Fall Baking Pantry Prep

Even though the Summer season is still here, our son started 5th grade yesterday. That means summer break is over and I’m looking forward to the autumn season, the foods I cook with cooler weather pecking on the windows, the hiking trips in cooler weather, alluring colors of the mountains in Tennessee and college football.

When the first crisp morning of autumn finally arrives, I will welcome it gladly with my preheated oven.  I’m eager to start baking as anyone will be, but before you butter your pans, heed these hints to guarantee the best results.

Switch Out Spices

Even if you store ground spices (like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves) in airtight containers in a cool, dark place like you’re supposed to, they can still lose their potency after 2 to 3 years (whole spices last longer, 3 to 4 years).  To test for freshness, rub a small amount between your fingers; if the aroma is faint, it’s time to restock.

Respect The Rise

Fresh baking powder, baking soda, and yeast are essential to baking success.  Respect the expiration dates on the packages and err on the side of caution.                                                                                                                           

Pay Attention To Pie Fillings

When it comes to canned pumpkin and sweet potato, be sure to read the labels.  Pumpkin and sweet potato pie filling have added sugar and spices, whereas canned pumpkin puree and canned mashed sweet potato usually do not.  Pay attention to what the recipe calls for; an unintended substitution can have a big impact on flavor.

How To Care For Your Cast-Iron Skillets

Several years ago, before marriage and children, I had a roommate and she and I went to visit her grandparents. Her grandfather had a campfire in their backyard and all I could think was roasting marshmellows and S’mores, give me S’mores! That wasn’t the case at all. Her grandfather was seasoning cast-iron skillets. I had never heard of this before but I wasn’t much into cooking in those young years of my life. This grandfather told me to wipe the skillet completely with oil and lay it on a campfire. When it starts to have a red glow, it is being seasoned. The things we learn from our older generation is something to treasure and remember.


Commandments for Caring for Cast Iron
The first commandment of cast-iron care is simple: respect the finish. Follow these rules.

  • Don’t leave a pan unattended on the stove.  Burned foods can ruin the finish.
  • Don’t use harsh abrasives, avoid soap, and never place your pan in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t put cast-iron pans away wet; dry them thoroughly.

Tip: After washing, dry your cookware immediately to ward off rust. Heat it on the stove over low heat for approximately 5 minutes. While the pan is still warm, rub or brush on a light coating of oil. Store in a cool, dry place.

Removing Rust from Your Cast-Iron Pan

Don’t let rust keep you away from your beloved pan; removing it just takes a little elbow grease. First, scrub the pan with a stiff-bristle brush and hot soapy water to remove any rust or buildup. Rinse well, and dry completely. Next, use a paper towel to rub a light coating of oil on the pan, inside and out. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or a rimmed baking sheet on the lower rack of your oven to catch drips. Place the oiled pan upside down on middle rack of the oven, and bake at 350° for approximately 1 hour. Turn off the oven, and let your pan cool in the oven. Repeat as necessary. Store in a cool, dry place.

Tip: Take it easy when applying oil to your pans for storing and seasoning. Using too much can result in a sticky residue. To remove any residue, heat your pan over medium heat. Using a folded paper towel or cloth, carefully rub in 1 tablespoon oil at a time until the surface is smooth.