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  #1  
Old 09-16-2010, 10:23 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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Default Cleaning up a cast iron kettle

I brought home a cast iron kettle(free from my sister) 30" dia x 16" deep inside. Was used as a flower pot so I need to plug the holes, but it is rusted/pitted fairly deep. I started using an angle grinder to try to smooth it out, but I don't know how far to try to go. It seems like I would need to make it prefectly smooth to get all the rust out of the pits, and to be able to keep it sanitary.

We have four hogs getting butchered mid October, so I'd like to have it done by then to render the lard. We are also going to use it to make some Cherry syrup this fall(we do Maple in the spring, but wanted to try Cherry)

If I need to grind on it for a couple hours every night for a week I can do that, but that may not even be enough. Has anybody else here restored one of these, and have any good tips to share?
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  #2  
Old 09-16-2010, 02:09 PM
Andy Jones Andy Jones is offline
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I would try using white vinegar to remove the rust.It would be impractical to fill it completely;but you may be able to tip it over on the side and soak it in several positions until it was all cleaned.Vinegar has worked well for me in the past.

Andy
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  #3  
Old 09-18-2010, 09:58 AM
NCLee NCLee is offline
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OldSchool, don't worry about the pits in the metal. Not at this stage. If you're GOOD at CI welding, go ahead and plug the holes first. If you don't have experience with welding castiron, please take the kettle to a machine shop that has someone who has that experience. Many folks, who do regular welding, just don't have the skills needed to successfully weld CI.

Once you have the holes plugged, set the kettle over a SMALL fire. Fill with water. Add white vinegar to the water. I don't have an exact ratio of vinegar to water. For my #20 washpot, I added a gallon of vinegar. So, I'd say add about a quart for every 5 gallons of water. Can be stronger. Add enough so that you have a vinegar aroma. Keep it well under a 50% water to vinegar.

Next heat the water to a slow boil. Let it boil for abour an hour. Pull the fire from beneath and let it cool enough to safely empty the water. While the pot is still warm, add a couple of gallons of warm water (not cold as quick temp changes can cause CI to crack. Add a dash of Dawn dish detergent. Use stainless steel (not copper) to scrub the inside of the kettle. The vinegar solution has loosened the rust. A wire brush (toothbrush style - again not brass or copper) will help remove the rust from the pits.

Note: Depending on the amount of rust, you may need to repeat. Boil for another hour. Chances are 1 hour will be enough. However, YMMV.

Turn the kettle on it's side to empty. By this time it should be cool. Use a hose to thoroughly rinse to remove any lingering vinegar and to remove the soap residue. When you think you've rinsed enough, rinse it some more!

Return the kettle to a position over to build a SMALL fire underneath. Keep this fire very small. Heat the kettle. Once it's hot, use a rag to wipe lard or Crisco shortening all over the inside. Be extra careful here as you don't want to get burned and you don't want the shortening to burst into flames.

Use a clean rag to wipe out any excess shortening that may pool in the bottom. Keep the small fire going until you see the pot begin to smoke. (Similar process to seasoning castiron cookware.) This part is hard to explain, much easier if I could show you in person. Anyway, once the interior of the pot begins to look dry, as if the shortening is gone, apply another THIN layer. You can do this a little at a time. Apply a coat today. Let it cool, apply another tomorrow. After 2-3 coats, the interior should be well seasoned.

Then, add a little shortening, maybe 2 pounds, over another small fire. Cut up a few potatoes and "fry" them in the pot. While frying dip some of the melted shortening and drizzle it over the interior walls of the pot. Can't caution you enough to be careful with these steps as you can get burned.

Remove the taters. Let the shortening cool until it can safely be handled. Dip out the shortening. Wipe out the pot with clean rags, leaving an very very very thin film of shortening on the interior. Use the rag to wipe down the exterior, too.

Make lard as your first use of the kettle. The pits won't matter. I've seen lard made in heavily pitted washpots (what we call big kettles around here) without any problems at all.

While I haven't seen cherry syrup done in one, I suspect that you won't have a problem with the pits when makeing that either. Just be sure you have a well cured seasoning before you to that. Most fruit juices are acetic and will remove the seasoning if not well cured. In fact, I'm not sure that you want to make a fruit syrup in one. Generally, this type of project calls for a non-reactive container (enamel, glass, stainless steel). Please check this out further for your syrup application. I'd hate to see you encounter a problem if CI isn't appropriate for your use.

This is long winded, but I hope it helps. Good luck with getting those holes plugged and getting your kettle ready for rendering lard.

Lee
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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
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  #4  
Old 09-19-2010, 12:16 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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It is pitted bad enough, and I'm obsesive enough that I've spent about 5 hours grinding down some real rough spots and getting into the pits a little. A local farm does sandblasting, so I'm taking it to them this week to blast it- it will smooth it out a little more, and get the rust out of the pits. It will get seasoned as soon as I get home with it! We're doing the outside too(like I said OBSESIVE) so I may try to season it upside down (which would also keep it from puddling) over the fire with lard on both sides. Then turn it over and season the interior again.

A friend suggested tapping the holes in the bottom, and fill using brass bolts which you grind flush. I would rather it be welded, the sandblaster probably knows how, since they work on farm equipment & old tractors. I was hoping to get it ready for a chili cookoff soon, but I'd hate to have a cooked on mess!

Thanks for the suggestions.
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  #5  
Old 09-22-2010, 12:16 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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Default Getting Closer

I took the kettle to be sandblasted today. $60 later it had zero rust on it! A friend offered to loan his small sandblaster to me, but I needed a $30 tub of blasting sand, and my faceshield was broken, so that would have been another $12 for $42 total. I decided for an extra $18 just to have the pros with the big stuff do it. They probably did in fifteen minutes what it would have taken me 5 hours to do!

I painted the stand with stove paint, then coated the kettle with lard inside & out and started a small fire under it. I tied cloth to a stick to keep coating it with the oil that puddled in the bottom, and did this for about two hours. it was smoking a little, but I was worried about getting it too hot. I do it again tomorrow. It's not black yet, so I may do it upside down next time to get the heat even instead of just at the bottom.

Next I need to make a paddle, and a lid for it.
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  #6  
Old 09-30-2010, 10:38 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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Default Seasoning The kettle

Seasoning hasn't gone as well as I hope for. I've never seasoned anything, so that doesn't help much! The outside is no concern, it went through one session while upside down, and now it's coated with oil & soot, so it will be fine. The interior was not turning black like I expected after a couple sessions of heating & coating. I was worried that I would catch the oil on fire, or crack the kettle by getting it too hot.

Last night, I decided it need to be hot enough to turn the oil black, so I built a fire around the outside of the stand so the sides would get as hot as the bottom. Well, it got hot alright! There had been a couple inches of oil in the bottom, and the whole kettle was smoking nicely while I drizzled oil from the bottom back up to the top so it would run down the sides. The the oil in the bottom turned black & looked like bubbling tar! I took a cloth on a stick to wipe up the oil, and I spread it around on the top lip and sides and then removed any excess oil/tar. It cooled down overnight, but the top lip is sticky.

I plan to add some oil, heat it, then use a clean cloth or brush to spread it around and get some of the lumps off and clean it out. Then coat it with oil, and get it hot again with the fire around the outside. This time there would only be a little oil and I'll keep it from puddling.

Question: Will this doing this harden the sticky seasoning, or will I have to remove it and start over? Was I correct that it needs to be hot enough to turn black like my cast iron pans?

Thanks!
Justin
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  #7  
Old 09-30-2010, 12:01 PM
Anon001 Anon001 is offline
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Justin,

I think part of your problem is that you think you must get the kettle hotter than necessary. You don't have to get the kettle black to be seasoned. Also, it sounds like you may be using vegetable oil or a cheap oil that gums up.

The point isn't to turn the cast iron black. The point is to coat the cast iron and heat to expand the pores so that they will hold the oil.... or that is my understanding.

When I season a skillet, I never get it so hot that it smokes like you describe. Some smoking, yes... but not boiling.

Paul
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  #8  
Old 09-30-2010, 12:34 PM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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Paul,
Now that you mention it, I had added some canola oil so we could make french fries and potato chips in it a couple days ago! They turned out really good Didn't take long for them to cook either. I'll see if I can scrub it out tonight with hot water & a brush.

I had the impression that the temp needs to be 450deg or so to bake a layer of oil onto the iron, but I am new to this also.

Thanks,
Justin
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  #9  
Old 09-30-2010, 01:19 PM
Anon001 Anon001 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldSchool View Post
I had the impression that the temp needs to be 450deg or so to bake a layer of oil onto the iron, but I am new to this also.
No... 250F is plenty. You could go up to 300 but it isn't necessary. If you can keep the temp at 250 for two hours, you should be fine. (I think. lol)

Most vegetable oils will leave a sticky surface which is keeps it from being properly seasoned. You should always use lard or bacon grease if you can.
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  #10  
Old 09-30-2010, 02:13 PM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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Default Gettin confused now...

OK, I checked it while at lunch today, the lip & sides are sticky, but the lower sides & bottom have a nice hard glossy finish to them! A bit lumpy, but it seems closer to what I was expecting. My expectations though, are usually a bit high, and not really based on anything. So now, how do I balance my expectations with reality? If I can answer that, most of my problems in this life may be solved(I think this belongs on a psychology forum now LOL)

I think boiling some water & scrubbing it some to get the lumps off is the first thing to do, then apply more lard(which is what I've been using) and see how it goes.

I have a chili cookoff on Saturday I hope to use this in, so I'm under some pressure now! I don't want it to stick, and I don't want lumps of seasoning in the chili
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  #11  
Old 10-01-2010, 10:42 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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The oil was a sticky mess to clean up! It had to be removed since it would flake off when scraped. I heated up water in the kettle, then used a paddle to scrape it, and a stiff brush to scrub. I should have used oil instead of water though, when I removed the water & added oil it let the temp get up a little more, and the hot oil helped remove the baked on sticky oil. I'll heat up some clean oil tonight & scrub some more, then it should be ready for tomorrow. And back to where it was a few days ago...two steps forward, one step back.
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  #12  
Old 10-02-2010, 09:44 PM
NCLee NCLee is offline
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Sounds like you've been coming along with the pot. Sorry that I was off line and couldn't jump back in on this thread a few days ago.

The problem you're encountering with sticky/lumpy is the use of too much oil or grease.

When seasoning castiron skillets in an oven, preheat the skillet to drive out any water (from cleaning) that's in the pores of the iron. Then apply a light coat of Crisco or lard (best, IMHO), then wipe it off. Yes, try to wipe it off. The object is to leave as thin a film of grease as possible. In the case of a skillet, heat it in the oven at 450. When the skillet appears to be dry, pull it out and coat/wipe off again. Repeat several times to get that nice black finish that's desired on skillets.

For your washpot, the process is similar. Gently heat it to less than the smoking point of your choice of seasoning. Wipe on a thin, thin, thin, coat. Maintain that heat level for a while. (Time will vary by your temp and outside conditons.) If you see puddles in the bottom, carefully wipe then out with a rag tied on a stick. (Safety precaition because you're working with a flamable material over an open fire.)

Before you make your chili, fry up several good sized batches of French fries in the pot. Since chili is an acidic product, it will be destructive to the seasoning on castiron, so you want as good a seasoning coat as possible.

Frying up some batches of taters, before starting the chili will help with that. And, when making your chili, add the tomatoes as late as possible in the process. Depending on your recipe, cook the meat, beans, etc. for as long as you can before adding the tomatoes (sauce, paste, or whatever tomato product your recipe uses). Cook till it's done, then go ahead as quickly as possible to remove the chili from the kettle/washpot. Transfer to serving bowls, stainless steel stockpot, or other suitable containers.

Rinse you kettle well to remove the tomato residue. Then, warm it and add a thin film of your choice of seasoning agent to protect it from rusting, till the next use.

Hope this isn't too late to be of help.

Lee

Opps! Re-read your post. Your chili was scheduled for earlier than this post. (sigh) Hope it turned out OK.
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  #13  
Old 10-04-2010, 11:29 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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For as many things as I did wrong, the chili turned out fine! There was a lot of kettle envy going on from the "competition". I made a nice White Oak lid, and a Hickory paddle for it, so they looked pretty good too. Didn't win any prizes, but me & the kids had fun. My three biggest kids(6,8, & 10) and one of their freinds helped prepare all the ingredients the night before, then my 8 year old boy went in early with me to set up. It was rainy with a low in the 40s that morning, so the heat from the fire was enjoyed by more than just me.

The chili cleaned up off the kettle very easy,(even after cooking for seven hours) so I must have done a better job than I thought on the seasoning. Luckily I did add the tomatoes late in the cooking since I wanted the beans to get cooked better. I'd almost like to start over on the seasoning, or at least improve whats there- some of it doesnt look very even and with what I've learned from this forum and by doing it I know I could do a better job on it. We'll be getting the fat from four hogs in a few weeks, so I'll have a supply of lard to work with!

Thanks to everyone for all the help, this has been a very interesting project!

Justin
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  #14  
Old 10-05-2010, 08:10 AM
NCLee NCLee is offline
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Glad to hear the chili turned out fine. And I'm glad to hear that you have your kids involved in the project. They're making memories that'll last them a life time.

No need to do a 'do-over' with your seasoning project. Since it handled the chili, you're OK with it as it is. From this point forward, the more you use it the more well seasoned it will become. When you get to rendering lard in it, that'll do a better job of continuing seasoning it than just about anything else you can do.

Just remember to keep it very thinly coated with oil/grease between uses. If it ever devlopes a rancid odor because it's been a long time between uses, just fry up a few taters. Toss them and the oil. That'll get rid of the rancid smell, so it won't affect your next batch of chili or whatever else you're doing.

Oh, one other thing.... If you're storing it upside down or with the lid on it, make sure some air can circulate inside the pot. If upside down, set on 3 or 4 bricks or pieces of 2x4. If right side up with the lid, fold up some lengths of paper towels, folded accordian fashion, between the lid and the pot.

Or, stop by Lowes or Home Depot and pick up a box of plastic cable clamps. Can't remember the exact name of them. They're shaped like a letter P. Designed to hold an electrical cable in place. The leg of the P has a hole to accept a screw. Slip over the edge of your pot, then put the lid on it.

BTW, these also work for Dutch Ovens and skillets with lids. Holds the lid off the pot enough to give good air circulation. And it keeps the lid from banging the pot when being moved. Especially good for enameled CI piecs as it helps keep the enamel from chipping.

Lee
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  #15  
Old 10-06-2010, 11:08 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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I think the only thing that really needs done is cleaning off some of the flakey seasoning on the lip and upper sides where it didnt get hot enough, but I drizzled dark oil onto it. I'll do some scraping before we do the lard. Part of it is I just want it to look nice/the way it should look. Storing it will be a pain, but I'll take the precautions.

Last night I started working on a 30" long ladle for it. I had a 4" thick pc of Cherry left over from a project, so I'm making some woodenware to match the pot.

My three yr old has the phrases "cast iron kettle" and "chili cookoff" stuck in his brain, so I must be raising them right !
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  #16  
Old 10-06-2010, 05:12 PM
NCLee NCLee is offline
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If you can post some pix of your pot and your "wooden ware" I'd love to see them. In addition to your ladel, a boat paddle shaped stirrer will be helpful when you start rendering lard. Keeping it stirred to keep it from sticking at the start is important. Just draw out a paddle shape on a piece of maple (or equivalent). Cut it out with a saber/jig saw. Then round the edges with whatever method works best for you. A router with a round-over bit, a draw knife, or even whittle it with a pocket knife.

Heck, even a boat paddle will work, if you remove the finish (no chemical strippers). Well cured polyurethane is supposed to be food safe, but I wouldn't trust it, especially if the paddle is a China import. And, if there are paints (logos, for example) under the poly. Just sand it down, then give it a good coat of mineral oil (from the drugstore).

Just 2 more cents.

Lee
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  #17  
Old 10-07-2010, 10:28 AM
OldSchool Male OldSchool is offline
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Beat ya to it Lee! I will get some pics asap. I made the paddle from hickory for the cookoff, it's strong without too much open grain. I got a lot done on the ladle last night. I think it would hold about a pint! I cut it out on the bandsaw, then used the drill press to hog out most of the bowl. Then, sat down on the porch with a pint of maple wine & chiseled for a while to clean the bowl up. So of course, the boys sit down & start chipping away at there own chunks of wood. They still have their fingers...
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