Phyllis, many times cast-iron skillets are handed down from generation to generation. In fact, I have my grandmother's and mother's. If yours is an old skillet, wash (no metal brushes or scrubbers, and just a drop of soap) and dry. Rub the inside, outside and lid (if it has one) with a very light coat of shortening, lard or light cooking oil. Aerosol spray should probably not be used due to the additives, which can cause the pan to become sticky.
If the skillet is new and has a protective coating on it, use a steel-wool scouring pad, soap and the hottest water possible to scrub it off, but only the first time.
Place the clean, oiled skillet in the oven upside down on an aluminum-covered baking sheet to catch oil drips. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Carefully use a dry cloth or paper towel to keep the surface evenly coated with oil. After baking, let the skillet cool in the oven.
When cleaning a cast-iron skillet, be sure it is cool before doing so, and use a nonmetallic scrubber. Many people use salt as a scrubber or use mild dish soap (only before seasoning, not after every use, most professionals agree), rinse well and dry. Do not soak, let water sit in it or put iron cookware in the dishwasher.
If food is sticking, it is not seasoned correctly. If the food turns black, it's time to re-season.
Store skillets stacked with a paper towel or paper plate between each one to absorb moisture, and leave the lid off. Keep your skillets clean and seasoned, and they will last for generations to come. HeloiseP.S. Cornbread baked in a cast-iron skillet is simply the best!
Dear Heloise: I read where a reader uses rubber bands to close bags, etc., after they have been opened. My daughter-in-law and I use spring-type clothespins to close bags after they have been opened. This works great for frozen foods that are going back into the freezer. Barb, Valley, Neb.
Dear Heloise: I recently was fixing chicken and noodles and was afraid the broth wasn't rich enough, so I added 2 tablespoons of powdered chicken bouillon to my 4 cups of flour that I was making the noodles out of. They turned out great! My family ate them all! I'll never go back to making them without the bouillon powder. Shirley Watkins, Mattoon, Ill.
Dear Heloise: Canning season is here, and it is time to harvest the garden. I've been canning carrots for the past two summers, and I found that a salad-chopper appliance is great for slicing the carrots right into the jars. Saves me lots of time! Eileen Scheffer, Belgrade, Mont.
Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; fax: 210-435-6473; e-mail: Heloise@Heloise.com © King Features Syndicate Inc.