Hello Farmgirl Friends!!!
I have been working on a whole different project for me. And here’s the back story. A few years ago I was driving home from town and there on the side of the road was a pop up junk stand and as I drove by I realized it was all cast iron skillets for sale. I turned around and went back for a look just in case there was treasure to be found! I dug around and saw nothing that struck my fancy… everything was newish Lodge skillets and few older skillets that didn’t look like what I always had my eye open for. But… wait! Here was the rustiest, grimiest, mess of a round griddle (I’d been wanting one!) and I flipped it over to see if there were any markings on the back… and oh my word! It was a Griswold!!!
I don’t know much about cast iron skillets but I do know that Griswold is a brand to buy if you can get it cheap. Griswold Cast Iron was founded in 1887 in Erie, PA and they manufactured skillets until the early 1940’s. I also have heard that if the word “Erie” was on the bottom of the skillet that means it was manufactured sometime before the 1900’s. And scraping some grime off with my fingernail I saw the word Erie!!! (You have to look close but you will see Erie, PA below the Griswold stamp.)
So I kept looking at this griddle and other than absolute rust and grime, it looked to be in excellent condition. No chips or cracks that I could find. I asked the man how much and when he told me $20 I didn’t hesitate. He kept saying “this thing is so rusty, I think we can find a griddle in better condition than this”! No way was I going to tell him what a valuable piece of cast iron I had in my hands. I got home, and shoved this terribly ugly, rusty mess under the sink in my outdoor kitchen and walked away.
Fast forward a few years and my brother (who has a deep love for old cast iron skillets) texted my Mom (who is with me for the winter) and said “Mom, if you get out to any antique stores keep your eyes open for an old Griswold skillet”. I texted my brother then and told him… “Hey! I have an old rusted Griswold somewhere” and I promptly went out to the porch and dug it out from under the sink. It actually looked way worse than I remembered. I sent my brother a picture and he was pretty impressed. He said “you can restore that, you know”. Which of course I did know… hence the reason I had brought the crazy thing home with me!
So here we are… a cold winter January week and I told Mom, “I’m going to restore this skillet”! Mom said “just throw it in the fire and burn everything off” but I was determined to do it the “right” way – the way I read about online. So, I’m bringing you along for the restoration journey!
Day One, morning:
I gathered the recommended supplies. White vinegar with 5% acidity, Brillo (or SOS) pads, a kitchen scrub pad, and some skillet seasoning. (I’ll tell you more about that later).
The video I watched said to put 50% vinegar and 50% water into a spray bottle and saturate the rusty skillet with the liquid. Let it sit for 30 minutes and spray it again. Do this several times, making sure to keep it saturated and the rust will just run off. Well, I followed those instructions exactly and the rust did “sort of” begin to run off. Sort of, being the key word here.
Day One, afternoon:
By now I had treated it with vinegar for hours and it was time to use my scrub pad and get that rust and grime off. I scrubbed and scrubbed. Then I used the Brillo pad and srubbed some more. That combination of steel wool and soap got the final bit of rust off. BUT… big but here. There was probably 100 years of grime about 3 inches wide all along the top edge of the griddle and it was absolutely not going anywhere. I scrubbed until I was mad! Smile! I set it aside. (My 86 year old mother would periodically come look and say, “just throw that thing in the wood stove” to which I would ignore her.)
Day Two, morning:
Woke up to a beautiful day of snow and a houseful of friends coming over for sledding and supper. Mom said, “I bet Eldon is going to have a fire in the wood stove in his garage today, just put the griddle in the wood stove.” I said nothing… just picked it up and put it out of sight. (I’m very stubborn, if you’re not aware of that yet.)
Day Three, morning:
I pulled the griddle out and scrubbed some more. This time making sure I did it when Mom was busy working on a sewing project. I scrubbed and scrubbed. I sprayed the vinegar water mix and scrubbed some more. That grime was NOT coming off. I put the griddle away again.
Day Four, morning:
I (quietly) say to my husband: “If you have a fire in your wood stove in your shop would you put that griddle in there”? He just looked at me puzzled and acted like he didn’t hear me. Mom was in the kitchen then so I didn’t say it very loud. (Stubborn 61 year old redhead that I am.)
Day Five, afternoon:
I stepped outside and saw smoke coming out of the chimney in my husbands shop. I grabbed that griddle, put on my snow boots and coat and headed out to the shop. I handed the griddle to Eldon and said “Get this thing in the fire and ignore it until tomorrow”! He did… and I walked out.
Day Six, morning:
Eldon brought the griddle from his shop and set it on counter outside on my porch. He said “that thing will have to really be cleaned. It’s a mess.” I ignored it and never even looked at it.
Day six, afternoon:
Our grand-girls came up to hang out with us and I went out on the porch to greet them and saw the griddle. I picked it up… looked it over in total shock. I’m telling you friends; THE GRIME WAS GONE!!! I took it in the house, did a 1 minute scrub with a Brillo pad and that thing was smooth as silk. And, yes you guessed it. Mom came in and looked at it and said “you finally put it in the fire” and she walked back out before I had to admit that yes… six days later I listened to her!
Day Six, late afternoon:
I washed the griddle and dried it thoroughly and looked it over closely. I ran my hands all over the top and bottom feeling for any rust or grime. It looked a little discolored but it was silky smooth. I knew it was time to season it!
Cast Iron Seasoning is basically oil baked onto the cast iron through a process called polymerization. It gives it that classic black patina. Seasoning forms a natural, easy-release cooking surface and helps prevent the pan from rusting.
I have always used shortening for this process but I had purchased this product called Easy Beezy. It is a blend of cold pressed grapeseed oil, avocado oil, and 100% organic beeswax. It is formed into this tube for easy application. In my reading about this product I was really impressed and I was excited to try it.
Day Six, early evening:
I followed the instructions and oiled my griddle, carefully rubbing it in with a soft cloth. And popped it into a 500 degree oven for 45 minutes. When I pulled it out of the oven, it was gorgeous!!! I applied the Easy Beezy one more time and put it back in the oven for 30 more minutes. When I removed it from the oven I let it sit until it cooled to room temperature and then I lovingly ran my fingers all over my absolutely gorgeous, 100 year old perfectly restored griddle.
Day Seven, morning:
This morning my griddle passed the ultimate test… an absolute perfect fried egg, my friends!!!
Day Seven, afternoon:
I decided to pull out one of my favorite cookbooks (PLEASE tell me you have this cookbook?), MaryJane’s Cast Iron Kitchen. Even if you don’t do much cooking, you’ll salivate at all the beautiful cast iron in this cookbook (and at the food pictures!).
I turned to my favorite recipe that I’ve made before but never in a round griddle! So, of course I had to make it again! Cinnamon Sugar Knots, (page 178) and made with buttermilk and cooked in the oven on a beautiful cast iron griddle!
Okay friends, I swear these tasted better cooked on the griddle than in a skillet like I have in the past. The reason is because the outer edges of the knots have more of a buttery, sugary crunch when they are baked like this! And I’m so excited… I’m going to make more tomorrow because I shared four of them with my daughter and her family and the other four are already gone!
So, the story of the cast iron griddle restoration has come to a beautiful finish. (I’m going on the hunt for more!)
Moral of the story: listen to your elderly mother that has rescued many a cast iron skillet by throwing them in the fire! And she’s so sweet she didn’t even rub it in how stubborn I am! However, I did admit that I should’ve listened to her!
I am going to treasure this griddle – not for the monetary value, but just maybe I’ll be continually reminded that being processed through the fire is the best thing for removing all kinds of crud and grime. (There’s a much deeper lesson in there somewhere, my friends. Maybe we should have a conversation about that in the future!)
Griswold Cast Iron Handle Griddle. Made in Erie, Pennsylvania likely sometime between 1887 and 1900.
I’d love to hear your favorite cast iron story! Please share in the comments!
Until our gravel roads cross again… so long.