The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

Frugal Café Philosophy
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Descoware: Cast Iron That Warms Up Your Kitchen... Descoware Collecting and Cleaning Tips

By Candy Eve

 

A 3-quart orange flame (also referred to as red, red flame, or just flame) Descoware bean pot, in mint condition

 

Descoware is a vintage brand of porcelainized cast iron. Today they call it enamel over cast iron. I have the ORANGE FLAME, and some of the WHITE MAPLE LEAF and they are my favorite patterns.

 

My Interest in Descoware

I am not a fancy "chef," just an all-American cook. I have gone to every free cooking lesson I could find, like at Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma. I practice new things and really enjoy it. I bought a KitchenAid food processor for prep work, and have had so much fun with new recipes! I absolutely adore cooking in Descoware the best. It cooks and bakes and roasts so well. It is 35 percent lighter in weight than the newer, more pricey cast irons, and it cleans up easily, if you take a little care. It can go in the refrigerator, in the oven, on the range, smaller pieces in the toaster oven, but NOT the dishwasher. It needs some tender loving care, but it is easy to care for! Plus, once you have cooked in it, and the pot is hot, it stays hot a good long time, warming up your entire kitchen with delicious scents and offerings.

I did most of my personal research on the Internet, and found information by sending a question to Terry Kovel, well-known and respected author, of books about their family's famous travels around the world as they collected vintage items and antiques. Their TV show, "The Kovels" is world known. She actually chose my question, and answered me in her national weekly newspaper article. I was so thrilled! Then I found a lot of details and lots of wonderful photos from Kevin at Descoware.com.

I share the information I find from my open research on the internet with anyone interested, including the above mentioned. I try to bridge the gaps when I find them, and keep everyone informed as I find new details. I have made some truly wonderful friends around the country who are also loyal to this brand.

I watch the Internet, for people selling it. I check CraigsList.com, eBay.com, and Goodwill.com. If I notice a new piece of information, or a new label on a piece of vintage Descoware, I try to collect the images. There are so many missing items that show up only now and then. It is a great find to see a new rare piece in a photograph. I also watch any Julia Child TV shows I can find. Always looking to see what she is cooking in. I have joined some other sites about cooking in cast iron, like on Paula Deen's forums, and one on Amish cooking on Classmates.com, and we talk about our recipes, and care and cleaning tips. We all like to share tips with each other.

 

Bon Ami cleanser

Descoware Cleaning Tips

I found an old-fashioned cleanser that helped to remove the stains on the enamel inside or out of any Descoware piece. It worked without damaging it at all.

The original cleanser, "BON AMI," has been a favorite since 1866, and was recommended to me.

I used it successfully, until I ran out and went to buy more, but couldn't find it. What I did find is that BON AMI had changed their old formula. The new one wasn't so good for Descoware. It had odd chemicals and a polishing base. It didn't clean the stains. After researching this, I found that BON AMI has since reissued the original formula, and it is now called "BON AMI, 1866 formula, CLEANING POWDER. " The new, less effective one is now called POLISHING FORMULA, so avoid that one! Look for the original.

You can find them on the Internet: http://www.bonami.com/products/ ...and find a store near you that carries it. Just dampen the enamel area that is stained and make a paste of the Bon Ami with some water, let stand a few hours, and wash out. It usually works.

Also, if you have Descoware with areas that the black cast iron comes through, or the edges are bare, as they are in some pieces, use shortening only on those areas, and bake at 300 degrees F, for about an hour to season. Wipe when done. EASY!!! Now nothing will ever rust!

Reminder: Don't put Descoware in the dishwasher!

 

What I've Learned about Collecting Descoware

I only discovered Descoware about 2 years ago, when I picked up a saucepan at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. I had used old-fashioned black cast iron before, and ruined some in college, through my own lack of understanding about rust and seasoning. I was immediately taken with the Descoware and started my quest for research, and for getting more pieces. I now have almost a complete set. I love, love, love cooking with them!

I have learned much in the past few years, but not nearly as much as some of the old-timers I have run into along the way. Some have had their sets for over 50 years! IMAGINE having the same cookware still working beautifully for 50 years!

I like to ask people I find, who have had their Descoware for many years, for their favorite recipes, and stories of their family memories. It seems to make me feel better about my childhood, which was not filled with such things. My family didn't even cook much. I was a child of the 50's when the TV dinner came to light, and I truly believe that this was the root cause of dual working parents becoming generally acceptable, latchkey kids, too many divorces, and children and young adults later suffering with less than perfect health! I was brought up on fast food. I thought everything came in a paper or foil wrapper!

Eventually, I got pretty sick and became allergic to a lot of foods, and unnatural additives like saccharin, aspartame, and hydrogenated oils. Since, shortening is still necessary to season all the black cast iron sections of your Descoware, or any other solid black cast iron pieces you may also have, I recommend using one that is not hydrogenated, but a natural, organic-- like, palm oil shortening by Spectrum. I had to change my entire diet just to survive! I have had to completely learn how to cook and bake, from scratch in the past four years. It has been a journey. It is ongoing.

Truth be told, I am still single at 56 with no kids. I never HAD to learn this before. Finding the Descoware was a major step to becoming a better, healthier cook. I have watched countless hours of chefs, and cooks like Julia Child, Paula Deen, Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa), Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, and others, while learning how to use cast iron.

For anyone, who is just starting out, collecting Descoware and learning how to cook, bake, and prepare healthier, more natural foods... it is never to late to get healthy! JUST HAVE FUN IN THE KITCHEN!

 

Descoware 1-quart, two-piece, three-function convertible set (skillet, sauce pot, covered casserole) in the popular flame color. This graphic shows different views of the set. While obviously used, this convertible set is still in terrific condition.

Descoware 1-quart, two-piece, three-function convertible set (skillet, sauce pot, covered casserole) in the popular flame color. This graphic shows different views of the set. While obviously used, this convertible set is still in terrific condition.

 

Submit Your Own Descoware Photos and/or Stories

We'll be adding more Descoware photos to the gallery and to a new "Descoware Stories" section as quickly as we can. If you have Descoware photos of your own that you would like to share, please click 'Contact Us' (the email link is provided in the left sidebar), attach a reasonable-quality jpeg (sized no larger than 100kb for the file and the graphic measuring no greater than 500px width) to the email. Please include your name (for photo credit), city/state or region, and provide a brief summary that describes the Descoware item and anything else of interest about it (e.g., how you found it or inherited it, how you use it).

 

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Descoware Photo Gallery, Page 1
Descoware Photo Gallery, Page 2
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