All across the South, and especially in Appalachia, there is one piece of cookery that every woman must own. The Cast Iron Skillet.
It’s almost as if cast iron is our birth right and if we don’t own at least a skillet, we’ve been deprived of our mountain inheritance.
I do a lot of cooking in a cast iron skillet. Not just any cast iron skillet though. This deep dished dutch oven cast iron beauty that I have is a hand me down that was my great-grandma Lottie’s. I cherish it, so I take careful pains to make sure it stays in great shape.
I have a lot of people who come and watch me cook and ask me how I keep my cast iron looking fresh. Here are some of the ways that I researched, tried and have found to be true in making sure your cast iron stays beautiful and in tip top shape.
1: Be sure to season it before you cook in it. Wash it with warm soapy water, first thing. This is the LAST time you will ever wash it with soap.
2: Douse it in lard, bacon fat, etc. You can use crackling, or just fry bacon. Anything to get that fat on there so it can fill up the porous spots on the skillet. This is seasoning your skillet. Most say the only real tried and true way to season a cast iron skillet is definitely with lard. Some skillets say use vegetable oil, but that can be a mess. Use lard, pig fat is always the way to go.
3: After each use be sure to scrub the inside with bacon grease and wipe out the excess. The salt in the grease helps to preserve the skillet and makes it into a “nonstick” surface. NEVER, and I mean NEVER EVER EVER put it in the dishwasher. I made that mistake as a newly wed and nearly ruined a perfect skillet set that was a present. Use only cold water and a soft bristled brush, then dry it and wipe it down with grease.
Most cast iron skillets are durable enough to last several lifetimes. Seriously, the one I have from my Great-Grandmother is probably close to a hundred years old and I’m not sure why, but it just makes food taste better, fries chicken crispier, and gravy comes out thicker.
No true Appalachian woman, or Southerner neglects her cookery, and we sure as hell do not neglect our cast iron. Be sure to take good care of your skillets, and you will be passing them down to your great grand children one day.