Cooking Feed

How to Harvest and Use Lilacs and Violets

Lilac drink
A lilac-y cocktail.
Harvested lilac
Lilacs, harvested and drying.

By Lisa Brunette

We've latched onto the idea of "permaculture" here at Dragon Flower Farm, drawn to the movement's emphasis on independence through a garden stocked with human-use plants. So rather than only enjoying the sight and smell of the spring season's plethora of petals, we challenged ourselves to make use of them as well. 

Now there are tons of sites on the Internet that tackle the subject of how to make your own concoctions from botanicals, some of them even devoted to a particular flower. I'd like to show how we worked with two flowering plants, both of which we got for free:

  1. violet, a low-growing ground cover and volunteer that's native to our region
  2. lilac, an exotic ornamental that was already here when we bought the property

Some caveats about the violet: What we have growing here in abundance is viola sororia. The leaves and flowers are edible, but the flower is not aromatic, so that does limit its uses. You can think of it as beneficial for the "green" taste of the leaves and flowers, its medicinal qualities (it has been used throughout history to treat headaches, coughs, and colds, for example), and its fun, kind of amazing use as a natural dye.

Violets

Violets are an example of what permaculturists call a plant with a "stacked function." Not only can people make great use of violets for food, medicine, and dye, but they are also a useful ground cover, AND they support fritillary butterflies, which lay eggs on the leaves so their larvae can feast on them when they hatch.

So, how do you get them from your yard to your pantry? Some herbal sources recommend the traditional method of drying plants, which is to hang them upside down in bunches in a dark place with good air circulation, as in the image of lilac bundles above. This seems more difficult with violets, as they're quite short, and rather than harvesting the entire plant, you can simply snip off the flowers, as we did to get this bowlful. 

Harvesting violets

If you want to be a purist about the petals, you can separate them from the green caps, but we left them on. We also harvested a crop of leaves and petals, drying them in a dehydrator to use later as tea. This is Anthony's ancient dehydrator - he's had it since college. You can see it has that look of "hippie stuff from the late 80s/early 90s." And it works great.

Drying violets

Like I said, with the sororia variety, you're talking about a "green" tea. It can be a bit blah, so you might want to mix it with something more tasteful, such as mint or chamomile. We tried it fresh, too, and it was pleasant but very mild. Still, you're getting the medicinal benefits this way, and it's a nice alternative to Asian green tea if, like me, you're sensitive to any caffeine at all.

Violet tea

Now back to that bowl of fresh violet petals. It's a terrific dye! Its best use, in my opinion, is as a natural dye for vinegar. This would have colored Easter eggs easily. All you do is drop a bunch of petals in the bottom of a jar, pour white vinegar over the top, and leave it in that handy cool, dark place for a few days. Because the vinegar can react with metal, I added a square of wax paper to the top, between the lid and jar. Nothing fancy - here's what it looks like in a reused jam jar.

Violet vinegar

Since the violets aren't aromatic, they're not particularly sweet or flavorful, either, so I later took the above vinegar and added lilac flowers to it as well, giving it a sweet kick. It's a terrific combo - violet and lilac - the violets for the purple hue, and the lilacs for the sweet flavor. I made up jars for everyone in my family and dropped them off at their homes during quarantine. It was a nice excuse to see them while observing social distancing. Since my mother likes to drink apple cider vinegar as a gut tonic, I made hers with an unfiltered variety of that vinegar. It was a bit cloudier and not as purple but still a nice hue. The flowers are really pleasant, floating in the jar. Over time, the color leaches out of them, and they go pale but still look neat.

Anthony and I also tried our hands at syrups. I started with a violet syrup but likewise realized that for the greater taste, I'd need another petal. The lilac one Anthony made turned out the best. These are a little more involved than the vinegar. First, you do need to make sure you separate the green bits from the petal, which is easier to do with lilac blossoms. This will preserve the lilac color, whereas the green makes it appear muddier.

Lilac harvesting

To make the syrup, you first have to soak the petals in hot water overnight:

  1. Heat water to boiling in a saucepan.
  2. Let it cool a minute after boiling, and then pour it over the petals.
  3. Cover the water-and-petals mixture, letting it steep overnight.

The next day, you can strain off the liquid. Here's what it looks like using just violets, with the green caps left on. You can see it's not quite the purple color I'm looking for, and part of that's because I left some green on, but we'll get a brighter hue later, I promise.

Violet syrup2

Next it's time to add sugar. You can use two cups of sugar for every one cup of flower water, or vary this if you want it less sweet. You might also try swapping out the sugar for honey or another substitute, though they will likely alter the syrup color. I dissolved the sugar over a low heat, stirring constantly. Some recipes call for a bain marie or double boiler, but that really didn't seem necessary. The sugar dissolved just fine for me without it.

Now here's the fun part, as this becomes a sort of kitchen science experiment. In the above example with the vinegar, the acidic quality of that medium triggered the color clarity. But for syrup, we're obviously not using vinegar, so we need something else: lemon juice. 

Violet syrup3

Add that to your syrup, and a change begins to occur. You can see the tinge of purple here. Now give the jar a little swirl, and...

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Voila! Now this one with just violets, cap on, is a bit on the mauve side, but the lilac one came out pink. We used lilac syrup for drinks during our quarantine Easter, just Anthony and me, imbibing that flowery, springtime goodness. You can float blooms in the glass, too, for an added touch.

Lilac drink2

While it's tempting to stop at the cocktail stage and call it a day, I've got two more uses for you, both infusions using lilacs.

The first was the easiest of all. I simply took a bottle of witch hazel and added fresh lilac blossoms to it. They've given the witch hazel a lovely lilac scent. I use this as a facial toner/astringent, and now it's even more of a freshening pick-me-up as lilac-infused witch hazel.

Lilac witch hazel

Last but certainly not least is lilac-infused olive oil. For this one, it's necessary to dry the lilacs first, as the moisture in them can interact badly with the oil, and in a worst-case scenario, actually mold. But drying them by hanging them upside-down for a week or two first will do the trick. Then you can insert the lilac into bottles and pour olive oil over the top.

Lilac oil1

I let the oil-and-dried lilac concoction sit for a few days again in cool, dark location. The oil picks up the flavor and sweetness from the lilac, and it also makes for an attractive gift. I gave my mother one for Mother's Day, the same day I went over to trim her own lilac, as the blooms by then were spent, and it was a good time to prune. It was a lilac-y day!

Lilac oil2

Violets bloom for about a month or so, and lilacs for even less time, so you have to act fast when it comes to making use of spring ephemerals. But it's worth setting aside some weekend or evening hours for the task, and it's a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the cool spring season, with birds and beneficial bugs returning, and so much springing to life all around you.

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How the Right Foods Can Help with Springtime Moods

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Image by composita from Pixabay

Editor's note: Today on the blog, we've asked Lindsey Thompson, an East Asian medical practitioner, to describe how everyday, healthy foods can help you decrease the heightened mood swings that often accompany spring. Lindsey manages an acupuncture clinic in Walla Walla, Washington, and yes, that is Anthony's hometown. This talented woman is our sister-in-law; she's married to Anthony's younger brother, Thomas. Here's Lindsey.

Early spring is known for remarkable shifts in weather. One minute it could be a brilliant, sunny day, and a moment later, winds drive in a hail storm that lasts for 20 minutes. Some spring days will take you on an adventure through all four seasons in a 24-hour cycle. This is the energy of early spring, and our emotions may follow a similar pattern of extraordinary mood swings during this season.

The effort it takes for our bodies to move from the inward energies of autumn and winter into the more expansive, outward energies of spring and summer are intense - and they can take our bodies for a bit of a jerky ride. You can observe this in the early springtime bulbs and plants this time of year. You may even see it in the people around you. You might see more road rage and more impatience in check-out lines, at coffee shops, and with people on the phone.

Most of us see the obvious signs in our emotions. Some might see changes in digestion. Others might experience wandering joint pain, and injuries to the tendons and ligaments sometimes get temporarily worse in early spring. For many people, seasonal allergies return.

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Image by cenczi from Pixabay

In East Asian Medicine, we look at nutritional ways of ameliorating the effects of spring on the body.

Our emotions can run the gamut quite quickly from the more expansive and rising emotions of anger, irritation, frustration, and anxiety, to the sinking emotions of feeling melancholy, or even a bit depressed.

In spring, these emotions can sometimes seem out of place. Often the rising emotions of anger, irritation, and anxiety seem like overreactions, while the sinking emotions seem to come on without rhyme or reason. If this is the case, then you are partially feeling the natural energies of early spring. If the mood swings have tall peaks and valleys, this is often an indicator that your liver and gallbladder channels need a little extra help, and that can come from your food.

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Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

The Power of Sweet and Sour

When emotions are of the rising, expansive nature, it is important to try to use food to anchor the energy of the body, and specifically, the liver. Foods that soothe the liver and consolidate its energy are equally helpful.

The flavor that soothes the liver is sweet - not the sweetness of refined sugar, pastries, and candy, but the sweetness found in root vegetables and whole grains. If you chew whole grains long enough, you’ll notice a natural sweetness that gets released in your mouth.

Root vegetables also help anchor the energy of the liver due to the simple fact that they grew deeply in the ground. Part of looking at Chinese nutrition is learning to see the metaphor in how the plant grew, to more accurately see how it influences the energy of the body.

Sour flavors can also aid in consolidating the energy of the liver back into the organ itself.

To put all of this together: On days or weeks when you're subject to an increase in irritability, frustration, or anxiety, look at combining roasted or steamed root vegetables with a sour flavor. Squeeze a lime over roasted sweet potatoes. Toss steamed beets with oil and your favorite vinegar. Consider including drinking vinegars, also known as 'shrubs,' or hibiscus tea into your daily routine to draw on more of the sour flavors.

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Greens and Herbs to Lift You Up

When our emotions are sinking in nature, we need to do the opposite. To counteract the emotions of feeling melancholy, weighed down, or slightly depressed, eat baby greens, sprouts, and the tiny carrots or beets that you thin out of the garden. These fresh baby greens are full of the energy and vitality of the young plants reaching upwards toward the sun. The energy in these greens is naturally lifting.

It's also important to use aromatic culinary herbs, as well as citrus, which can help move energy through the body. You might think about how to use spices like rosemary, basil, thyme, mint, lemon, orange and lime zest, and other energizers.

Simply making a salad with baby greens and roasted or pan-fried veggies, plus a homemade dressing with olive oil, tarragon, pepper, and lemon zest - will blend the rising nature of the baby greens, with the aromatics of the herbs in the dressing. You’ll further protect your digestion by adding some cooked vegetables to the salad, and voila, you have a meal or side dish that helps lift you up.

If you eat meat, consider rubbing chicken breasts or other meat with a mixture of aromatic spices before pan frying, roasting, or baking.

If you're near the Walla Walla area, you can reach out to me and my fellow practitioners for acupuncture and nutritional guidance at Thompson Family Acupuncture. If you would like to continue learning from me, check out our virtual class schedule here - you can take the classes from anywhere. I am also the author of a video series available online called Ancient Roots: What Chinese Medicine Can Teach Us About Our Diets

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Lindsey Thompson holds a master's in acupuncture and East Asian medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) in Portland, OR, with extra training in the Dr. Shen Pulse Analysis system, an 18-month internship in Five Element Acupuncture, and advanced cupping training from the International Cupping Therapy Association. After graduating from OCOM in 2012, Lindsey volunteered with the Acupuncture Relief Project in Nepal to hone her clinical skills at their high-volume clinic in rural Nepal.

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Mushrooms Become Less Mysterious - with the Right Field Guide

Missouri's Wild Mushrooms

By Lisa Brunette

Back in January, I'd asked mystery author and wildlife biologist Ellen King Rice to help me ID some of the mushrooms I'd found growing in the woods, as well as here at Dragon Flower Farm. As you might recall, we ended up turning the post into a series of tips on how to ID mushrooms, which is something no one should take casually, at least if you're looking to eat them.

One of Ellen's tips was to get a good field guide. This spring, I came across the perfect field guide for my mushroom madness: Missouri's Wild Mushrooms, by fellow St. Louisan Maxine Stone. The book is a great reference guide for ID-ing mushrooms, and it includes 24 recipes for using common edible mushrooms found in Missouri - delicious-sounding dishes like barley and blewit salad and candy cap sauce.

Missouri's Wild Mushrooms is published by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), an agency I can't say enough good things about. For one, they do amazing things to help propagate the use of native plants. Through their annual seedling program, I just scored 24 seedlings for a buck a piece - yes, that's only USD 24 for 24 small trees and shrubs - including blackberries, pawpaw, and white fringe tree. They also host a wide range of fun, educational events to teach the public about everything from how to tap maples for syrup to the best spots to catch a glimpse of bald eagles in winter. This is in addition to their ongoing mission to conserve and preserve Missouri's natural world.

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MDC puts out an award-winning magazine called Missouri Conservationist - I read mine cover-to-cover every month - and they also publish a series of books, of which Missouri's Wild Mushrooms is just one. You can order MDC books in-person at conservation and nature centers or online; check out their full offering at the MDC Nature Shop. I use their Nature Notes journal to keep track of our progress at Dragon Flower Farm.

Also on wildlife biologist Ellen King Rice's advice, I've downloaded the iNaturalist app, though again, its value is limited. Now armed with that and mushroom expert Maxine Stone's excellent wild mushroom field guide, I will revisit the mushrooms in the previous post and see if I can't get some closer IDs.

Amanita Orange 2019
Photo taken in 2019 at a trail near the World Bird Sanctuary.

The first one is an iconic Amanita, most likely muscaria, although iNaturalist says it's Amanita cesarea. Most of the photos I'm finding of cesareas don't have the white flecks of fungus on top, though, so I'm going with Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric. According to the MDC, Amanitas account for 90 percent of mushroom-related deaths. In Missouri's Wild Mushrooms, Stone lists the Amanita bisporigera, or "destroying angel," as the top poisonous mushroom to avoid in Missouri. "Ingesting one cap of a destroying angel can kill a man," says the MDC.

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Destroying angel. Photo courtesy MDC.

Yeah, so fine to look at and even touch - according to Stone, you can't get poisoned unless you eat them - but I wouldn't even think of tasting anything that looked remotely like either of these - amanitas are a no go.

Stone says the "lookalike" mushrooms are where a lot of people can go wrong, too. She shows which ones to watch out for in particular. She also cautions against eating mushrooms you find in your yard or the wild first without consulting a mushroom expert. Where to find one of those? Here in Missouri, she suggests the Missouri Mycological Society. But lots of states have mushroom societies; here's a full list.

Orange_Fungus_2019
Photo taken in 2019 near the Meramec River.

This specimen looks very much like a cinnabar polypore, Pycnoporus cinnabarinus, judging by the guidelines in Stone's book. It has no lookalikes - which aids in identification. Though beautiful, the cinnabar polypore is not considered edible.

If I had a sample, rather than just this image, I could make a spore print to lock in the ID. Stone walks you through the process in her book, and it's fairly simple - basically setting the cap gills-down on a piece of white paper and waiting anywhere from two to 24 hours for the spores to drop. Plus, as Stone points out, "Your spore print may be a beautiful piece of art and even frameable." I can't wait for some mushrooms to pop up so I can try this!

Tree Condo Fungus1 2019
Also taken 2019, near the Meramec River.

Note all 'fruiting bodies' appearing aboveground are technically mushrooms; whereas, fungi grow mainly underground, so what you see in these two photos really are mushrooms. As pictured above, they grew in a large group, or condo, as I called it. Here's a closeup.

Tree Condo Fungus2 2019
Very likely this is dryad's saddle.

Like the cinnabar polypore, this is another 'pored bracket' type of mushroom. These can grow both singly or in layered groups. This one looks very much like the dryad's saddle, Polyporous squamosus, which is edible. But again, I'll take a spore sample first before cooking this up if I encounter it again. Another good tip from Maxine Stone is to keep a little bit of any mushroom you eat in case you need it for ID purposes in the event that someone reacts to it. Even if they're safe to eat, some people are more sensitive than others.

This last series of mushrooms - which all grew here at Dragon Flower Farm - are obviously the gilled cap-type, or Agarics. 

Hand Colony 2019

Mushroom Cap  and Violets 2019

Mushroom Gills 2019

None of the gilled cap mushrooms in Stone's guide look like these, unfortunately. The closest is the edible meadow mushroom, but the cap isn't a good match. iNaturalist says it's in the genus 'Leucoagaricus,' of which there are 90 species. The one native to North America, Leucoagaricus americanus, is edible. Again, I'd have to have a sample and take a spore print to be sure, but that's a likely guess. Maybe I'll also reach out to Maxine Stone and ask...

Fungus Cups 2019
Cup fungus, here at Dragon Flower Farm in 2019.

Lastly are the delightful cup and bird's nest fungi, which Ellen ID'd easily in our previous mushroom post. None of these are edible, but Stone agrees they're a treat to find, and I bet if you're on a mushroom hunt with the kiddos, this would be a popular one to ID.

Spore Pops 2019
Bird's nest fungi, Dragon Flower Farm, 2019.

Thanks for sticking with me on this mushroom journey. I'm curious whether any of you are getting out into the woods these days. With the lockdowns now extended to state parks, preserves, and other natural areas, it's been tough for me to find a way. We've had a long spate of dry weather - one day the temperature soared to 88° already. But we're looking at a very rainy week ahead, so maybe we'll get the same mushroom-and-fungi extravaganza we got last year here at Dragon Flower. As Maxine Stone says, "Missouri is a great place to find all kinds of wild mushrooms." What's popping up out of the ground in your state? Tell us in the comments below.

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How to Support Your Immune System with Herbs

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Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

Editors' note: Today on the blog, we've asked Amanda Jokerst, a certified herbalist and licensed massage therapist, to share her advice on how to stay healthy during this challenging time. We've both consulted with Amanda on our health and have been impressed with her care, experience, and especially her practical, evidence-based approach to herbal medicine and massage. In part 1, Amanda explains just why getting enough sleep, eating well, and other factors are so important. Here in part 2, she talks about specific herbs that can help, once the below steps are taken. Here's Amanda:

I'm an herbalist, so why did I relegate herbs to part 2 in this series? Because without giving time and attention to everything I outlined in part 1, herbs will be nowhere near as effective as they could be, if they are effective at all. If we aren't taking in the basic building blocks to support healthy immune system function and implementing necessary lifestyle practices such as a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, stress reduction, and movement, we are really expecting a lot of the plants. They are not magic bullets. We have to do our part so they can do theirs.

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This and images below by Amanda Jokerst

Now for the herbs that will support your healthy lifestyle practices.

If you're having trouble sleeping, try supplementing with magnesium glycinate, or use some sleep-supporting herbs like what's found in our Get Some Zzzzs tincture formula or the Sweet Sleep tea here at Forest & Meadow Apothecary.

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As a supplement to using healthy coping strategies for life's stress, such as spending time outside and talking to others, you might further benefit from herbal support. I've been using my favorite nervous-system allies, which have been magnesium glycinate, ashwagandha, passionflower, and rose. And if you're needing some immediate support for your nervous system, I would suggest our Stress Less or Anxious Thoughts Be Gone tincture formulas or our Hug Your Heart or again, the Sweet Sleep teas can also be helpful.

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Some of us turn to alcohol when we are stressed or lonely (which is totally understandable), so try reaching for an herbal ally such as skullcap, milky oats, or passionflower to soothe and support your nervous system instead. Hops tincture can be a great ally as well (especially for hoppy beer drinkers!), providing a stronger sedative effect, which may be particularly helpful for some individuals right now.

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While exercise is key, not everyone can manage a 20- to 30-minute walk every day. If you or someone you know isn't able to engage in a lot of movement right now, try drinking some gentle lymphatic teas every day such as chickweed, cleavers, violet, or calendula.

In addition to the herbs and herbal formulas above, specific herbs can play a great role in boosting immune system.

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Astragalus is one of my favorite immune tonics. It can help stimulate white blood cells, natural killer cells, and T-lymphocytes and increase production of antibodies and interferon, making it a great ally during cold and flu season. I often use it in my clinic for reduced immunity due to chronic infection, stress, or general lack of vitality, as well as for lingering viral infections or recurring colds and upper respiratory tract infections. Astragalus can also be a supportive in cases of chronic lung weakness.

It has a mild, slightly sweet taste that most people of every age find pretty palatable. Because it doesn't have a strong flavor, you can add astragalus to soup stocks and broths (remove it before consuming) or use a tea of it to cook rice or beans – giving a medicinal boost to your food! To prepare it as a beverage, simmer about 1 tablespoon per cup of water for 15-20 minutes. You can strain and drink it right away, or let it steep for another hour or so before drinking, taking 1-3 cups per day. We have astragalus at the shop as a bulk herb, and it's also in our Immune Tonic Tincture, Immuni-Tea, and Immune Tonic Soup Base. Note: It is advised to discontinue the use of astragalus during acute fever.

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All of our medicinal mushrooms are what we call “immune amphoterics,” meaning they have a modulatory effect on the immune system. They are used for immune deficiency conditions such as cancer, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as immune hyper-functioning autoimmune conditions. Reishi has immune-enhancing effects and is traditionally used for fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Shiitake and maitake both stimulate the system to bolster its ability to fight infections more quickly and efficiently.

Use 2 teaspoons of dried mushrooms to 12 oz of water, simmer for at least 1 hour, and drink 2-4 cups per day. Shiitake and maitake can also be found fresh in some grocery stores and eaten as a medicinal food. Any of these mushrooms combines nicely with astragalus for a daily immune supportive tea or as a soup base. We have reishi, shiitake (local from Ozark Forest Mushrooms!), and maitake at the shop as bulk herbs and in our Immune Tonic Soup Base.

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Holy basil falls into the category of adaptogen, a plant that helps the body to respond to stressors in a more balanced way, and is a highly revered plant in Ayurvedic medicine. It is an immunomodulator that helps to strengthen and balance the response of the immune system, and it possesses some antiviral and antibacterial properties. Holy basil is also a helpful respiratory ally that encourages our bodies to expel bronchial mucus and can aid in the natural fever response. I also love it because it smells so wonderful. Drinking teas of plants that are high in aromatic volatile oils can serve to soothe, calm, and uplift the nervous system – something we could all probably use a bit of right now! We have holy basil in bulk, and it also features in our Cheer Up Buttercup Tincture, Holy Hibiscus Vinegar, Holy Basil Shrub, and our Hug Your Heart Tea.

Editor's note: During shelter-in-place, you can order from the Forest & Meadow Clinic & Apothecary here in St. Louis for pickup and/or schedule a virtual appointment with Amanda. An online store is coming soon as well. 

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About Amanda Jokerst

Amanda is a certified clinical herbalist trained in the Vitalist tradition of herbal medicine, a licensed massage therapist, and a certified practitioner in the Arvigo techniques of Maya abdominal therapy. She is a graduate of the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, a 1255-hour program in Vitalist Western Herbalism, botany, herbal medicine-making and formulation, flower essences, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, pathology, and herbal safety. Amanda grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and recently moved back after several years of study in various part of the country to open Forest & Meadow Clinic & Apothecary. She truly believes in the power of the therapies she practices, and says that offering this work to others is one of the most life-giving and soul-enriching things she's ever done.

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The Skillet Feeding You! How to Cook with a Cast Iron Skillet

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Note: This is part three in a three-part series devoted to cast iron skillets.

By Anthony Valterra

If you've read the previous two blog posts in this series (here and here), your pan is well-seasoned, and you know how to care for it. Before you start using it, the first thing you need to do is a bit weird, and it sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, but you need to get to know your pan. Remember, listen to your pan more than you speak.

Cast iron skillets have personalities (no, I don't know what their D&D stats would be1). Some heat up very fast, some more slowly. Some need a lot of oil regularly; some can get by on the oil in your foods. All cast iron pans heat up unevenly. Once they are hot, they give off a nice, even heat that lasts for some time, but as they are heating, you can hold your hand above the pan and feel temperature differentials.

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When we first started cooking with our cast iron skillet, it seemed like food was always sticking to it, no matter how well we greased it. After doing some research, the problem became obvious. We were treating our skillet like a Teflon-coated pan. We would put it on the heat, toss in some oil, fat, or grease, and start cooking. As I mentioned above, cast iron skillets heat up slowly. And they need to be hot in order to not have food stick to them. We needed to adjust our cooking process to give the skillet a few minutes to heat up. Generally, I heat up the skillet about one notch on the heat dial above what I intend to cook food at. For example, if I am cooking a hamburger and will cook it at a "5" on the stove dial, I will set the dial to "6" for a few minutes, and then turn it down to 5 when the pan is hot. Then I will add the cooking fats and finally, the hamburger.

Next, you will need to get metal cooking utensils to use with your cast iron. First of all, you can't hurt your pan with a metal utensil like you can a coated pan. And secondly, you will want that metal-on-metal ability to get the pan cleaned of all food. Finally, cast iron can get very hot, and the last thing you want is for a rubber or plastic cooking utensil to leave traces of themselves on your lovely pan.

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Although it has been mentioned a number of times, it bears mentioning again: cast iron skillets can get very hot. And they will get hot all the way up the handle. You need to remember that and use a good thick oven mitt when handling your cast iron while cooking with it. Also, don't forget that it will be hot and it will stay hot for some time. Don't set it down on the counter to cool, or you will end up with a burnt spot on your counter. If you drop it into your stainless steel sink when it is hot be prepared to hear a loud bang as the hot pan hits and bends (temporarily) the cool sink bottom. A better option is to leave it on the stove on a cold burner to cool down for a 5-10 minutes, and then rinse it with water and clean it out.

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The final point I will make is that while I've been cooking with cast iron for about five years, I don't have a huge variety of personal experiences. I have yet to make brownies or sweet rolls or anything not savory in my cast iron. But the word on the street (the mean streets of the Internet that is) is that one should keep one set of cast iron for sweet cooking and another for savory. Just as your choice of oil for seasoning your pan can impart a small amount of taste to your foods, the theory is that the foods you cook will impart a small amount of taste to the pan and then to other foods you cook. If you have just cooked a savory dish, and you are cooking another savory dish, the taste will likely be so subtle that it will be unnoticeable. But, some people swear that if you cook a sweet dish and then a savory dish (or vice versa), the taste is distinct enough that it can be noticed. I plead ignorance on this one, but it does make some sense. I guess if you had a very sensitive palate, you might choose to have one set of pans seasoned in coconut oil for sweet cooking and another seasoned with a different oil for savory cooking.

With that, I conclude my three-part series on cooking with cast iron. As I learn more, I will put out updated posts. Also, as the Dragonflower Farm investigates other pre-fossil fuel-based technologies, I will post our experiences of those as well!

(1) OK, OK, you forced me.

Simple Melee Weapons
Weapon Cost Damage Weight Properties
Battle Pan 2 gp 1d4 Bludgeoning 3 lb. Light, Versatile (1d6), Special

+1 to your AC if you are wielding it and have no shield. However, due to the nature of the weapon, it is ineffective against heavy armor, which causes a -2 to damage rolls.

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Our Best Antique Mall and Freebie Finds of the Year