The cornerstone of any survivalist, prepper or primitive living-type kitchen is a healthy rack of cast iron. Once nearly extinct in the late 20th Century, cast iron is experiencing a rapid and very welcome resurgence amid people slowly but surely rejecting modernism in lieu of a simpler and more sustainable life. But re-learning the ways of yore comes with challenges. Cast Iron is not plug and play; it takes a bit of care and preparations in order to gain the best results and in the case of grinders, not damage the tools themselves.
As stated, these are things that used to be common knowledge. In my relatively brief life, luckily I learned the value of great living that I would later come to know as Survivalism early on. Sadly those Depression-era vessels of knowledge are dying off, and only a fraction of our current population seem to retain what’s being lost. Regardless, let’s do our part to spread the knowledge- it’s coming back and its certainly a welcome sight among modern ‘wonder kitchen wear’ which feature unnatural and potentially dangerous chemicals when compared to simple iron with a lard cure.
Cast Iron requires a decent amount of attention before being used, but once done properly, will last your lifetime and most likely that of your kids, probably longer. I’m not a fan of “non-stick” junk or tools that otherwise are meant to be used for a while then thrown away. Aside from being potentially dangerous, they typically don’t hold up long when used anywhere other than a home kitchen. To me, it’s a waste of resources and promotes materialism. Cast Iron in many places is considered a family heirloom- often times at least one generation old. Today’s households are having to often buy new as they’re rediscovering the value of Cast Iron cookware. Every family should have at a minimum one Large Pan, one Small Pan and a Dutch Oven. The Large Pan for general purpose frying, the Small for smaller meals or making cornbread, and the Dutch Oven for deep frying, cooking chicken, pot roasts, etc, or making huge pots of chili or stew in the winter.
If buying new- buy American! Lodge still makes products in the US, and is the only one that I know of that does. One annoying thing that they do is ship their pieces with a non-stick coating, which in my experience turns into a mess after a while. Remove this by soaking the pan in hot soapy water and scrubbing, then allowing to air dry. Once done you’re left with bare metal and a generally rough casting. I use an orbital sander to smooth this out. Once done get a can of Crisco or even better, Lard, and liberally coat the iron. Set the oven to the self clean mode if you have it, or 450 deg, and bake the pan upside down for an hour. Put a drip rack underneath the pan to stop any drippings from falling on the heating element. This process will stink. Make sure you open a window.
If finding one used, sometimes a great bargain can be found if not in a good condition, such as a rusty one seen here. The easiest way to clean them, as I did two very old belted kettles I inherited, is to first rough the rust up with course sand paper, then soak them in a cola and lime juice mix. The acidity of the liquid will remove the rust after a few days. Allow it to dry, then go through the seasoning process I detailed above. You’ll have a perfectly serviceable piece of cast iron made new once again to last a lifetime.
While using, keep in mind that cast iron is different from modern pans; they heat up slow, and hold that heat for a long time. You also don’t need as much heat in order to fry. Most of the time medium heat works just fine. Regular maintenance is pretty simple; rub it down with vegetable oil every once in a while, and the seasoning will stay fresh. Do not wash the pans. Wipe them down to clean them.
The same needs to be done to your grinding tools such as hand crank meat grinders or food choppers. They’re made of cast iron too. Often, when looking at reviews online, many get bad ratings stating that metal shavings get ground into the food. This happens because like all metal machines, the moving parts need lubricant. Since each of them are cast iron, the same process for caring for your kitchen tools should be done to protect them from premature wear or risk of food contamination. The only other caveat to this is when cleaning meat grinders, use hot water and rubbing alcohol, and your seasoning should be maintained just fine.
The ability to process and cook food with equipment that will last a lifetime while being perfectly serviceable off the grid is well worth its weight in gold. None of these items are super expensive compared to the ridiculous amounts of money some spend on tacticool bullshit and playing Walter Mitty, wannabe Infantry. The cornerstone of a successful Survivalist model should be sustainability, which these tools are. Further, with good sets of tools, good communities can be rebuilt. You should be able to bring as much to the table as possible, and a warm properly prepared meal when people are starving from the inability to cook is a great way to build loyalty, post-collapse, pre-collapse, or any time in between.