One of the things that you might notice in many of the pictures taken in the Houseproud homestead kitchen is the small glass jar of baking soda that lives on our kitchen counter. That’s the jar in the picture above – see it on the far right, above the tofu slabs? It’s the glass jar with the cork lid. In order to prevent unfortunate misunderstandings, I cut out the original box’s logo – Arm & Hammer – and taped it to the jar. (The little stoneware jar to the left of the baking soda jar holds course-ground salt, another staple.) The content of our little jar of baking soda sees some serious action at the homestead, and it’s often pressed into service to clean our cast iron cookware. How do you clean your cast iron? Perhaps you’d be interested in learning our method?
The following photos show how we use baking soda to clean our cast iron pots here at the Houseproud homestead. The pictures aren’t very glamorous, but they show our process rather well. Ready to play along at home? All you’ll need is a dirty cast iron pan, some baking soda, water to rinse and a stove to dry, and some oil with which to season the now-clean pan.
Step One: Wait for the pan to cool down before starting this process. You don’t want to cook the baking soda, nor do you want to burn your fingers. Once the pan has cooled, sprinkle it generously with baking soda. It’s not necessary to rinse the pan before you start the process, but if you do rinse it, make sure that you shake out as much water as you can from the rinsed pan, and then add the baking soda.
Using your fingers, vigorously rub the baking soda into the pan’s interior surface – don’t neglect the pan’s sides. (Aren’t you glad you let the pan cool down, my pets?) The baking soda will immediately start soaking up the pan’s excess grease and scouring away any left-over food particles. Indeed, this is why I use baking soda: baking soda absorbs the pan’s excess grease without destroying that mirror-like finish you’ve worked so hard to attain. And unlike the heat-pan-with-water-and-scrape method, baking soda removes food particles from the pan’s interior sides as well as from the pan’s surface.
Stubborn food particles can be removed with the help of a plastic scrubber. (My scrubbers are handmade: I use a square cut from a plastic net bag of lemons or limes.) Keep scrubbing away until the pan’s surface feels smooth and glassy. At this point, the baking soda will have transformed from powdery snow-white to lumpy grey-brown. This is a good thing, as you’ll soon see.
Rinse the pan well with cold water, using your fingers to make sure you’ve removed all trace of the baking soda. Shake out any excess water, and place the pan on the stove on medium high heat to dry. It’s not necessary to get the pan bone-dry at this point – a tiny bit of water won’t be harmful (the residual heat of the pan will dry off the rest of the water as you prepare for the next step). Keep in mind that you don’t want the pan too hot, or you could burn your fingers when you season the pan.
Pour a little oil into the clean, warm, dry pan (use a neutral oil, like Canola oil). Swirl the oil around the pan. Place your hand above the pan to gauge its residual heat and, if necessary, wait a few minutes before beginning to wipe down the pan with a clean paper towel or napkin. Keep your fingers tucked away from the pan’s surface as you lightly rub the oil into the pan’s interior with the paper towel. (If you keep your hand moving, the paper towel will protect your fingers from the pan’s residual heat.) And there! You are done: your pan is clean, seasoned and ready to go. This entire process takes me about four minutes from start to finish, and it insures that our cast iron pans retain their glossy seasoned finish. Wasn’t that easy?
I’ve been as busy as a houseproud woman can be these days, so that’s it for this week, my pets! I’ll end this post with the following report: the Houseproud homestead is reasonably clean, I’ve learned the wisdom of ironing my damp (woven) laundry before I hang it to dry, have had several interesting conversations with some fascinating customers at the Pantry, have found the most amazing things on my weekly gig as a treasure hunter for Redux, and I am reasonably well-prepared for the Mister’s birthday next week. I hope all is well with you and yours, my dears, and I look forward to chatting with you next week. Perhaps we’ll chat about getting stains out of woven fabric? Given the vintage clothes I’ve found for Redux and the handmade napkins I’ve made for the homestead, I’ve certainly had PLENTY of experience in the last few weeks with the attempt to remove stubborn stains …