Blog



Let's Ask Francine

 
Cornbread.jpg
If you subscribe to Mast Store’s Almost Monthly E-mail, you are well acquainted with Francine. She’s corresponded with folks for more than 16 years – almost since the invention of e-mail. Her fans have shared many accomplishments, concerns, and questions over the years. In this week’s blog, Francine answers some questions from her website “Ask Francine” opportunity. Let’s see what she has to say.

From: Susan
How do you make cornbread that isn't sweet or crumbly? 

Well, I’m not sure if you can make cornbread that doesn’t crumble a little bit. If your recipe calls for using all cornmeal, it will be crumbly. If you half your cornmeal and add the other half in flour that will help some. Many mixes have sugar in them to add some sweetness. I put a little bit of sugar in my cornbread; it makes it a little sweet and makes it brown a little better. Here’s my recipe – you can leave out the sugar if you’d like:

1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 cup self-rising flour
1-2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 cup milk
1-2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 425°-450°.

Add all dry ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Pour in milk and stir. Put butter in the cast iron skillet you’ll use for baking and melt it. Make sure to rotate the skillet around to keep the butter from burning and to coat the edges to keep the cornbread from sticking. Pour melted butter into the bowl and mix well. Pour into skillet and put in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

From: Giudi
How do you wrap blocks of cheese to avoid mold?

I reached out to the Ashe County Cheese Factory in West Jefferson for help with answering this question. If you are ever over in that part of the world, be sure to stop in and pick up some Squeaky Cheese. It’s the curd that falls away from the wheels as the cheese is packaged to age. You’ll find it soft and buttery, and it makes a squeaking sound on your teeth.

CowsatAsheCountyCheese.jpgNow, back to the question. Exposure to air is what causes cheese to mold. The best recommendation for keeping your cheese in tip-top condition is to eat it quickly. At the Ashe County Cheese Factory, they vacuum seal it for freshness. So, if you have a vacuum sealer, you can add a little longevity to your cheese that way. You can also freeze it for up to six months.

 If you go to the refrigerator and find that your favorite cheese does have mold on it, don’t throw it away. Take a look at it first. If the mold isn’t orange or black, you can probably cut it away and still enjoy the rest of your cheese. From what I understand, orange and black mold can be dangerous. You’ll need to make sure you get all the mold “tentacles;” they’ll look root systems. Make sure to use new wrapping and don’t let your knife touch the mold to avoid cross contamination.

From: Steve
How do you cure or season cast iron pan?

Cast iron is fabulous – it’s chef tested and grandma approved! My cornbread skillet was passed down by my husband’s grandmother. You can’t make good cornbread without a cast iron skillet. Sometimes your cast iron can develop a few issues and even some rust, but don’t fret. It’s easy to rescue your favorite skillet.

If your cast iron has rusted, you’ll want to remove all the rust using some steel wool. Then, wash the skillet with mild soap and a stiff brush and dry it thoroughly. To re-season your skillet, put some foil on the bottom oven rack and preheat your oven to 350°-400°. Apply a thin coat of melted vegetable shortening or cooking oil to the outside and inside of the skillet. If you use too much oil, it will make a sticky finish. Then place the skillet upside down on the middle rack and bake for an hour. Turn the oven off and allow the skillet to cool in the oven. Then you should be ready to start baking, frying, or sautéing.

To keep your cast iron in top condition, you’ll want to apply a light coating of oil from time to time. Washing with hot water is sufficient to keep it clean and then dry it thoroughly with a paper towel to keep it from rusting. Store in a dry place. Here's a LINK to our collection from Lodge. 

From: Sharon
Hello Ms. Francine, I do have a question about stains. Every shirt I own has a grease spot I can't seem to get out. I have used Awesome, Spray ‘n Wash, Tide, and a few other things but can't seem to find what really works. The stains are on the front at chest level where I spill food. Thank you for any advice you can give.

I face your same struggle. Sometimes I’ll find stains on my clothes that I have no explanation for…and we won’t even get into the ones I find on my husband’s shirts. I do have an answer, though. While it doesn’t work every time, it has saved many trips to the dry cleaners or the final step of turning shirts into cleaning rags.

I can’t say enough about Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. You just put a little on the spot and toss it in the washer. Really tough stains might take a couple of tries, and I’ve had good luck with stains that have been “set in” for a long time. Give Grandma’s a try and let me know what you think. 

spiderweb.jpgFrom: Gigi
Is there dew every morning in Boone because it is the mountains (Mountain Dew) or is there dew every morning everywhere?

To find the answer to your question, I turned to our local weather forecasters at RaysWeather.com. David Still, one of the staff meteorologists, assured me that “mountain dew” happens everywhere, but because of our moist climate here in the mountains, we see it more often. “Dew forms as the air cools to its saturation point and water vapor condenses into water droplets. The temperature at which dew forms is called ‘the dew point,’ and it is always lower than the air temperature. As air cools at night, the coolest air is found at ground level, which is why the water vapor condenses on grass and other low lying vegetation,” said David. He added that the amount of shade in the mountains from hillsides and trees, tends to keep the ground moist, which is important to dew formation.

On the other side of the coin, did you know that Mountain Dew, the carbonated soft drink, was started by Barney and Ally Hartman in 1932? It was developed in Knoxville, TN and was intended to be used as a whiskey chaser. I’m guessing that moonshiners of old saw right much mountain dew, the kind David explained, as they made their way home after a night at work. Enjoy this rendition of Mountain Dew by the Stanley Brothers