Saturday, November 14, 2015

COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE PART SIX A EIGHT SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part six- “do I use a tripod, a campfire grille or on the ground ?” Most of the time your fuel source will dictate which method will work best for you. For example if you are cooking with live coals on the ground and your fuel source is foraged but un cut limb wood, the tripod will give you some good options. Because live coals vary in intensity rapidly, a tripod can give you the ability to adjust the proximity of the Dutch oven to the heat source quickly without removing it from the fire. You can raise and lower the oven by moving the “s” hook up or down the support chain. If the fire wood is limb length foraged fire wood, then it can be end fed into the existing bed of coals, then as it is pushed to the center of the circle, it will crowd the coals up into a more focused pile under the oven, at the same time that fuel is added. The tripod will give many options for suspending different types of cookware over the heat source.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part five- charcoal briquettes or campfire coals, your choice When the wagon trains were moving west as America was being settled, there weren’t any charcoal briquettes down at the corner convenience store, so everyone used hard wood or buffalo chips for cooking fuel. While cooking with coals from the campfire, using a grid works well for the bottom heat in a Dutch oven, but what about the top ? Most users put live coals up onto the Dutch oven top with a metal scoop or tongs. Live coals from the campfire are not tightly compacted like the charcoal briquettes are and must be replenished more often. While on the topic about wagon trains and live coals, I have been asked why the Dutch oven could be seen hanging from underneath the wagon at the back. It was a safe way to transport fire from one night camp to another. They would put a scoop of ashes in the oven, then a scoop of live coals topped with a scoop of ash and the lid put on. Because live coals tend to burn with a higher intensity they burn out quicker and need to be replenished more often, making temperature regulation somewhat more difficult. A long handle shovel makes handling live coals more comfortable because of the more intense heat. Betty and I like live coals for Dutch oven biscuits in the morning so we will add extra fuel to the campfire and shovel dirt over it to bank it up overnight. That newly added fuel will become charcoal overnight and you just pull the cover of dirt off to the side, shoveling the live coals as needed. As the dirt is removed the charcoal gets the air that is needed for combustion and begin to glow brightly immediately. Again, a long handle shovel is a handy thing.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part four- cooking with cast iron, applying heat evenly to top and bottom Needing to apply heat to the top and the bottom at the same time is almost exclusively a Dutch oven thing. For example when coking corn dodgers, it is usually a cast iron frying pan that is used and the dodger is turned as needed with a fork or spatula. Here is a look at cooking corn dodgers over a campfire. Dutch oven cooking however seems to need a bit more heat on the bottom and a bit less on the top. Our rough rule of thumb for most recipes is about one fourth less coals on the top. Only time and experience will get it perfected to suit your old traditional family recipes. In this short video Betty is putting the corn bread batter in the pre heated Dutch oven. After adding the batter, the lid is put in place and the charcoal is put on the oven lid. The charcoal on the Dutch oven bottom is on a sheet of aluminum foil because we didn’t have a good dry layer of ash in our fire pit. We were having daily spring time showers and the foil directed the heat up to the Dutch oven instead of being wicked away by the damp ground. Though not quite done yet, here is our first peek at our corn bread. As you can see in these short videos it is a fairly simple process and the even distribution of heat makes for well browned and delicious campfire corn bread !

Saturday, October 3, 2015

COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part three- “Once the cast iron is ready how do I keep it that way ?” As a child here in these Ouachita mountain’s I discovered that there were some pretty cool secrets to be gleaned from a visit to Grandma’s kitchen. However this neat trick came from helping Granpa’ as we processed a couple of fattening hogs for the freezer. Grandpa deftly removed a couple of hog’s tails and handed them to me, saying that I should take them to Grandma’ who was preparing some of the hog’s finer cuts in the kitchen. When I asked if she was going to cook up the hog tails, she laughed out loud, put a small slice of fresh buttermilk pie on the table and said to me, “wash up and snack on this while I tell you a story.” Now, Grandma’s story was a trip back in time to life in the mountains between the two world wars when times was hard and life was a bit “catch as catch can”. The short of the story is that most mountaineer’s cabins had a pig tail on a string hanging from a nail up on the wall behind the old wood cook stove. After cleaning the cast iron, it was warmed on the stove and the pig tail which was almost all fat, would be rubbed all over it to keep it oiled up and rust free. He, he, now, there are ever so many reasons that we aren’t doing it that way now a’ day’s ! But the main principle of the story is the way to have your cast iron ready for it’s next outing. It just needs a light sheen of oil wiped on it while warm, using a paper towel. Then it is ready for storage. Yep, it is just that simple, pig tail not required !

Sunday, September 20, 2015


COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part two – Re furbishing, seasoning and maintenance Because of it’s very nature, our much beloved cast iron cookware can get a light haze of red rust on it before you know it. Especially here in the humid deep south. A light haze is readily removed with a scouting pad and cooking oil while the cast iron is warm. Wiping with a white paper towel and light cooking oil will let you know when you have removed it all. Here is a quick 17 second video of the finished and ready to use cookware. A slightly heavier coating of rust may be removed with a more abrasive scouring pad followed by the paper towel wipe down process. Deep pit’s in your cookware can sometimes be addressed with a rotary brush or a grinder. However, it must be remembered that one of cast iron cookware’s most endearing trait’s is that it heats evenly across it’s entire surface. Any thin spots that are made during the restoration process can cause it to burn, discolor and/or stick. Excessive grinding can ruin cast iron leaving you with only a cool display piece. Our favorite seasoning method, except for the seasoning of brand new cast iron, is to deep fry in it, for example, having a fish fry at the end of a camping or fishing trip. Then carefully wiping the cast iron clean while still hot. Keeping the cookware carefully oiled seems to work best and always when warm so that the pores are open to receive and retain the oil. Maintaining that great finish during storage can be tricky, but gets much simpler when it is stored in a temperature/humidity controlled environment. Because we prefer that the outside of our cookery stay campfire ready and some what smutted up, we store and transport our cast iron in heavy coarse fabric shopping bags, making it easier to handle and it keeps the smut from transferring to other things in the storage area. One of Betty’s little tricks for keeping the rust at bay is to collect the desiccant capsules, that we find in many over the counter meds such as antacids, put them in a sock and drop them in the cookware before closing the lid tightly. When the desiccant becomes less effective, she bakes them dry to re-use them.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part One -“I found Grandma’s Dutch Oven in storage all rusted up, now what ?” Every time you saw it while in storage, it put a smile on your face as you remembered those delicious treats that Grandma’ surprised everyone with, when you were a kid. Then after that smile, the next thought was, “it looks rustier every time I see it, I sure need to do something with it”. But, just what, you might think. Most of us have helped with and been around Dutch oven cooking off and on for years, but looking at a rusty Dutch oven can leave us scratching our heads, about just what needs to be done next. Here is a quick video we took during our last boondocking fishing trip that addresses cleaning, seasoning and putting cast iron back in service. In this case we used a little cooking oil and fine rock salt to work out the surface rust and restore the finish. Pre heating the cast Iron is important in that it opens the pores of the utensil. You may note at the end of the video how the Dutch oven and lid have started to get a polished oil look to it. In this video where Goga is scouring the oven with a brush, you can see that the neatly kept campfire of Opa Ohoyo and Goga uses both wood and charcoal briquette’s and is just a pretty tidy setup. Some folks prefer that the outside of their oven is not scoured but is instead, left in it’s natural campfire smoked condition and that is the case here. . This particular oven does not have the cast Iron legs on the bottom and it must be used with a campfire grille as it is in the video.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART SIX OF A SIX PART SERIES By Larry Harmon fresh water / black water handling techniques Use of gravity to transfer fluids under boondocking conditions is not practical in many campsites. A couple of transfer pumps can make moving fresh water and black water simple. However those pumps need power and we solve that issue by using a battery jump start power pack on our twelve volt pumps. We clip the color coded power cables to the pump’s negative and positive wires and turn the pump on and off with the power pack’s front panel switch. Our FRESH WATER PUMP is a salvaged pump that had started leaking in the pressure cut off switch’s diaphragm. Instead of throwing it away we converted it into our transfer pump using twelve dollars of hardware store brass fittings, a bit of Teflon tape and our fresh water pump is ready for action. Using water hose fittings we connect our transfer pump and white hose to our trailer mounted tank to put water into our camping trailer. Our transport barrel, complete with brass hose bib to hook up to, cost $40, At a local farm and supply, making it the least expensive of the two pumps. Our BLACK WATER pump is a MACERATOR that we bought new off of EbAY. It and a “roll up flat” 5/8” hose designated for black water only, cost in the neighborhood of $200. Using the macerator pump we can pump black water up hill for short distances. Once again using the power pack and it’s switch for a power source. We chose a macerator that came in a plastic hard case for weight and storage considerations and the reel up, lay flat hose for the same reasons. Our BATTERY JUMPSTART PACK was purchased at a discount tool supply for about $60. We have hauled it many thousands of miles while constantly charging and discharging it under rigorous conditions. A quick word of advice about the power pack. It can have a small inverter and an air compressor built into it as well as a work/safety light and a 12 volt power outlet. This is a place where we felt it well advised to spend a little extra to get one with all of the features that we thought we might need. We even use this battery pack to power up our twelve volt impact wrench that we use during a flat tire change.