Pam vegetable oil spray hunk of parchment paper Day before preparation: Melt 2 T butter in size 8 cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs. Stir until golden brown; 5-7 minutes. Let cool. Mix cooled breadcrumbs with 1/2 c. parmesan and 1 T thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Place in quart-sized zip-lock bag and set aside. Camp preparation: Peel the vegetables. Using a mandoline, slice into even 1/16″ slices. Place all slices in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss.

Even after all these years of life on this Earth, I cannot for the life of me pare a vegetable with a knife. Debra, however, is an expert and came to my rescue.

Debra and Jerry added their sweet potatoes to the recipe. They were a nice touch!

We left the holder for the vegetables at home – that little thing with prongs so that you don’t slice your fingers? Debra made do. What a champ!

Bring cream, broth, thyme sprigs, and remaining 2T butter to simmer in skillet or camp oven. Remove from heat. Discard thyme. Cover and keep warm. Take about 24 charcoal briquettes and light; cook til ashy grey.

Pan Apprentice Linda, getting the cream mixture ready. It was raining. Linda persevered, however! The briquettes on the fire grate are cooking down and awaiting the camp oven placement.

Spray inside of camp oven with Pam. Arrange 1/3 of the veggies in camp oven. Cover with 1/2 c. parmesan. Repeat layers. Top with  vegetables. Pour cream mixture over the vegetables. Place a piece of parchment paper directly over the vegetables. Cover.

Debra arranging; Jerry standing watch.

Ready!

With the parmesan sprinkled on top.

Camp Cooking: Original recipe called for 50-60 minutes of cooking in a 350 degree oven. I used 18 briquettes on top and 6 underneath, in an effort to replicate the temperature charts I’ve found online (one is here).

Every 15 minutes, turn lid 45 degrees. Turn pot 45 degrees. The goal is to avoid hot spots as possible. As the charcoal wears thin, add more. After about an hour, remove cover and parchment paper. Scatter breadcrumbs on top of potatoes. Re-cover. Bake additional 15-20 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Pre-Panko.

w Panko.

Stirred and ready to serve! Scrumptious!

Scoop up and enjoy! The dish received rave reviews from our hungry campers.