Cooking Southern Style
By: Sandy Williams Driver
A stranger could taste my down-home cooking and probably guess I was raised in the Deep South, Alabama to be exact. As a child, I stood on a stool and watched my mother fry everything from chicken and pork chops to okra and potatoes. She rolled out the biscuits by hand and always cooked cornbread in an iron skillet.
Cast-iron cookware dates back to at least the early 1700s. The basic technique hasn’t changed much over the years: pour molten iron into a mold created in sand to create a specific shape. A mold is created, by packing sand around the pattern, which when removed from the sand and produces the void space into which the iron will flow.
Pieces made between 1900 and 1940 have a more refined appearance and their quality was much better during that time than the ones made since which have course looking castings and just don’t have the same high quality finish.
Today, as a mother myself, I own two cast-iron skillets, a 10 inch and a 12 inch and I use at least one of them most everyday. I have no idea how old either one of them are, but both are superior quality. The smaller one belonged to my mother (and her mother before that) and the larger one was purchased at a flea market. Both are very black, have been seasoned just right, and will last several lifetimes with proper care.
Cast-iron cookware can be used on top of the stove or in the oven and always cooks evenly and consistently. It is a very inexpensive utensil to use in the kitchen and if the pan is seasoned correctly, food will never stick to the surface. A pan is seasoned by, rubbing it with oil, (vegetable shortening or oil, meat grease, or lard) and heating it in a 300 degrees oven for one hour. A stronger seasoning can be achieved by repeating the process several times before using a cast-iron pan for cooking.
Cast-iron cookware should be washed while it is still warm with a little soapy water and then rinsed with hot water. Always dry thoroughly and never, ever place it in the dishwasher!
I sometimes wonder how old many cast-iron skillets are and how many cooks before me have used them for making delicious home-cooked recipes..like Momma’s cornbread. I take especially good care of them because I hope to one day pass them both on to my daughter. I can only hope my future descendants will cherish and appreciate them as I do.
Sandy is a third generation cook as well as a talented freelance writer. Another of Sandys stories, The Big Surprise is in The Good Ole Days section of this issue and includes a photo of her Grandparents. (The story referenced was published on US Legacies.com on 12/13/21 if you would like to read it, click HERE.)