Home Home Cooking Vintage Wares to Want

Vintage Wares to Want

Photo by Erik Paulsrud

Here are 10 things your grandmother had that you should have, too.

By Carol Brock

Photo by Sandra Cunningham
Photo by Sandra Cunningham

Walk into your grandma’s house and you’ll probably find items you won’t find in your own home. Stuff like pressure cookers, meat grinders, water-bath canners—big, unwieldy things you don’t know how to use or don’t want to because they’re a little intimidating.

But retro wares are making a comeback in a big way. With the swelling movement to eat healthier and be green, people are discovering that Grandma really did know best when it came to putting good food on the table and running a thrifty household.

If the following items aren’t in your home, consider their attributes and perhaps make room for them.

Join the Daily Grind
Photo by Brazhnykov Andriy
Photo by Brazhnykov Andriy

My granny had a clamp-on-the-counter metal grinder, but modern electric grinders get the job done faster. Freshly ground meat is tastier, and you control the ingredients and seasonings that go into sausages, hamburgers, turkey burgers and more. You can combine different meats and cuts for a tastier, lower-fat product. Or grind vegetables for veggie burgers, relishes and soups; cooked meats for sandwich spreads and appetizers; or beans and veggies to stretch your meat. If you buy fresh meat from organic farms, you take it a step further by not using store-bought processed meats that often contain artificial ingredients, sodium and preservatives. And you’ll save money, ’cause you can freeze what you don’t use. Plus, you’ll support local agriculture. That’s a win-win for everyone.

Pop Goes the Freezer My granny made Popsicles the old-fashioned way: by putting Kool-Aid in ice-cube trays and sticking wooden sticks in the cubes. Of course, the sticks were never straight, even though she’d lean them against something. But we didn’t mind. The Popsicles still tasted good. Nowadays, you can make Popsicles in all kinds of shapes and sizes with ready-made molds. And they’re a healthy snack, ’cause you can use fresh fruit blended with water, juice, milk, soy milk or whatever else you like. Mmmm, mmmm good.

Photo by Donna Smith Photography
Photo by Donna Smith Photography

Cut It Out Everyone enjoys a homemade cookie, and kids love to cut out cookie shapes. But cookie cutters aren’t just for cookies. You can use them to make appetizers and canapés that will impress guests with their dramatic presentations. Or try them for pancakes, fudge, party sandwiches, mini cheesecakes and pie decorations. You can also make fruit pops by slicing up melons and using cookie cutters to shape them. Pierce the pieces with sucker sticks and voilà, you have a perfectly healthy snack for the kids. Simply check with Martha Stewart and she’ll tell you how to make everything just in time for the holidays.

Dry Out My granny never owned a dryer, which is one of the biggest energy hogs in a home. She hung our clothes on a clothesline with wooden clothespins. If you wash a lot of laundry, you can save big bucks by letting air and sunshine dry your clothes. And these days you have your choice of clothespin styles in multiple colors. No yard for a clothesline? A drying rack does the same job. Just set it up in the warmest room of your house, and don’t overlap clothes to allow for plenty of air circulation between the laundry. Either way, your energy bills and carbon footprint will drop significantly.

Photo by Lichaoshu
Photo by Lichaoshu

Cook Under Pressure Pressure cookers are major time-savers, letting you prepare home-cooked meals in less than half the time of stovetop cooking. They’re also quite safe if you replace worn sealing rings, don’t overfill the cooker, and read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You can cook several foods together or combine foods at intervals to create a whole meal in minutes. The superheated steam inside the cooker intensifies natural flavors, so you can use fewer herbs and spices to achieve the same taste. Since foods cook quickly under pressure with very little liquid, more vitamins, minerals and nutrients are preserved and not boiled off during cooking. And pressure-cooking is virtually fat free. Meats, fish and chicken cook to perfection in minutes, and cooking times for rice, beans and other items are halved. Even the busiest person can cook mouthwater

Photo by Mike Ledray
Photo by Mike Ledray

Box It Up I know, an iPad can store thousands of recipes. But it’s the soon-to-be age-old question of books and newspapers versus Kindles and computers. I’d rather read my recipe from a book or index card than a computer screen. There’s something old-fashioned and homey about a recipe box. You can feel it, spill stuff on it, and store your mother’s and grandmother’s recipes in it, ’cause they certainly didn’t pass down their recipes to you on an iPad!

Tie One On I’ve ruined so many clothes with splashes of oil that I’m finally resorting to what my grandmother never entered a kitchen without: an apron. Before the mid-1960s, every housewife wore aprons. But with the advent of washing machines and cheaper clothing, the apron fell out of favor. Today aprons are enjoying a minor renaissance, in that both women and men wear them. A 2005 article in The Wall Street Journal even declared the apron “a retro-chic fashion accessory.” If you cook a lot, an apron is indispensable. Modern-day aprons are even cute, unlike my grandmother’s utilitarian model. Some sport pockets, some have bibs, others are waist-down. No matter which style you prefer, once you cook with an apron on, you’ll never ruin clothes again.

Vintage-Cast-Iron-Pan-by-Sharon-Day
Photo by Sharon Day

Cast Off Nonstick pans are coated with noxious chemicals that can get into your air and food when nicked with an implement. A safe alternative is the cast-iron pan, which is relatively cheap, nontoxic, and transferable from stovetop to oven. It also lasts forever and evenly distributes heat. OK, cast iron is heavy and needs seasoning to become a nonstick pan, but that’s a simple matter. Gently warm the pan on the stovetop over low heat and evenly coat it with a tablespoon or two of neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn. Transfer it to a 350˚ F oven, bake it for an hour, and let it cool in the oven. The first few uses should ideally involve oil, like sautéing or frying. To keep it rust-free, dry the pan immediately after washing with a soft scouring pad and water. If it does rust, scour off the rust with steel wool and reseason.

Photo by Erik Paulsrud
Photo by Erik Paulsrud

Get Canned If you have tomatoes or fruit trees, you should have a water-bath canner. This device lets you enjoy summer’s bounty year-round by allowing you to easily can acidic foods like tomatoes, pears, apples, berries, cherries and peaches. And you can make jams and jellies without all that added sugar. Most other vegetables are nonacidic and require a pressure canner, which is a more versatile option if you grow a lot of vegetables. But if you’re new to canning, or don’t care to spend a lot of time doing it, a water-bath canner fits the bill nicely. See “Can It!” in the fall 2008 issue at homeandgardenmag.com for a step-by-step guide to canning tomatoes. It’s easier than you think!

Photo by Juriah Mosin
Photo by Juriah Mosin

Avoid Double Trouble How many times have you scorched a pan of butter, sauce or chocolate? A double boiler prevents that, because the food isn’t subjected to intense burner heat. Instead, it’s heated by steam from water that’s heated by the burner. You really don’t need to buy a double boiler, either. Make your own by putting a lipped stainless-steel or heat-safe glass bowl inside a larger saucepan. The bowl should fit into the pan and not touch the pan’s bottom. Put some water in the pan and heat it to boiling. You’ll still need to mind the pot, so to speak, as many foods and sauces require constant stirring.

Previous articleMaking Small Feel Big
Next articleA Perfectly Boulder Home