[Sca-cooks] history of cast iron cookware

H Westerlund-Davis yaini0625 at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 14 22:36:55 PDT 2011

A while ago we had this discussion before. I am white smith when I am not in the 
kitchen cooking or in the studio getting tangled in fiber. 

I have been following and corresponding with a group in Ireland called, Umha 
Aois, for sometime who have been exploring and recreating Bronze Age casting and 
smelting techniques. It is amazing what they have done and recreated. Check out 
this video http://youtu.be/Ut3pXPyMze4
A lot of pots, if not ceramic, were bronze or pewter. Two ores that were and 
easy to cast and use. Bronze is copper and tin or copper and zinc. Pewter, at 
least until recently, was tin and lead. It is why pewter from a certain time is 
dangerous. Iron production was still in its infancy during the Medieval Europe. 
Ironically, it takes a hotter heat to smelt for bronze then iron. But, copper 
and tin are easier to find then good solid iron ore. If you want my sources I 
can post them. 

To answer the question about cast iron cookware. That is game on semantics. Now, 
I am only speaking of Midieval Europe, primarily Northern Europe, and not Asia. 
The smelting techniques and iron deposits in China were more refined then in 
Europe during our time period. As of right now the only archeological hard 
evidence we have of "iron" pots are riveted. There are some fine examples in the 
British Muesum in London and Birka, Sweden. What "cast iron" items that have 
been found are actually "pig iron." Pig iron is created after the iron smelting 
process when the finalized smelted ore is then sand casted into ingots. They 
apparently, look like piglets suckling a mamma pig. Thus the "pig iron" 
description. Another group that we follow.. check out Hammered out 
I am looking forward to the day to meet Darrell and show him my bellows. 

The Dutch ovens with the little feets we see in many camps is actually an 18th 
century product brought to the U.S by Dutch pioneers. It was easy to carry and 
compact and became a popular cooking items on the Chuckwagons. 
By the 18th century cast iron production had become industrialized and much more 
refined. Dutch Ovens now are a cast item. 

Some books: They are nerdy scholarly kind but they are good. 
Lars Christian Norback, International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric 
 Prehistoric and medieval direct iron smelting in Scandinavia and Europe:aspects 
of technology and society : proceedings of the Sandbjerg conference, 16th to 
20th September 1999

David S. Niel, Angela Wardel, and Jonathan Hunn, Excavation of the Iron Age, 
Rome and Medieval Settlement at Gorhambury, St. Albans.

A cool website from the University of Toronto. 



Duct Tape is like the Force: It has a light side & a dark side
and it holds the universe together.

From: "wheezul at canby.com" <wheezul at canby.com>
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Sent: Tue, June 14, 2011 9:10:43 AM
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] ISO resources for history of cast iron cookware

I recently went on a journey of pots and pans and spent some time looking
at German 16th century inventories to get an idea of how a house might be
outfitted for culinary purposes.  I just want to say up front that my
examination so far has just been scratching at the surface, but I would
like to do more follow up.   I have a love of kitchen gadgets!

I'd agree with Anne-Marie - the inventories confirm that most implements
were brass, bronze and ceramic, with a great deal of pewter ware for
service.  However, iron kettles and pans do pop up with some frequency. 
However, the inventories so far have not revealed if they are forged,
riveted, or of cast iron.

And then there was an interesting reference I think in the book below
which has a line drawing of a cast iron kettle or pot dating from the late
medieval period.  I wish I had kept or could find my notes - I seem to
recall that the pot was in a museum in Scotland.

Irons in the fire : a history of cooking equipment /

I also scanned these books for information:

English bronze cooking vessels and their founders, 1350-1830 /

Les objets de la vie domestique : ustensiles en fer de la cuisine et du
foyer des origines au XIXe siecle /

Has anyone worked on an annotated bibliography of cooking equipment?


> Certainly if the archeological record is to be considered, the majority of
> cookware was cast bronze (cast by bell makers, perhaps?), fabricated
> tinned
> vessels and ceramics. I have used all three in re-enactment settings to
> good
> results :).
> --Anne-Marie

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