Cast Iron Cookware

I have become a firm believer in cast iron cookware.  I inherited a small skillet from Mom Clemens but used it rarely.  My husband occasionally used it to fry his morning eggs, for nostalgic reasons.  Then one of our cooks during our restaurant years requested a large heavy iron skillet for frying chicken.   She said cast iron was the only way to get crispy chicken–and she was right.  Now that big skillet comes down from the kitchen wall whenever I prepare French fries, sweet potato fries, chicken, fritters and pancakes.  Cast iron crisps without burning.  Eureka!

From over twenty pieces of cast iron at a recent auction, I procured a medium and small skillet at my price for our September sale.  They were caked from years of use and had a patina of rust.  I wish I had taken a “before” picture.  The “after” picture is below.  Using a method I learned from Pinterest, they are now like new.

Vintage Cast Iron Skillets

Vintage Cast Iron Skillets

  • Place the cast iron pieces top down in the oven.  Set for automatic oven clean.  As your oven cleans, old buildup on the iron turns to a fine powder.  Wipe off the powder with a wet dish cloth.
  • The buildup is taken care of but rust remains.  Ironware can rust if exposed to moisture.
  • To remove rust, fill a basin deep enough to submerge pieces.  Fill the basin with half water and half white vinegar.  Soak iron for several hours until rust is loosened.  As the vinegar works, it sends up small bubbles from the surface of the iron.
  • Wash off rust residue with warm soap and water.  Rinse and dry.
  • Your iron ware will now have a silvery appearance but cannot be used for cooking until it is re-seasoned.  Wipe the cookware on all surfaces with a paper towel dabbed in solid shortening.  Coat all surfaces with a thin coat.
  • Bake iron in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  Let cool.  Wipe residue of excess oil from iron with a clean paper towel.

After using any cast iron, wipe with mild soap and water and rinse but do not scrub to avoid removing the “seasoning” that gives cast iron its excellent cooking surface.  The patina of seasoned oil also helps to protect the iron from rusting.  After cleaning, place your cookware in a warm oven to dry completely before storing.  Re-season as needed.

Although every chef seems to have their own line of cookware, old-fashion cast iron worked for grandma and has benefits for the self-reliant lifestyle.  Virtually every dish, including bread, can be cooked on a grill or over a wood fire with a cast iron Dutch oven and large iron skillet.

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Summer Harvesting

yellow yarrow 015yellow yarrow 016 Although the extremely wet spring and summer in Central Illinois has cut down on some of our harvest, I have plenty to keep me busy.  The Yellow Yarrow along the lane to Old Towne Grove Wedding Chapel was caught up into 10 bunches and is now drying in the great room.  Yarrow dries wonderfully well and keeps its color for years in arrangements and wreaths.  It will add a seasonal note to my autumn wreaths.   The cute chicken in the basket is a Morton cookie jar that I inherited from my dear mother-in-law, Donna Clemens.  The knob on the top for removing the lid is a chick! Many of the peaches are rotting on the trees from a blight due, I am sure, to the wet.  Dirk and I still managed to pick this big basket and another galvanized bucket full.  The result is 18 quarts of canned peaches.  It will not take long for us to eat our way through those pretty jars of fruit.  We are having peach shortcake for Sunday dinner dessert tomorrow.

Filled to the Brim.

Filled to the Brim.

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Latest Berry Pie

Just a quick word since I am elbow deep in peaches:

I tried another triple berry pie but it ended up being 5 berries.  I took the John Deer Gator back to my brother’s acreage to hunt black raspberries a few weeks ago and found not only raspberries but blackberries that were ripe.  I added handfuls of ripe gooseberries I found on one loaded bush along the way.  With cherry pie filling from Door County and blueberries in the fridge, I ended up with a luscious filling that contained a variety of summer berries.  Wonderful!

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Pickles On The Counter

Unless I pick up more canning jars at a reasonable price, I am done pickling for the season.  The rest of my jars are dedicated to peaches and salsa.  Last year we purchased a Ball electric canner.  It holds fewer jars and can take longer to process but it is handier than water canning.  The water level in the electric canner is much lower and acts like a cross between a pressure cooker and stove-top water canner.  It cannot process meats or low-acid foods but for my needs, it is pretty nifty!

Ball Electric Canner

Ball Electric Canner

I love seeing freshly packed produce IN THE JAR!

I love seeing freshly packed produce IN THE JAR!

See the last post for the recipe for these Crisp Sweet Pickles very similar to the old-fashion Bread & Butter pickles.  I add some sweet dill weed to the recipe as well because we really like candied dill pickles.  Now I am putting my feet up with a cup of coffee.

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Pickle Season

Fresh From the Garden

Fresh From the Garden

Uh oh.  Time for pickles.  I posted this recipe two years ago but I am posting it again because the pickles are so yummy.  If dill pickles are your preference, these may be too sweet for your taste.  Because candied dill pickles are a favorite of both my husband and I, I add some fresh dill weed to this recipe–the best of both worlds.

Try these pickles as a side dish with meats and meat salads like chicken salad.  I love them on top of a crisp lettuce salad filled with veggies and cheese.  The combination of pickled onions, peppers and cucumbers creates a wonderful pickled salsa side.

CRISP PICKLE SLICES [Bread & Butter Pickles]

4 quarts sliced unpeeled medium cucumbers

6 medium white onions, sliced [6 cups]

2 green peppers, sliced [1 2/3 cups]

3 cloves garlic

1/3 cup pickling salt

Cracked ice

5 cups sugar

3 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 1/2 tsp. celery seed

fresh dill weed

Combine cucumbers, onions, green pepper, garlic, and salt.  Cover with cracked ice; mix well.  Let mixture stand 3 hours; drain well.  Remove garlic.  Combine remaining ingredients; pour over cucumber mixture.  Bring to boiling.  Pack cucumbers and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Adjust lids.  Process in boiling water bath [half-pints or pints] 5 minutes.  Makes 8 pints.

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God Bless America

Happy Birthday America!  I am saying a prayer for you today, July 4th, 2015.

Happy Birthday America! I am saying a prayer for you today, July 4th, 2015.


A nation that follows God will survive.

A nation that follows God will survive.

Thank you for perfect 80 degree weather and sunshine, ideal for celebration of America’s birthday, July 4th, 2015.  Thank you Lord that our nation may celebrate another year of existence.  The prosperity of cultures is in your hands.  “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  Isaiah 1:19-20

Our flags are flying!  America is our home; we cherish it.  To take for granted the lifestyle  long enjoyed is to lose it to complacency and to forget that You are sovereign over all things.

Mom in Bean Bed July 2015Mundane tasks such as picking green beans in the garden are a gift to us.  Let us not take the freedoms of the every day for granted, Oh Lord.

American Flag over the U.S.

American Flag over the U.S.



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Self-Reliance is a Virtue

Pallet Strawberry Bed

Pallet Strawberry Bed

Be crafty.  Be frugal.  Make hay while the sun shines.  The night is coming when the harvest must already be in the barns… Remember that pallet I made into a strawberry planter this Spring?  This is what it looks like now.  The plants are sending out all kinds of runners resulting in lots of happy baby plants.  We enjoy beating each other to the bed to help ourselves to the ripe berries which are beginning to come on strong.  They are ever-bearing so we will see what our eventual harvest is.  [Note:  Remember to close up the bottoms and gaps in the sides of your pallets with other pallet wood.  Lay the pallet on thick newspaper or cardboard to prevent weeds and grass from coming through the slats. Fill with loose potting soil and plant.] DON’T YOU JUST LOVE PALLETS!  Seems everyone does these days.  What’s not to like about free wood.  I asked my husband to save the 10 or so pallets on which his patio stone arrived.  Now that “save” is paying off. My daughter Kelly and I are having a COTTAGE SEPTEMBER SALE on September 19 at the Farm Grove Barn in Groveland.  Self-reliance includes using the gifts and talents we have to earn some extra income.  The time of the sale is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Y’all Come! Back to pallets:  After flexing my muscles and removing the boards on the back of 4 more pallets, my hubby took over.  He cut off the top stringer and through the top row of boards, then used a template to mark arrow points on the board ends.  Using his handy-dandy electrical saw he cut the points.  Instant picket fence span!

Pallet Picket Fence

Pallet Picket Fence

Picket fence pieces are not just for gardens or animal enclosures.  Mount these on the wall for a rustic background.  Use as a frame for a collection of photographs or add hooks to make it into a mud room coat rack.  Just propping it up against the wall adds rustic chic’ to a room.  A few angled boards and hinges turns this picket into a country gate.  I added the scrap from this project to our growing firewood stacks for the future fire pit. MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES.  THE NIGHT IS COMING WHEN THE HARVEST MUST ALREADY BE IN THE BARNS.

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