Cleaning Up a Tiny Cast Iron Pan

Not too long after I got the cast iron Nomar braiser, I found over the course of my thrifting a lovely little cast iron enameled pan. It’s only about 6.5″ (16.5cm) across, so I guess it’s individual-sized for frying. But a very popular baking trend at the moment is to bake and serve cakes and breads in cast iron pans, and this little pan would make a lovely serving for two for that kind of dish.

The inside doesn’t look half bad! There’s only a few scratches on the shiny enamel. And a bit of a squint at the handle reveals that it’s actually a Le Creuset, which means top-of-the-line workmanship. They don’t currently sell a pan this small, but one that’s about twice the size is $210.00, which does give an idea of how much it would have cost when new.

The bottom of the pan, however, needed some TLC. Luckily it’s not as bad as last time.

I used the baking-powder-and-lemon-juice paste technique again, and it worked a treat. It didn’t make too much of a difference to the inside…

But now the outside looks lovely too! There are a few scratches that can’t be removed, but all of the gunk is gone. And this time, it only took one application of the paste and a good scrub, instead of a couple days of soaking and scrubbing. Works for me!

Cleaning Enameled Cast Iron

I picked up a box of old, used kitchenware a while back, and buried down deep at the bottom was what looked like an enameled cast iron casserole dish. It was in pretty rough shape.

The inside wasn’t too badly off; there seemed to be some staining, but no chips or pits in the coating. The outside, however, was a mess:

My best guess is that the previous owner(s) had regularly cleaned the inside where food would actually touch, but were lackadaisical at best about cleaning the exterior. There was a brand name on the bottom, but it was so covered in gunk that I couldn’t quite make it out. But it seemed like a solid piece, so I decided to give cleaning it up a shot.

(I was also going to write about two vintage Pyrex dishes from the same box that had cleaned up really nicely with a lot of elbow grease, but yesterday I managed to bump into them and send them crashing to the floor. They hit each other on the way down and shattered into teeny tiny little pieces. They were only Cornflower Blue dishes, probably about 30 to 40 years old and not terribly rare, but after all that work I was — and still am — rather pissed off that I made such a stupid mistake. Anyway, that’s why there are Pyrex casseroles in that photo as well.)

One of the suggestions that I found online was to coat the piece in a paste of baking soda and lemon or lime juice, so I tried that first. If nothing else, it smelled nicer than any other cleaner I tried!

It actually made a pretty good dent in polishing up the interior.

However, it didn’t have the penetrating power to get a the worst of the exterior’s years of caked-on grease. I’m going to keep this technique in my arsenal for future reference, though, since it did do wonders for the areas where the damage wasn’t so bad, like on the outside of the lid.

The next tip I tried was to soak the pot overnight in a solution of two parts water to one part vinegar. This made so little difference that I didn’t even bother taking a picture. It was just a waste of time.

My friend suggested that I fill the sink with water and add two dishwasher pods, which did end up being the technique I was looking for. Even so, I had to soak for 12 hours, give it a scrub, change the water, and then return it to soak. This technique took three days, but just look how it turned out!

While it was soaking, I was finally able to get a good look at the logo. It’s a Nomar braiser, and my research dates it from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s:

At some point Nomar was bought out by Staub, which is a competitor of Le Creuset. Apparently, back when they went by the Nomar name, the brand was an even stronger competitor. And Le Creuset is the be-all and end-all of cast iron ware these days!

My roaster holds about 2.5L, which puts it between Le Creuset’s 1.5L and 3.5L braisers… Which retail for $200 and $340 CAD, respectively. So my piece old Nomar was definitely worth the work I put into it!

And I have to say, it’s awfully pretty.

Cleaning Glass

Because I am passionate about thrifting, a lot of second-hand items come my way from friends and family, garage sales, thrift shops, charity stores, estate sales and moving sales. I’d like to say that everything that I get comes in tip-top shape, but unfortunately that’s not the case. A certain amount of wear-and-tear is expected, especially when it comes to vintage or antique pieces that have seen everyday use. That doesn’t bother me at all. What I will not condone the level of filth of some of these items.

That isn’t to say that I won’t work with something that is scuzzy. On the contrary — but I won’t keep an item that I can’t get clean. Luckily, a lot of kitchen items are metal, glass, or plastic, which can all be recycled in this area if I can’t bring them up to an acceptable level. But I much prefer to put some elbow grease into it to get things spic and span again if I can. Reuse before recycling, if possible, as it were. If you factor in the time it takes me to clean pieces like this, it’s probably not cost-effective, but to me it’s still worth it to keep something perfectly serviceable out of a landfill or recycling center. Those teachers who repeated, “Reduce, reuse, recycle!” to me as a child should be happy that something stuck.


Before and after cleaning of some glass cookware that I came by recently.

Clear glass, especially Pyrex and Anchor ware, are some of my favourites when it comes to bringing things back up to snuff. The heavy, clear glass is impermeable, so even long-standing coatings of dirt and grease don’t sink under the surface. This glassware is dishwasher-safe, so often I can get the machine to do a lot of the work for me. I mean, there are all kinds of tricks online to help remove different kinds of gunge, but in my experience a lot of soap, hot water, soaking, and scrubbing usually does the trick. I’ve discovered that one of the best things to use to scrape off stubborn, caked-on food is bamboo skewers. You can put a fair amount of pressure behind the wood, but it’s still fragile enough that it will break before scratching or etching the glass.

There’s just something terribly satisfying about seeing what was once a shamefully dirty dish become something you wouldn’t hesitate to use to serve your grandmother.

But What Is It? The Sequel

Over this past summer I found a tool at the cottage my parents were renting and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was. After posting But What Is It? and But What Is It? Part 2, the general consensus was that it was some kind of homemade chopping tool, probably to aid someone who had limited hand strength.

Today I have a new quandary. I picked up a piece of Tupperware when I bought a big box of second-hand plastic containers, and I have no idea what it is. Here are some photos for your reference:

As you can see, it’s actual Tupperware brand (around here we often call any plastic container “Tupperware”, no matter the brand, so I had to specify). However, it doesn’t have a mold number, so it can’t easily be looked up online. Because of this, I suspect that it may be part of a larger item. Because of the colour/texture, I suspect that it’s of relatively recent manufacture, not vintage. It’s solid plastic, and one end tapers sharply, scraper-like. It measures 19.8cm (7 3/4″) at its widest point and is about 13cm (5″) tall at the highest point at the center of the arch.

I’ve asked my friend who is into collecting Tupperware in a big way, and she has no idea. My Googling has yielded nothing. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

EDITED TO ADD:

Karen and Peter over on my Facebook page pointed me in the right direction: it’s a food scoop! Its meant to scoop up food after you chop it so it’s easily transferred from food to pan. This makes sense, because the scoop was originally packaged with a five-slot knife block that had an attached recipe card holder. There’s a good example over on eBay. Mystery solved!

New Cookware

When it comes to garage sale and thrift store shopping, my mother is my role model. Actually, that’s true when it comes to shopping in general. My mom can go into a clothing store and find three pairs of trousers and a shirt, all that fit well, all for 75% off or greater, in less than fifteen minutes. I will go into the same store and come back with maybe one of those pieces. It’s as if she has some kind of supernatural ability to sniff out bargains.

Case in point: my mom bought me some new cookware at garage sales this past month, both for about $2.00 apiece. The first was a pretty vintage 1970’s-ish Dutch oven. I love this style of enameled piece, and although my mom gave me her old one a while back, she was not ashamed to admit that this one was in better shape. As a bonus, it’s also bigger.

Mom also found me this adorable pumpkin pie plate, virtually brand new; it still had the cardboard insert to protect between the top and bottom parts from each other. I doubt it has ever been used. I think it will be perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, when pumpkin pie is often my main contribution to the meal. The temperature at night is telling me that fall isn’t far off, so it won’t be long until I get a chance to use this dish.