Letters

Foxy mug

The July cover shot has taken my breath, Noppadol Paothong has definitely defined Missouri’s wildlife with this shot. I cannot keep from looking at it and the realism that Noppadol has captured. I have been a fur harvester all my life and have found the grey fox my favorite to trap and call. They are quite the challenge, not to mention their unique fur and beauty. I have photographed many in foothold traps over the years, but have never managed to capture this great furbearer as Mr. Paothong has. Excellent, thank you!

Tad Brown, via Internet

Scrub-a-Dutch-Dutch

Jim Low’s article on dutch oven cooking in the June issue [Dutch Oven Cooking 101] was excellent, but I’d like to know if he or someone else at the magazine could give some advice on clean-up. That’s always been one of the most challenging aspects of the dutch oven for me.

Tom Polokonis, via Internet

Author’s note: I’m glad to shed a little light on the question of cleaning cast-iron cookware. Opinion on this subject is divided into two sometimes hostile camps—those who use soap and those who don’t. The soapers think you need soap to get an oven truly clean and avoid food poisoning. The anti-soapers think using detergents ruins the nonstick “cure” from cast iron. I think both camps are wrong … and right.

You can use soap on a Dutch oven and still maintain the cure if you don’t use a harsh abrasive and scrub down to bare metal. On the other hand, you can get the same result with hot water and a mild abrasive, such as a plastic scouring pad. Either way, it’s critical to heat the oven moderately after each use to evaporate any lingering water, which otherwise can cause rust. You want the metal hot enough to make a bead of water evaporate with a sizzle, but not hot enough to burn off the greasy cure. Heating effectively sterilizes the metal, so not using soap doesn’t have to be a health hazard.

It’s also best to apply a very thin coat of oil or grease after each cleaning. I prefer vegetable shortening, but bacon grease or liquid oil work, too. Always store Dutch ovens with the lid propped slightly open to allow condensation to evaporate during storage.

Regardless of which cleaning method you use, you occasionally are forced to scour down to bare metal when you burn food onto the metal, cook with acidic foods like tomatoes, or when you overheat the oven and char the oil that formed the “cure.” That’s not a disaster. It just means you need to reapply shortening, oil or grease and use your kitchen range to heat the utensil to 350-degree for half an hour or so. Let it cool in the oven, and you should have the start of a new cure.

A really good, totally nonstick cure comes from repeated use followed by moderate cleaning. It also helps to use your oven, skillet, etc. for really greasy cooking, like frying fish or roasting a whole chicken. Those uses heat the metal in the presence of lots of grease to build a thick, slick cure.

I hope this helps, and I hope you plan to use your Dutch oven this weekend. By this time tomorrow, I hope to be making a blackberry cobbler!—Jim Low, news services coordinator

Submissions reflect readers’ opinions and may be edited for length and clarity.