By Kelly Moreland, Owner of Mama Goose & Mimi’s Attic
I wish I had taken a picture of these cornstick pans when I first spotted them this summer on the bottom shelf in our kitchenware aisle. They seemed to be saying, “Rescue me from this rust!” Cast iron always has a way of tugging at my heartstrings because it is so beautiful, and if you take care of it right, it will function like a champ for years to come. Needless to say, I did buy the pans, and when the first cold snap arrived, I dedicated an afternoon of elbow grease to bringing them back to life. Here’s how I cleaned, seasoned and baked cornbread in these rescue-worthy pans.
My usual maintenance routine for seasoned cast iron is to simply scrub it with a brush or copper pot scrubber and hot water. Like most cast iron users, I don’t use soap on it. After it’s clean, I dry it, place it on a stove for a few minutes to make sure it is completely dry before storing it.
During this rescue mission, however, I started with my usual routine and quickly had to up my game. Because of all the crevices, I tried a toothbrush, then a steel wool soap pad.
My final tool of choice was a metal wire brush I found in my basement. Combined with the soap from the steel wool pad, this brush did a great job of getting all the rust off. At this stage, it really makes sense to put in extra time and effort to get your pans rust-free, because ideally you won’t need to do this again.
Once the pans were thoroughly scrubbed and rust-free, I dried them well with a lint-free rag (or paper towel) and heated them on the stovetop for a minute or so. The photo above is before oil. The next step was to coat them with a thin layer of Canola oil on the top and the bottom of the pans. I found using a basting or pastry brush useful for getting the oil in the crevices, but when oiling a regular skillet, a paper towel or cloth works fine. It can be tempting to really slather on the oil at this stage, but if the oil is too thick it will clump in the oven and be sticky.
Once oiled, I baked the pans face down at 350 for an hour. I placed a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil on the bottom shelf to catch any drips.
Ta da! They are ready for batter! After an hour, they were perfect, but if they weren’t, I would have put another thin coat of oil on them and returned them to the oven.
Below is my favorite vegan (northern-style) cornbread recipe. Originally created by an 11-year old, it won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair. I’ve adapted the recipe by using half the sugar and, of course, making it in cast iron (so I use canola oil instead of non-stick spray). If you have a medium size cast iron skillet, that works great too.
Dana Sly’s Vegan Cornbread. Source: Cook’s Illustrated.
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup sugar (I use 1/8 C.)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup soy milk
- ¼ cup canola oil
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (or oil your cast iron!)
2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ground flax seed, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the ground flax seed in the water for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well-combined.
4. Add the ground flax seed mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture. Beat just until smooth (do not overbeat.)
5. Turn into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer. Cut into pieces and serve.
These muffins popped out of the pans easily and had that great corn effect on the bottom. Success!
If you don’t already have any cast iron cookware, I hope you’ll consider getting one this fall and giving it a try. If you don’t know a lot about cast iron, here’s a useful Cast Iron 101 on youtube.
Next time you’re at Mimi’s, take a look at the gorgeous cast iron we carry by a local vendor and collector – he really elevates the art of rescuing cast iron! You can also keep an eye out for cast iron that we buy or consign from the community. Remember, we get new items every day. Happy hunting and happy fall!