There are two ways to look at a problem. From a purely analytical perspective, or from the point of view of “tradition”.
Analytically, the “seasoning” of the billig (crepe griddle) is simply the careful polymerization – or turning into a form of plastic – of certain fats onto the cast iron surface of the billig. This thin plastic coating is highly resistant if it’s done right, including the correct types of fat and careful temperature control.
It looks like the seasoning coats I’d created might have delaminated from the cast iron subsurface due to high humidity. Having analysed this and past failures, each time I’ve had this type of failure on the billig, it’s been at a time of very high humidity and fairly broad temperature fluctuations. I have a dehumidifier in the trailer, but there was a large water leak recently which increased the humidity beyond acceptable limits.
Of course, looked at from the perspective of tradition, it’s obviously because I didn’t follow the wisdom of my ancestors and didn’t season the thing correctly in the first place. I was not careful enough in my first creation of a magic substance called “lardigel”, a mixture of pure lard and egg yolk that has been used on billig for as long as there are records of these things. Instead, my first attempts failed, so I moved away from lardigel to other substances. I should not have discarded tradition.
The problem with making lardigel in Canada is that “pure lard” is almost impossible to find. Whereas it’s available in most supermarkets in France, in Canada what is called “pure lard” most certainly isn’t. It’s been adulterated with additives and other chemicals that change it in ways that are detrimental to a good billig coating. Even the local butcher who claimed to sell “pure lard” had salted the stuff! Not so pure after all! I had tried what I thought was lardigel previously and failed. It seems that this might have been because the lard I was using was not, in fact, “pure”. Lack of proper labelling in this country is a real detriment to doing things correctly.
So I have gone right back to basics and located a source of pure, unadulterated pig fat (leaf lard) straight from the pig. I will be rendering it into the pure lard myself. Once I have the pure lard, I’ll mix it into the substance known as “lardigel” using traditional techniques. Knowledge which I was actually taught in my training, but have neglected to my detriment. If I do this carefully enough, it should create a well bonded polymer coating that should resist humidity somewhat better. This process is known as the “culottage” in French.
Of course, I could be wrong, in which case expect another “arrrggghhh” post in the near future. We’ll see what happens. It also won’t fix the technical issues I’m having with the automatic temperature controls of the billig. That’s going to be another challenge, to say the least, especially since proper culottage of the billig requires fairly careful temperature control as well as the correct ingredients for lardigel.