There is something about using my granddaddy’s old cast iron skillet that makes me happy. It’s an old 10″ black skillet, shiny with its seasoning. I know he used it well; Granddaddy was an avid cook and was good at it. At the time, as a little girl, I thought some of the things he made were weird. The weirdest things I remember were his addition of black olives to spaghetti sauce, and his making buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup instead of white flour pancakes with Log Cabin brand syrup, like we had at my house. I would totally love those pancakes now; I still remember exactly what they tasted like and felt like! I really like black olives now, as well.
I use my grandfather’s cast iron skillet for many things now. I make biscuits in it, as well as cornbread. It gives them both the perfect, crusty bottom. I pan fry steaks in it occasionally, too, with butter and onions. Last year, though, I came up with a dessert to make in Granddaddy’s iron skillet: peach cobbler. You can also make this cobbler with other fruits, such as blackberries or blueberries. Perhaps even apples! That would be great in the fall, with lots of butter and cinnamon. What I love most about this recipe is how rustic it looks, and how nice the crust turns out!
Here is the recipe:
Iron Skillet Peach Cobbler
1 stick unsalted butter
4 cups peach slices (or other fruit)
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat onion to 350 degrees.
Place the butter in the skillet, and put in warm oven to melt, for five minutes or so. (don’t let butter brown)
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Use a wire whisk to combine it well.
Add to flour mixture sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix well.
Remove skillet from oven, and tilt it until all sides are coated with the melted butter.
Pour melted butter into the batter, and stir until well-combined.
Pour batter into hot skillet, and then pour peaches and any juices they’ve released into the center of the batter.
Place in 350 degree oven, and bake until the top is golden brown, or a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean; may take about an hour, depending upon your oven.
Remove, let cool down a bit, and then serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or homemade whipped cream. Fabulous!
Here is a helpful link to assist you in caring for your cast iron cookware.
Now, a little something extra:
Most of us who bake go through a lot of vanilla extract. It makes most of our desserts taste fabulous! However, it does get expensive to use the real thing. I choose not to use imitation vanilla extract, even though it’s cheaper. Did you know imitation vanilla is made from artificial flavorings, most of which come from wood byproducts and often contain chemicals? And “vanilla flavoring” is usually a combination of imitation vanilla extract and real vanilla extract. (source: homecooking.about.com)
All of that to say this: if you are going to all the trouble to bake for your family, use the best vanilla! Why add more chemicals to your family’s diet, or yours?
Here is the solution to the expense, if that is what is troubling to you: make your own REAL vanilla extract! It’s so very easy, and it tastes wonderful. I’ve been using the bottle I made for nearly a year now. Here’s how I did it:
Buy a bottle of bourbon, vodka, or even brandy. (I used bourbon.)
Buy three vanilla beans per 8 oz. of alcohol. (Here is a good source at a fair price: Vanilla beans to order)
Split the vanilla beans with the tip of a sharp knife, leaving the top one inch uncut. Spread the beans open a bit to expose interior.
Drop the appropriate number of vanilla beans into your bottle of alcohol, including any seeds that may have fallen out.
Place in a dark cabinet for two months or so to steep. By holiday baking time, you’ll have more than enough of the best vanilla extract you can use.
You can replenish these bottles, as well; you need not throw away your vanilla beans when the bottle gets low. Just add more alcohol and let it steep. See? Economical!
This makes great gifts for your baking friends! You can divide it up into mason jars tied up with a ribbon, find some bottles to divide it up in and make your own labels, etc. Have fun with it!