Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kitchen Tools, some words about what is enough.....

For a very long time I had this fantasy about the perfect kitchen. I would drool over Better Homes and Gardens photos of granite counter tops, six burner gas stoves, counters with a few most important gadgets; ya know the Kitchen Aid mixer, the cuisinart food processor.

Then I got simple. Gettin' simple included the question I always found myself asking," How was this done before electricity?" It really narrows the field of tools down to the essential elements every kitchen should have. It also requires perfecting my cooking skills to not need fancy gadgets. It also means that the process of cooking itself takes on a different pace.Some foods will take longer to prepare now that I have cut out some of the cool whiz bang stuff. But not much more time really. If there is an approach to slow food that really slows the process of food preparation down then it  is finding the joy in  chopping every vegetable for a stew with a really good knife.

Well, and then, there is the more practical reality. I have a small kitchen. My pantry/ cold room could store a host of appliances but then I wouldn't have any room to store food in there!

So this is how I have distilled my kitchen necessities down. This is what I consider essential to my kitchen. I have never been unable to make something because a recipe called for a utensil I did not have. Well, okay, I will admit to making some not so pretty mozzarella because I did not have a microwave to get the whey out of the cheese. But I consider this a challenge to learn how to make it without a microwave rather than an impediment because I did not have the zapper.

I could not live with out my cast iron skillets. I have a collection of  5 skillets. Four of them belonged to my great-grandmother. They are really well seasoned. The smallest skillet is a small one I use for toasting a small amount of seed or melting butter. I have a cast iron muffin pan and a dutch oven. The muffin tin is used frequently and is seasoned enough that I rarely have the muffins stick. And the dutch oven replaces a crockpot when I use it on the woodstove for a slow cooked stew.

One really good rolling pin. I use this nearly daily it seems. Pie crust,crackers, pizza crusts, homemade pasta, tortilla.

Good knives. I have an old favorite that I bought from the knife man when I used to work in a restaurant. I can still bring up a good edge on it. It fits well in my hand. I have a couple of good pairing knife. I would like a good cleaver for when we do butchering. But I have made do with my other knives. A good steel and honing stone for caring for the knives is important to have.

Several cutting boards. I have a large one for making bread.A smaller one for chopping veggies and a couple of smaller ones for cheese and such. I will use cutting boards for serving trays when I make a meal that is mostly cold and fresh.

Mixing bowls in several sizes.

An array of hand utensils including: spatula, a few wooden spoons, a couple of ladles, a couple of whisks, a veggie peeler,a can opener,a couple of rubber spatulas in large and smaller sizes to make sure that everything gets used up. A cheese grater, funnels.

Foley food mill. For most foods that might need puree this seems to do the trick. I use it to make applesauce, pureed soups, making tomato sauce, ketchup or paste.

I do have an electric food dehydrator but it really is nearly on its last legs and I have plans for building a solar food dryer.

A hot water canner and a pressure canner.

I have some beat up everyday dishes but I also have a nice set that I bring out for special occasions.

One 6 gallon stock pot. We use this alot We use it to finish off maple syrup in the house. Mark uses it to make beer. I use it for canning. I've used it for processing lard and making large batches of chicken stock. I use it when I am making a large batch of tomatoes stuffs.

A soup pot and a couple of pots for cooking, a couple of colanders.

Measuring implements. Cups, spoons.

A grain mill. I love my grain mill. I use it for grinding wheat, buckwheat, flam seed and sunflower seeds. We are growing dent corn this year and I would like to get an attachment to grind my own cornmeal  this fall.

I do have a chopper. I've had it since Tristan ( my 19 year old) was a baby. I used it for baby food then but now I use it for chopping basil for pesto, cranberries and nuts.

Finally, a mortar and pestle.I love my little one for grinding herbs or breaking up camden tablets when I make wine.

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