Cast Iron: In Pots, In Character

Cooking with castiron in appalachia

Cast Iron: In Pots, in Character

Count your kitchen furnishings
By cast-iron pots:
Frying pans, several stacked by size;
Other pans, quite a lot,
In the dowry of any mountain girl:
A Dutch oven with cast-iron lid;
At the hearth, coals beneath and over it,
To bake the family’s bread.
A covered cast-iron pot hung on a spit
Bubbles and boils with beans and pork,
Or stew with ‘maters and ‘taters,
Ready to feed hungry mouths after work.

“Not much,” people say, “these people in the hills
Have peculiar ways, not much of life
To show wealth or ease.”

But with cast iron pots and a will to work,
A prayer for blessings, and never to shirk
Duties of living and working in harmony and peace,
They have a sense of purpose,
Deep, like the solidarity of cast-iron ease.

-Ethelene Dyer Jones
October 10, 2013

*Written after reading Tipper Pressley’s “Blind Pig and the Acorn” blogspot in which she writes of cast iron skillets and their use in mountain kitchens.


Hope you enjoyed Ethelene’s poem as much as I did!



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  • Reply
    Jim Perry
    November 8, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Tipper, when I was a small boy my grandma cooked with cast iron frying pans and over the years they would get crudy around the outside of the pan. Her method of cleaning them was to build fire an put the pans in the fire which would burn the crudd off, the pans get extremely hot, once it burned the crudd off, she would drag them out of the coals with a hoe an let them cool then she would reseason them with lard. I’m now 68 yrs. old an cook on those same pans an clean them the same way. I would imagine these pans are close to a 100 yrs. old. If you want a new cast iron skillet or frying pan that is seasoned well when you buy it, get a Lodge Brand, their really nice ones.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Cast iron is a little risky for me these days (dropping happens often around here) but I’ve still kept one of my cast iron skillets with a flat lid that I turn upside down and use for baking soda bread. For years I’ve looked for a secondhand cast iron dutch oven to use in a campfire. I’d probably be crazy to buy one now, but if I see one, I probably will!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    March 27, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Being from Erie, PA, I have many sizes of Grizwold’s (once made in Erie), but when I found out they were collectible and what they were worth, I put them on the shelf and now use ceramic coated cast iron skillets, saucepans and pots for cooking about everything but eggs which stick to cast iron no matter how much fat you use.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    My favorite wedding gift so very many years ago was a set of cast iron skillets from one of my aunts. Three skillets and a Dutch oven…all of them seasoned to perfection. What a wonderful gift that I still enjoy.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 27, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    nice poem Ethelene

  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    March 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    the black cast iron pots and frying pans have been in our family before I arrived and will be with me when I depart. I will pack those and continue to cook my vittles in the pots and pans.I have the cast iron dutch ovens as well.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 27, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    and Shirl….
    When we were in the business, there was a cast iron dealer with a booth full of beautiful cast iron. When I found some pieces, we always took it to him to trade for something he sold. If it was a common piece or he didn’t need it, then we would put it in our booth for sale ‘as is’. One time I took him an old fairly scarce, ‘thick encrusted’ piece. In my defense, I told him he probably wouldn’t want it, though scarce, since it was so “grody”…He jumped on it and said he would swap me something for it. I was kinda glad to be rid of it, for I knew we couldn’t put it on the shelf, pay rent on it and hope to sell it quick in it’s condition.
    The next week, he asked me if I saw that old skillet I had taken him. It looked nearly brand new…I couldn’t believe it! His wife finally told me how he cleaned his “crusted” cast iron. He put the crusty cast iron in a lye solution for 24 hours, sometimes more. Then he washed it and put the metal scrubbing brush on his drill to it, then polished the iron down???…He never would tell me his ‘cleaning secret’, but his wife did…LOL
    Now then, that said, I don’t want to eat off a acid or lye cleaned skillet…if I know about it…that is just me…
    I have heard a new way to clean crusted cast iron, is to put them in your self cleaning oven…takes about 2 or 3 hours…When it cools, wash well, put I the oven or on the stove to dry and season well. Most say this gets the black crusty stuff off…Never tried it myself….
    Someone mentioned that new skillets don’t season well…I think it takes years of use, hot stoves and fire places, to temper the cast iron, so it will season well…don’t you!
    Thanks Tipper, hope this helps a bit! Anxious to hear any other dealers that might have ‘magic ways’ to clean an old cast iron piece that was found crusted up in a old barn, house or out building!
    PS…He had that piece priced at $225 for more than the trade I got, but then I didn’t have to clean it…LOL

  • Reply
    James Pease
    March 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    In addition to making good food, those pans fractured many a skull! Hope you are well.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    A dear old friend gave me a cast iron skillet when I got married.I often think of her when I use it & I use it a lot–it’s my cornbread skillet.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    March 27, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Great post, Ethelene: I have one treasured ‘dutch oven’ that was given to me a long time ago – after Mama had stored it away in the can house. Now it is on my hearth along with other ‘treasured’ items. Also I have my Grandma Mull’s old clock – which she acquired in 1903. That year, my father was three years old. He later recalled so many times about how at age 3, he interrupted the Preacher man – to say that the clock was about to strike! That day he got a whipping for being rude to the Preacher.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 27, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Back when I was a smoker I had a mini cast iron skillet I used for an ashtray. It was about 2 or 3 inches across and might fry one egg if it wasn’t too big. I quit smoking in 1989 and haven’t seen it since.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 27, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I didn’t get to comment on yesterdays post about old home places and slingshots, etc.
    Here is my thoughts on the subject that I always try to remember…
    I always try and remember that
    “Home Is Where The Heart Is” !
    In other words, home is where the love is…children and family!
    If they are gone from a “material place” then memories are your solace.
    If you leave a “material home” for a new life of marriage, school or new job, then your “material home” will be “home” if your heart is there with you…always keeping your memories of passed loved ones with you in your heart!
    Does this make sense to you?
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Thanks for the cast iron post Tipper and Ethelene…
    Yes, cast iron helps keep the material memory alive of the old home place…
    My cast iron pan, carries the memory on with a pone of cornbread for my children, for “home is where the heart is”!

  • Reply
    March 27, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I wish I lived close enough to attend the Saturday night performance. Ethelene’s poem tells me she know all about cast iron cookware. We just call them iron skillets around here, never cast-iron. Does anyone know how the vendors at flea markets get their cast iron so shiny and smooth? I have Mom’s and Mammy’s cookware and use it evry day, but it is looking a little rough.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Nice done, Ethelene! I have a couple of very old cast iron frying pans. The new moderning ones don’t seem to keep their season’s very well and two of the deeper pot style I had, wanted to rust. Good luck, Tipper and family with your show. Girls have a great time!

  • Reply
    March 27, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Nice poem by Ethelene. Cast iron
    makes up most of my cooking vessels. I just like the way things taste when they’re cooked in cast iron. My Dutch Oven’s lid is missing, if it ever had one. At the Flee Market a couple years ago, I found one but they wanted $35.00 just for a blooming lid.
    There’s nothing like fried taters
    cooked in a cast iron pan…Ken

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    March 27, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Still using my grandmother’s cast iron skillets.
    Mostly I bake in them. They are better than any bakeware for pies, cakes, strattas, omelets, and tarts.
    I have found that any casserole works just great in a high sided cast iron skillet.
    For some reason they seem to taste better.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    March 27, 2015 at 8:14 am

    To Tipper and Readers, I’m so honored when Tipper posts something I’ve written; and so often what she has written and posted inspires me to write on the subject, too. That’s sort of how it is in the mountains, we help each other–just like having that dowry of cast iron skillets and pots helps every mountain girl to be a good cook and serve her family well at mealtimes!

  • Reply
    barbara Gantt
    March 27, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Love the poem. I have my Granny’s cast iron. DD, age 23, has just started cooking with them too. Cast Iron spells family and love at our house. Barbara

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 27, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Thanks Ethelene! Well said and true to the bone. The cast iron cookware is formed after the people, or maybe the people are formed after the cast iron. Forged in the fire.
    At any rate, these are my people and I’m proud of it.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 27, 2015 at 7:51 am

    When something you write inspires Ethelene to some of her fine poetry, you can pat yourself on the back (or here, let me do it for you) – you’re sure enough doing something right!

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