Unique Designs of Cast Iron

Through the years, cast iron has provided all type of unique designs. From chicken fryers, corn stick pan, corn bread wedge pan and combo tabs. These are a slight fraction of some of the old Americana cast iron ware designs.

One of my favorite designs of cast iron ware is what lays underneath the skillet. Through the years, Lodge has made some amazing prints. From business related prints, disaster relief efforts, Cracker Barrell early Americana history, wild life and other unique designs. These unique prints have cast iron collectors scrambling to get their hands on a limited time offers.

Cracker Barrel’s early Americana history. Paul Revere and the Midnight Ride. Made by Lodge.

Oscar Mayer skillet. These skillets were made for the employees of Oscar Mayer. This was also a production of Lodge. These special made skillets are collectors items. One of the most sought after collectors items is the Walmart Anniversary skillets.

One of most remarkable pieces that will forever lay an impression on me and every Tennessean who cherish our beloved Great Smokey Mountains, is the 2016 Great Smokey Mountains. The proceeds went towards the Dollywood Foundation, “My People Fund.” Within days, Lodge had raised over $100,000. The wild fires devastated over 10,000 acres of the historic national park.

Another unique cast iron theme from Lodge cast iron is the Lodge Wildlife series. The Wildlife series was released at different times, a total of six different types of cast iron pieces. When the series matures in age, the series will have more of a collector’s value.

Lodge is no stranger to producing skillets for special business occasions. Several cast iron pieces were produced for Oscar Mayer, Hillshire Farm, and Walmart.

One of the most interesting of Lodge cast iron production is the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lodge produced an ashy tray skillet, standard size skillet, 12-inch camp oven and a cookbook for the special occasion. The licensing committee had asked Bob Kellerman, former CEO of Lodge, to become a torch bearer. The jog would only be a half a mile. For practice rounds, Kellerman ran with an 8-inch skillet in hand, to match the weight of the three pound torch.

These are just a few of the handful of stories that make cast iron production very unique to our state, Tennessee. Unique pieces of cast iron production places a unique marker in American history and reminders of America’s first journey through freedom.

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Lodge Cast Iron Designs

Through the years, Lodge cast iron has went through some pretty amazing designs. Some pieces of Lodge iron ware has more collector’s value because of the unique design or short duration of manufacturing, which makes the iron ware harder to find.

Before I became interested in cast iron, I always thought cast iron skillets were cast iron skillets. I didn’t understand that there was a collectors value and history behind the things that we use daily in our kitchen.

Identifying cast iron can be very challenging and overwhelming. When I first started out in collecting cast iron, I built so much frustration in identification that I unfollowed anything about cast iron and went back to cheap casserole dishes. After I started reading more about cast iron and watching videos, I understood more about cast iron collecting and identification.

In my little area of the south, we see A LOT of Lodge cast iron because Tennessee is home to Lodge cast iron. The oldest cast iron manufacture in the United States. Each cast iron has their own unique design. Early Lodge cast iron is known for their unique notches in their heat ring. A heat ring on cast iron is found underneath the cast iron skillet. Heat rings were used for wood burning stoves.

Lodge cast iron with heat ring

The above piece is a Lodge 3 notch – with a heat ring. Not all Lodge cast iron had three notches. Depending in some series of cast iron, Lodge had 3 notch, 2 notch and 1 notch. Some pieces of Lodge, didn’t have a notch at all (Lodge arc design).

Lodge is also known for their very unique tear drop handle style.

When wood burning stoves started to phase out with traditional stoves, the heat ring was no longer required with their designs. Skillets were produced with a flat bottom and their first ever introduction of Lodge’s logo design. The new lodge production logo started in 1973. Through the years, the logo changed with new color schemes and graphics.

I personally love the vintage 1973 logo the best because their logo reminds me a lot of my childhood memories of Opryland USA theme park. The Lodge logo looks similar to the Opryland USA Logo. When I find the earlier Lodge logos, I usually buy them because of all the sweet memories I made there as a child.

Cast iron manufacturing goes through many different phases and designs through out the years. Collecting the designs to make a full set is a fun challenge for any cast iron connoisseur, and a privilege to complete all the sets. Collectors in the cast iron community are extremely knowledgeable in explaining the design and the history how the piece came about before production started.

Cooking in cast iron is only half the fun in hunting down old pieces of cast iron ware, especially when there’s a collectors value behind the piece.

To learn more about Lodge cast iron, Facebook has three wonderful sites for cast iron collectors, Lodge Cast Iron Lovers, Lodge and BSR Cast Iron Group and Cast iron Country Cooling and Collecting.

For more information about cast iron restoration, recipes, and cast iron ware; please like my page on facebook


Griswold Spider Skillet

A few weeks ago I was doing some mindless scrolling on a Facebook cast iron page. I came across a post that was receiving several comments. Every second you could hear the clicks from the comments that were being made. I went back to the post to see what the uproar was about, and surprisingly it wasn’t about soap used on cast iron. Instead, the topic had to do about a very rare piece of cast iron that I’ve never seen before.

A member of the group found a cast iron piece with a spider logo on the back. This particular piece had many members of the group bombarding the other member with several requests and some were speculating if this member actually had spider skillet at all.

Erie 8 Spider Skillet

I went back to do a little research of my own, and I was astonished at how much one goes for on auction sites. Depending on the market, the rare Erie spider skillet from Griswold, goes for $3,000-$10,000. Possibly a little more than $10,000.

A little history about this unique piece from Griswold. From 1890-1891, Griswold created a skillet with a spider web in the center and the body of a spider with a skillet logo that says ERIE. The raised part was often times damaged because of the constant contact with the stove. Most often, it’s hard to find a piece with a perfectly mint center condition. Most collectors will raise red flags when they find one on E-bay or Facebook in perfect condition. It’s not uncommon for people to copy and paste a picture and place the iconic skillet on Facebook Market Place or E-Bay. Admins will post to other sites and send a warning to other collectors about a piece that could possibly be fraudulent.

Spider skillets can be found possibly on number 7 and 8 skillets and teapots.

Griswold management used the spider trademark on their letter head for several years, before retiring the logo in the early 1900’s.

After researching many materials about the spider skillet design, Roy G. Meadows, explained that the skillet logo originates from the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce (July 11, 1274 – June 7, 1329). The king spent years trying to free his country from the English enemy. During the lowest point of his life, he hid himself in a cave. While he stayed in the cave, he watched a spider trying to build his web at the entrance of the cave. Time and time again, the spider fell to bottom of the rocky cave floor. The spider continued to build his web, until his job was complete. The king was amazed in how hard the spider worked to complete his web. With out giving up, the spider completed it’s work until all the corners were securely fastened to the cave’s exteriors rock formation.

King Bruce was encouraged by the spider’s success. He went back and gathered his men and fought a very brave battle. The king’s soldier’s won their battle, and King Bruce’s kingdom was won.

As stated from Meadow’s, a 1904 bulletin includes the spider trademark and quote, “As the little spider brought success to Robert Bruce, so cooking utensils bearing this trade mark brings success to all who use them.”


Roy G. Meadows Copyright Wagner and Griswold Society 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

One can’t deny a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie! My Mammie made the best cookies on this side of the Mississippi. When my grandfather would pick me up after school, he would drive down to the town’s high school to pick up my grandmother, Mammie. As soon as we would pulled in the driveway, I would run into the kitchen and open up as many containers as I possibly could. Mammie wasn’t a stranger to baking just one batch, she would have several batches. She was an amazing grandmother!

There was no telling how many cookies I ate while I was in her kitchen
Mammie never wrote down her recipes “fully.” Her recipes went a little like this:
“Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and brown sugar. Mix wet ingredients.”
I’m not sure what those wet ingredients were.
If I had a chance to go into a time machine, I would most certainly go back and write down all her recipes. Instead, I have many loose brown crispy pieces of paper attached to bobby pins and sewing needles.
We all have many stories in our lives that are surrounded by the famous chocolate chip cookie, but many aren’t exactly aware in how the chocolate chip cookie got started. Did the cookie begin in Europe, Asia or possibly the United States?
The chocolate chip cookie was invented by chef Ruth Graves Wakefield and her partner chef Sue Brides from Whitman, Massachusetts.
Wakefield was flying back from Egypt where she had the idea about placing chocolate in cookie dough. She had experimented on chocolate before and knew that the chocolate would retain it’s shape through high heat. Chocolate then was mostly served in deserts melted.
Wakefield and Brides worked on the chocolate chip cookie at Wakefield’s Toll House Inn, located in Whitman, Massachusetts. During the height of World War II, they sent care packages to the U.S. military overseas. The servicemen wrote letters to home, asking their family to send Toll House cookies. Wakefield began receiving letters all over the world asking for her Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. In 1956 the chocolate chip cookie recipe made it’s way into the UK.
Wakefield sold the rights to her cookie recipe and the Toll House name to Andrew Nestle for one dollar, and a lifetime supply of chocolate. However, the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe is not the same one Wakefield invented. The ingredients changed as Nestle marketed their product.
The recipe was published in a book that Wakefield had written in 1938. Not until 2017, Maria Stephanos from WCVB interviewed Sue Brides daughter and shared the original Toll House cookie recipe.
I took the liberty in testing out this recipe. The cookie was astounding. Also, if you want a very crispy cookie, bake them on a Lodge cast iron griddle.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 1 ½ cups shortening
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar
  • 1 1/8 cups brown packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 1/8 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot water
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chip cookies

(walnuts are optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dissolve baking soda in hot water.
Mix shortening, white sugar and brown sugar, eggs, and salt until creamy. Add baking soda mixture and flour. Mix until everything is well combined. Add vanilla and mix in briefly.
Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Scoop onto cookie sheet using a cookie scoop. Bake for 8-10 minutes until sides are golden brown. Best served as warm.

Fried Chicken and Sisters

As a child, Sunday’s were the best day of the week. Every Sunday my family and I would go to my grandparent’s farm house. That was our little piece of heaven on earth. Mammie would have our dinner ready. Dinner was lunch and dinner was dinner, but we didn’t mind what we called it because dinner at Mammie’s was always great. Especially when Mammie served us fried chicken.

As soon as we stepped out of the ol’ beat up Dodge truck, we could smell dinner cooking. I could smell the aroma of dinner yumminess hoovering over us. Walking into her kitchen was a lot like Christmas morning, you couldn’t wait to see what she was serving.

Being the obnoxious kid that I was, I would change my clothes as we were going to Mammie’s. I would curl up in the floorboard and change into my comfortable clothes, while the rest of the family would change at the farmhouse. I had a ten minute head start in burying my plate with amazing food. Especially fried chicken drumsticks. Mammie would always laugh because she knew me as the sneaky one.

After we would finish stuffing our face, we would go to the living room and sit. We sat in quietness and thump through the Sunday newspaper. I would read the comics and occasionally the Thompson Station editorial in the Tennessean. I knew Mr. Thompson because I went to school with his son Joe. I loved hearing his stories and imagined them pretty vividly in my mind.

I remember sitting in the living room with my back against her stove, telling Mammie how much I loved her fried chicken. Mammie laughed while she rocked in her old warn out rocking chair; “Meg, my sister Louise had to teach me how to catch my own chicken. It’s not as simple as it is now. We had to kill our own chickens. I didn’t wanna do it, but I had to.” She would stop and laugh, rubbing her forehead with the palm of her hand. “My sister Louise was after me and told me I had to catch a chicken and gave me an ax.” Mammie had told me this story before over and over again, but like a fine wine, the story got better over time.

“I got the chicken and the ax. Louise was standing over me and told me how to whack the chicken. I didn’t want to do it. I took the ax and swung. I hit the chicken like she told me to but the chicken took off every which away. I half way missed the chicken. Louise fussed at me, and she had to finish the chicken off, again.”

Eventually the chicken became dinner after loosing it’s head not once, but twice. The halfway dead chicken, finally became a fully dead chicken. Mammie sat in her rocking chair and laughed the whole time telling me the story. Then with a pause, her smile faded as she looked up and said “I miss my sweet Louise. Such a good girl. Good, good beautiful girl.”

Every night I make chicken or even look at chickens, I always remember her story. As I’m preparing our dinner for tomorrow night, I will be smiling the whole time I make fried chicken.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

  • Whole buttermilk
  • Chicken drumsticks (Your choice in how many you want to use)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • veggie oil for frying

In a large mixing bowl, pour your buttermilk over the chicken. Place in the fridge and marinate 8-12 hours.

Mix all the ingredients above in a mixing bowl. Take your buttermilk covered drumstick and dredge in flour mixture.

In a cast iron chicken fryer, fill the chicken fryer to the half way point. Place on medium high heat, until the thermometer reads 375 degrees. Place the drumstick in the oil for 15 to 20 minutes. Careful not to burn the crust of the chicken. Take the drumstick out once it’s fully fried. Place on a plate and let cool.

Strawberry Shortcakes

As a child and young adult, I spent my summers picking strawberries on my grandparents farm. My Mammie (grandmother) spent hours and hours in green pastures picking berries. One spring, she got a bad sun burn on her back from picking berries. I followed in her footsteps years later. I didn’t realize my shirt had rolled up while picking berries and my back was blistered.

There’s no telling how many berries we picked, but there was plenty for us and all our friends. I never will forget the day when my mom had picked some strawberries for herself. She picked a basket full of berries, and placed the baskets on the hood of her car. However, my mom didn’t realize that Mammie did the same thing for the mailman. She would pick a basket full of berries and lay them on the hood of her car for him to pick up.

That day, we saw a mail truck pull in the drive way. Mom looked down the driveway and told Mammie the mail man had arrived. He got out of his mail truck and placed the mail on the hood of the car, picked up the berries and waved goodbye at Mammie. Before mom could run out of the house, the mailman was already down the driveway. She screamed, “Stop, stop!Those are my berries!” The screened in door slammed behind her, while she was waving her arms at him to come back. He was gone. We watched from the old farm house windows, while Mammie giggled and pushed her glasses back up to her face. My sister and I knew not to talk unless we were spoken to. All that work she had done, only meant there was more work to be done. We grabbed our baskets and went back to picking strawberries, again. After replenishing the other berries, we went back home.

We ate a lot of strawberry related recipes. One that I cherish the most is the store brought strawberry shortcake bread. We piled many strawberries on top and clobbered it with cool whip.

Today in homeschool cooking labs, my son and I made strawberry shortcakes from scratch. My mind became flooded with memories of Mammie. I often wondered what she would have thought of this recipe, and what kind of reaction she would give when she ate a strawberry shortcake her great grandson made.

I found this recipe in a cast iron magazine. I added some of my own ideas to this recipes. Enjoy!

Strawberry Shortcakes

  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/4th cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8th tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Place in the fridge for 1 hour.

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 3/4th cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh farm milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Blue Chair Bay vanilla rum

Whisk flour, baking powder sugar and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Add strawberries to flour mixture, fold in. Pour in milk, and rum. Mix until everything is evenly combined. Dough should be sticky. Dump dough out onto floured surface and knead several times. Roll out dough and cut out. Place 1 inch apart in cast iron skillet. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Biscuits do not need to be a golden color. You need to bring them out before they turn golden.

Sweet Whip Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons confectioner sugar
  • 1 tablespoons Blue Chair Bay vanilla rum

While biscuits are baking, combine all the ingredients together until soft peaks start to form. I like my whip cream to be thick.

Women in Cast Iron History

When I meet customers for cast iron pick-up, I often hear stories about how a great grandmother or grandmother who forever set a huge impression in their family with delicious cooked meals. Restoring those pieces warm my heart.

Cast iron ware history has a deep past influenced by women! Yes, women. Home makers who were the backbone in their family, also became influential leaders in the manufacturing of cast iron and advertisement.

One of the most unique pieces of cast iron ware, the corn bread wedge pan, became one of the best sellers for Birmingham Stove and Range. The wedge pan design makes amazing cornbread, biscuits and brownies. The ideas are limitless. The inspiration for this piece came from one of the lead foundry foremen’s wife. The foundry foreman’s wife wanted a design that could provide a delicate crust on all sides. After the design was built and placed through production, sales for the wedge pan went through the roof. This became one of the best sellers for Birmingham Stove and Range.

Griswold’s Aunt Ellen, became one of their shinning stars. Aunt Ellen started working with Griswold in 1922, in receiving mail from customers.

When replying, she dubbed herself as Aunt Ellen, when signing off her letters. Customer’s were obsessed over Aunt Ellen and loved her advice with cast iron care and tips regarding her recipes. Griswold soon used Aunt Ellen to market their products for their customers and sales took off. As the Aunt Ellen effect took aim towards the home makers of the day, Griswold’s demand for more cast iron production took off.

Today, Aunt Ellen pamphlets and letters are considered collector items in the cast iron community.

You can read more about the history of Aunt Ellen in the Southern Cast Iron magazine (March/April 2019).