Welcome to our new Magazine format! All new content will now be brought to you in this easy, new format. All our older content can still be found by scrolling below. Simply click the ">" to start the magazine and navigate via your arrow keys.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Seasoning Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware is pretty easy to find. Most stores that have an outdoors department sell it. Some stores also sell it in their cookware department. It's usually preseasoned. Factory finishes aren't bad but they wear off. Also, if you're buying it used or you don't use it that often and it's sat for any length of time it could rust. In that case you'll have to strip it down and reseason it. Learn to properly season cast iron and it will last several lifetimes. Harbor Freight sells some really cheap unseasoned cast iron cookware so I figured I'd pick up a set and make a post about seasoning it. The set that I bought cost me $15 for 3 pans. That's about as cheap as you're going to find it outside of a thrift store or a garage sale. This pic is on top of a Lodge Logic griddle with a factory finish.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A properly seasoned cast iron pan will be fairly non stick, easy to clean and can be stored for a long time without rusting. The process of seasoning is pretty simple. You just coat your cast iron with a thin coat of oil or fat. Then you cook the coating onto the pan. When you do it right you end up with a nice, black, smooth finish. Some people recommend using vegetable oil. I've found animal fat to be the most effective. I use lard. When I want to finish a cast iron pan I usually just cook up some bacon in it. When the bacon is done and the pan starts to cool off I wipe the fat all over the pan and then put it in the oven for a couple of hours at around 450 degrees. You can also do it on your stovetop. Either way you're going to get a kitchen full of smoke. Another option is to do it outside on a grill or a turkey fryer. However you decide to go about it just coat the pan, get it really hot and then allow the coating to bake on. You might have to do this a few times to get a nice, even, flat black finish.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

These probably need one more good coat before they're done. In between coats I usually go over them with some water and fine steel wool. You don't want to strip them down to the bare metal again. You just want to get it nice and smooth. Here's an example of a pan with an excellent finish. This is the one that I use the most often. The seasoning on this pan beats any factory finish that I've ever seen. After cooking with it I just wipe it down with a sponge. If it's got some really thick crud on it I take a green pad to it. Don't scrub to hard and you won't ruin the finish. You also don't want to use soap or detergent on cast iron. Keep in mind that the seasoning is just baked on fat. It's exactly what detergent is designed to remove.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

That's all there is to maintaining your cast iron. It's more involved than using normal pots and pans but the end result is worth it. Once you learn how to cook with it you'll find that it cooks more evenly, cleans up easier and lasts much longer than most conventional pots and pans. I still use normal pots and pans for certain things but as my cast iron collection keeps growing I find myself using it more and more.

How to Save Tomato Seeds

This is a really simple process. Here's how you save tomato seeds:
1.Choose a ripe, perfect tomato.

2.Cut it across the center of the fruit.

3.Squeeze the seeds, gel, and juice out into a small cup or jar.

4.Cover the seed gunk with two to three inches of water.

5.Label your container so you know which variety of tomato you saved seeds from.

6.Set the labeled jar in an out-of-the way spot and wait.

7.After about three days, white mold will start to form on the surface of the water. This means that the gelatinous coating on the seeds has dissolved.

8.Once you see the white mold, pour off the mold, the water, and any seeds that are floating (floating seeds are bad - they wouldn't have germinated.) You want all of those seeds sitting at the bottom of the cup.

9.After you've poured the mold and bad seeds off, drain your seeds in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water. It's not a bad idea to move the seeds around with your fingers to remove any extra gel that may be clinging to them.

10.Dump your rinsed seeds onto a paper plate that has been labeled with the variety name. (Yes, paper plates. Not ceramic. You need something that will wick the water away from the seeds so they dry fast and don't get moldy.)

11.Make sure your seeds are in a single layer on the plate, and set it aside a few days so the seeds can completely dry.

12.Once they're dry, put them in a labeled envelope, baggie, or other container and store in a cool, dry spot. I like to keep mine in the fridge.

Tomato seeds will keep well and germinate reliably for up to ten years if stored properly.

So, there you have it. Save seeds from your favorite tomatoes, and grow them every year. You'll be helping to protect genetic diversity in our food supply and keep some great heirloom tomatoes growing. And you'll be rewarded each and every time you enjoy a ripe, juicy tomato straight from your own garden.