Cooking with cast iron at the Captain Freeman Inn

by Donna Cain,

Over the years I have been exposed to cooking with cast iron pots and skillets. Truth be told, as a young woman I thought my grandmother was crazy to use her skillet for everything she cooked on her gas stove. I would give anything now to have that original skillet that she used to fry our bacon and cook our eggs for so many holidays. As a working mom I was always too busy and thought the new modern teflon was such a great modern invention that saved time. Now as an “old timer” and I like to think a “much wiser” individual, I am going back to my grandmothers ways of cooking some of our food with cast iron.

We just returned from a great family trip to visit our son Nathan, Aunt in Nashville and our daughter Jenn’s family in Dallas. We were on the road with my Aunt Carrie and she mentioned that she loved to dine at Cracker Barrel. Low and behold we had just passed one on the interstate and pulled off for lunch. We walked past the Lodge Cookware and I thought, hmmmm, I really want to make old fashion cornbread and dutch babies at the inn in those old fashion skillets. Being on the road the thought passed. Two days later some dear friends that have stayed with us at Brewster by the Sea asked us over for breakfast.

During the conversation Yvonne mentioned that she was going to make her southern cornbread for Thanksgiving. hmmmm….so Yvonne “how do you make your cornbread”? She explained her recipe and that she loved Lodge cookware that was sold through Cracker Barrel to bake her cornbread. I googled and learned that the Lodge brand was made in America and mimicked the old cast iron products that our grandparents used. I later had a fun discussion with my aunt, and she felt that food cooked in a cast iron skillet just seemed to taste better.

My cousin uses an old family skillet to cook most of their evening meals. hmmmmm…  I was always turned off with previous pieces that I had found because they had rusted and seemed so heavy and cumbersome. Silly me after I did some research on line to realize that like so much in life if you properly take care of the cast iron each time you use it it will last many generations…..hmmmm…. how many teflon fry pans have I thrown away since being an innkeeper since the teflon wore away???? How many of those pans were thrown in landfill and how many years to decompose? As we were driving home we again passed a Cracker Barrel, and I said to my husband let’s stop for breakfast, and I want to purchase two cast iron skillets for the inn!

I have learned how to properly care for my skillets and have made several meals already. We are also replacing some of our teflon pieces with ceramic. Research has shown that ceramic is less porous and reacts very well with heat. The ceramic pans are perfect as an electric griddle for pancakes and smaller fry pan for omelets. While we still have some teflon fry pans we eventually will replace them with the ceramic and cast iron.  I think my grandmother and mom would be very pleased and also tickled to see that we are using older products that they used.

Shown above is a snap shot from our daughter’s store, The Boston General Store, that show several old pictures of my mother and her family.

Shown below is two new recipes and what I have learned about cast iron. I am sure many new recipes will follow:)

“Professional chefs consider cast iron cookware to be precision cooking tools, as these dependable pans enable precise control of cooking temperatures.  Their heat retention qualities allow for even cooking temperature without hot spots.  Cast iron pans can be used on top of the stove or to bake in the oven.  All our grandmothers had cast iron skillets and cast iron stove-top griddles.  In fact, your grandmother swore by it and the pioneers depended on it.” (quotes from “What’s cooking America” web site)

To season your new or old cast iron pan means to create a coating by baking on multiple thin coats of oil.  This will protect the cast iron pan from rusting and makes for a non-stick cooking surface.  To season your pan rub on a very thin coat of vegetable oil. Rub the oil off with paper towels and the pan should look like there is no oil left on the surface. For your first treatment place the lightly-oiled cast iron pan, upside down, in the oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any drips.  Heat the pan for 30 minutes in a 450 to 500 degree F. oven. Once done, turn off the oven, and let the pan cool to room temperature in the oven.  Repeating this process 3-4 times for your new pan will create a stronger “seasoning” bond.

Once seasoned it’s easy to care for your pan by washing it out with soap and water. Never soak the pan or use harsh scrubbing pads. If your pan is seasoned properly the food will wash out easily with soap and water. After use dry thoroughly and place on your stove top under a light heat to make sure it is totally dry. Rub a light layer of cooking oil and leave frying pan on the hot burner of stove for a few minutes.  Remove from hot burner and wipe excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.

Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off (especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust).  Be sure that you place a couple paper towels inside your cast iron pan when storing to make sure that any moisture that forms will be absorbed by the paper towel.  Never put the utensil in the dishwasher or store it away without drying it thoroughly.

Always remember that the handle gets VERY hot. Pot holders are a necessity!

I have always loved popovers and have wonderful memories of my mom baking them for dinner with roast beef. We have made a similar version at the inn that we called a Bavarian Popover. We liked to fill it with scrambled eggs or fresh fruit with raspberry jam. Now that I have my new pans I was excited to make the traditional Apple Dutch Babies. We served this yesterday and had left overs to try for ourselves. They were delicious and will be on our breakfast menu this winter.


Apple Dutch Baby
Cuisine: breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 serving
This pancake of sorts puffs up magically when removed from the oven and is delicious served with jam .
  • Apple Cider syrup
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • Dutch Baby
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  1. Make the apple cider syrup ahead of time and store in the frig. Bring cider, butter, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to a boil over medium high heat in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and boil gently, whisking occasionally, until thick and syrupy, 3--45 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 425. Whisk eggs, milk, flour, vanilla, salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl until smooth. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a 10" cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add apple and sprinkle with brown sugar and remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook, tossing often, until apples are coated and softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out skillet and heat in oven until very hot, 8-10 minutes. Carefully add 2 Tablespoons of the remaining butter, tilting to coat. Add apples to center of the skillet, pour batter over. Bake until pancake is puffed and golden brown around the edges and center is set but still custardy, about 12-15 minutes. Serve with warm apple syrup on the side or drizzled on top.
We have a wonderful recipe for corn muffins that we serve in the summer with honey and raspberry butter. The corn meal is ground fresh in the fall at our local grist mill. The muffin recipe is sweeter as it includes  sugar. I have been tickled over the years to talk with our southern guests about ice tea and cornbread as they feel the unsweetened versions are much better.
For all of our southern guests and family, here is an easy recipe to make old fashion cornbread with just a little bit of sugar for your holiday breakfast or evening meal.
Southern Cornbread for the Holidays
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Southern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
While white cornbread is usually used in the south, we like to use a yellow version that is locally ground in Brewster.
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon drippings or butter
  • 1½ cups cornmeal
  • ½ cup AP flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Put the bacon drippings in a 9 or 10 inch skillet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 with the skillet inside. In a large glass bowl whisk together the cornmeal, baking soda, salt and sugar. In another medium bowl beat together the egg and buttermilk. Making a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, add the liquid and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter.
  2. When the skillet is hot remove from the oven (remember the handle is very hot) and evenly distribute the cornmeal mixture. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread rest for 10-30 minutes in the skillet before cutting into wedges.
 Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays everyone!


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