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Annoying cast iron pan update (leftover curry)

By John, 13 January, 2024

This is part two of the saga of my aggravating cast iron pan. You can read part one here.

Last time, after cleaning the pan, I did put some oil on it. And wow, that was educational. I am used to a few drops of oil being good enough for a whole frying pan. I put a good half teaspoon on the annoying pan and it was barely enough to coat a third of the bottom. It's REALLY rough. So it takes a lot.

Another note on oiling the annoying pan: I am used to using paper towels to apply the oil. On this pan, when I use a paper towel, if I rub it with any sort of pressure, the bottom of the pan just grinds down the paper towel into shreds. So I have to be careful about that. I am certainly not putting on as thin of a coat of oil as I have done with my other pans, that's for sure. Sometimes more like, patting it on. But I don't want to lay it on too thick because I don't want it to get gummy, like parts of my Blackstone griddle got.

If you'll recall from the last post, I was on the fence between making an omelette and heating up leftover curry. Both of them seemed like they would be sticky on a super rough, brand new cast iron pan with almost no seasoning. I decided not to go with the omelette. I was super tempted, but decided against it because I did have a lot of curry and figured I should probably start eating my way through it.

So I had my pre-oiled pan. I put it on the burner and put it on low medium heat. I added some curry and some rice before the pan got very hot. Then I put a few tablespoons of water around the outside edge of the pan, and grabbed the lid from my regular lodge dutch oven (which fits perfectly) over the annoying pan, and let it heat up to simmering. Then I turned the heat down.

After a bit I started stirring and simmering and to my surprise -- nothing stuck at all. Not even when I got it up to a "pretty darn good simmer". I scraped out the pan, and really, this is the worst part of the whole experience: the feel and sound of the spoon scraping out anything out of the rough bottom metal pan. It is tooth grindingly annoying.

However, was the food delicious? It was. Did the annoying pan work fine? Yes it did.

One more thing. After the fire hamburgers, and the 20 minutes of cleaning I did last time, there was still a patch of burned on gunk on the bottom of the pan, about the size of half of my palm. I was not going to clean the pan more. I was worried, how will the pan develop seasoning on top of that gunk? What am I doing with my life? Why am I making my life more difficult for the sake of this five dollar pan?

So I was quite worried the food would stick, especially to that spot. Now to my surprise, after cleaning out the pan after the curry, I found out that a big chunk of the gunk had disappeared. I mean, not gonna lie, that does mean it got in my food. But I decided I wasn't going to be worried about it because I grew up in the 80s eating styrofoam cups as a kid.

So: baked on crud: slowly coming off. Just a patch the size of a nickel or two. The feel of that bottom: it's terrible. But I'm feeling a bit better about this whole project. I think the oil I put on after using the pan soaked into the gunk and lifted it off the next time everything was heated. And that whole process works better at getting the gunk off than boiling water in the pan (which I tried) and scrubbing with a plastic scrubber (which I also tried).

Anyway, after the curry, the pan cleaned right up. With the exception of that little patch of gunk, it's actually looking pretty reasonable, just in terms of color. It's still like cooking on sandpaper though, not great. I put another coat of oil on it (I tried to go lighter on the oil, but that meant shredding more paper towels) and it's ready for the next adventure.

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I got a new cast iron pan, and it's incredibly aggravating

By John, 13 January, 2024

Last summer I got a cast iron pan new in box for 5 dollars at a yard sale. Maybe my wife picked it up for me? I don't remember.

It's the most ridiculously rough, stereotypical bad "Made in China" quality cast iron a person could imagine. It is not pre-seasoned or seasoned in any capacity. Light grey, straight from the factory cast iron.

I was going to rehab it and try to think of ways to make it better. I had a plan to sand it down and make it super smooth, I even bought some flap discs and an angle grinder to make that happen. But then when I got the actual angle grinder and the flap disks I looked at the angles I would have to use to make it work. And the angles were weird, and I wasn't convinced I wasn't going to just burn a gouge in the bottom of the pan.

And then I started thinking. One thought I had was remembering a forum post where someone said a rough cast iron pan builds up to smooth over time as the seasoning fills in the rough pockets of the cast iron. And the other thought I had was, I mean, I wonder: do I even need to season this thing. What if I just cook with it?

So I cooked some burgers over a fire. Cleaned it up to "pretty good" and threw it in the box with the rest of the camping gear. That was 6-8 months ago. I remember being rather satisfied with the performance of the pan over the campfire.

Today I hauled it out of the basement. And in the clear light of day, it was clear there was a lot of mess still stuck on the bottom of the pan.

I scrubbed. I scrubbed with hot water. And I even boiled water on the stove and scrubbed some more. And the result was.... not great. I am sorry I can't put a picture up here because I broke pictures on my own website but yeah it's got some crusty bits and it's very clearly not seasoned.

I mean, fire baked on hamburgers on a non-seasoned cast iron pan. I didn't even oil the pan before I threw it on the fire.

But I'm still curious. Can I make it work? I am not going to sand the pan down or grind it or make it smooth, and am instead just going to cook with it. I'm not going to season it. I'm just going to follow the main rules of cast iron:

  • No soap
  • No dishwasher
  • No tomatoes or acidic foods
  • Don't heat it up TOO hot
  • Scrub it out, dry it off, put a light coat of oil on it

I want to be YEAH I THINK THIS WILL WORK but I am super not confident it's going to work in any capacity. Because I just spent 20 minutes blasting crusted off gunk and it looks super patchy and rough.

To be clear, I already have another cheap cast iron pan that I have re-habbed and made a mess of mistakes on over the years, but now it's just about perfect and I love it. I have to remind myself, I can stop this experiment and use my good cast iron any time I want. So yeah, I am not going to commit to a time frame, I'm just going to be using this super shitty pan, for as much as I can, and we'll see what happens.

Now I am going to throw some rice and leftover curry in it and heat it up on the stove. Or maybe I'll make an omelette. And I'll keep you updated!

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I ATE’NT DEAD

By John, 17 October, 2023

I’m back in the ER, this time it’s for me. (Had a spate of kids needing emergency medical care recently, in part because some of them don’t have the decency to get sick when the Urgent Care is open).

This is the first time for me in I’m not sure how long. And it’s certainly the first time I’ve had a hallway bed instead of a room.

All I have to say about it is being in the hallway feels like being in the middle of an ongoing HIPAA violation. I know so many medical details of the people around me. I saw some of them walk into their rooms so I know what they look like. I just hope I never run into any of them ever again. (Or failing that, that I can forget all about it before I see them again!)

Also, there’s a lot of screaming going on. Lots of confused, frightened, mentally confused patients today. If I was in a room I might not notice as much but in the hallway I can hear a lot.

More garden work today

By John, 26 May, 2023

Today I excavated the pile of sticks and poles that is part of my tomato support system. If you imagine the stump in my plot, the sticks and poles are in a heap on and around the stump.

First I cleared out a bunch of old weeds and branches I’ve been throwing on the pile for the past 6 months. Then I slowly untangled each stick and pole from itself and from the weeds growing around them. Last year I did not use the full system, I did some weird angular madness based on central poles, along with traditional tomato cages. 

I set aside the wooden poles, and only placed the metal poles in the ground.

This year I packed the tomatoes in far tighter than I normally do, so I am missing three metal poles. Also I am already having misgivings about how tightly these tomatoes will be packed together once they are fully grown. 

But at least I got all of the metal poles pounded in. Next step is to use twine to affix the wooden poles to the metal stakes. I need some replacement wooden poles as well, since the ones I have are falling apart after years of being exposed out to the elements. 

Since I had excavated around the stump, I decided to do some more intensive weed removal. Then I planted my 4 remaining Thai chili pepper plants, as well as my two remaining sweet red chili pepper plants, in, on, and around the stump itself. Then I watered the whole stump really good for 10-15 minutes. I also watered everything else (the cucumbers were looking especially peaky.)

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More fishing

By John, 25 May, 2023

Today we went fishing at a nearby lake, and an old Black lady was there with a minnow setup. She graciously shared some of her minnows, and as we haven't really fished with any minnows yet, she showed us how to put them on and what size hook to use. By the time we left the dock she had caught three of the biggest crappies I have ever seen.

The kids weren't too keen on the minnows, but I think I got a good idea on how to go about it. I still haven't picked up my fishing license yet, so until I do, I can't put a pole in the water. All I can do is help the kids out. The kids can fish without a license until they turn 16. But tonight, tonight I was super jealous and wanted to put in a few minnows myself. 

I know I can get a fishing license online. But I want to go in person to get the booklet with this years fishing regulations. 

Now, we have fished with minnows once last year. That was a different person lending us minnows, on a different lake, fishing for larger fish with larger minnows. The way he put the minnows on the hooks was also completely different. I'm glad I've gotten to see a couple of different ways of using minnows so far, so I feel confident enough to experiment, instead of just getting stuck in "there's only one right way, the way I know how to do it" before I even get started. 

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New garden plants

By John, 24 May, 2023

Today I went on my lunch break and picked up some plants for my garden.

I was going to plant them after work and take a picture of them in the ground, but it took so long, there was no light left to get the photo. 

Then I was going to try to just draw a diagram, I fought with some diagramming software, then I said, "this is dumb, I can draw a picture", and by the time I drew the picture and annnotated it, it still didn't look great. So I decided to just explain what's going on with words. 

I have a garden plot that is 40 feet by 9 and a half feet. There is a 20 foot chunk in the front that is straight dirt. Then a 10 foot by 9.5 foot chunk that is the old tree stump that is slowly decomposing. Then another 10 foot by 9.5 foot chunk that is the back half of the garden. This back half can't be plowed, so I do hand tilling only.

I have a small asparagus patch back here, and recently I have been planting garlic. This is nice because I can plant the garlic in the fall, throw a bunch of leaves on it, and occasionally weed it, and it all works out, it's a lot easier than trying to hand till the whole thing for tomatoes or something. Lots of thistles grow back here, after we got a bad batch of compost that mostly made it back to this corner of the garden only.

The thistles are deeply annoying. I used to try to get them out by the root but this part of the garden is far more clay than dirt, the slightest tug and the thistles break off just under the soil surface. So I would have to get a shovel because they form a root 14 - 18 inches down. It just meant massive, massive holes in the garden, hard to deal with once you have established plants, and it took a while to get everything out. Recently I switched to just aggressively hoeing the whole area. It takes a lot less time, and maybe I can slowly starve the roots out. I made the mistake of missing one plant a couple of years ago, so there were a bunch of seeds that escaped so I think I'll be dealing with these for a while.

This year I have some onions around the stump. I might plant some things on the stump, we will see.

With a 20x9.5 foot space, I have experimented with lots of layouts. Zig-zags, gentle curves, grids, but I generally come back to three rows, with two paths between them. Here is what I have planted so far, mostly so I can go back to this later when I have forgotten what is what.

The northernmost row is row number 1, going from east to west (from the entrance to the stump); all plants are 18-36 inches apart.

Row 1:

2 basil plants

8 peppers. The label at the farmers market said "Sweet Cayenne (Jimmy Nardello)", I don't know how accurate it is because I got these from the local Hmong market, and as English is a second language, I've had mixups before. I'm 95 percent sure these are a sweet pepper, but I've gotten "Sweet Cayenne" from this same seller and they definitely were not Jimmy Nardellos in the past. So I'd say 60 percent sure they are real Jimmy Nardellos. 

2 red sweet peppers. These had a picture and she said they were sweet peppers but I didn't write down the variety. I think it's Corno di Toro maybe.

Row 2:

6 Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes

3 Federle tomatoes (these 3 tomatoes were the only seeds I started that actually made it and didn't die due to a misadventure with a rough cold stnap right after transplanting them into larger containers)

4 Early Girl tomatoes

2 Striped German tomatoes



Row 3:

4 sweet green peppers. I didn't write down the exact variety, all I know is she said they were delicious when roasted, and that I should pick them when they are green. I think, after some googling, it's Shishito.

2 pickling cucumbers (to grow against the south fence)

4 Bishops hat peppers (supposed to be a thin walled medium hot red pepper)

2 white cucumbers to grow against the fence)

2 Jalapeno

4 Habenero

2 Ghost peppers

I still have 2 Corno di Toro plants that I need to find a place for, and 4 Thai hot purple peppers. 

This year, the kids decided they didn't want to grow Carolina Reapers and Dragons Breath peppers, after two of them tried eating a Dragon's Breath pepper raw with no milk. Didn't do well with ghost peppers last year though, a deer came and grazed the plants to the ground. Hopefully that doesn't happen this year. 

New Hobby

By John, 23 May, 2023

Every time I get mad or frustrated about AI, I post something to my website. Or edit one of my existing pages, or make some progress on one of my in-progress articles. 

I’m only a few days into this but it seems to be working out.

Sometimes I just post photos. A lot of times I sit there, in front of an empty text box, not knowing what to write. But hey, if the machine can write crap, I can write crap.

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