Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Martha by Mail Spice Rack

My spice rack always elicits comments whenever someone walks into my kitchen.  It was almost 8 years ago or so when I bought it from the now defunct Martha by Mail catalog (subsequently called The Catalog for Living).  I had always been captivated by an antique that Martha used at her Westport Television Studios many years ago, so when I discovered that she offered them through her exclusive catalog, I bought one.  At the time, the racks were offered in either a 30 spice version (5 shelves) or a 70 spice version (7 shelves).  They retailed for $169 & $359 respectively, exclusive of shipping & handling, and were available in Atlantic Green (also called Martha's Green), Drabware & Natural.


30 spice rack in Atlantic Green, 70 spice rack in Natural

30 Spice Rack Measurements: 24-7/8"L x 16-3/4"H x 3-3/8"Deep

The Martha by Mail catalog description stated: "This wood spice rack is styled after an antique one used in our TV studio.  The aluminum tins hold fresh-packed spices selected by our food editors."


The Spice Rack with 70 spices in Atlantic Green
Catalog # KSR 005


The rack measures 3" wide, 39" long & 22 3/4" high.
The spice tins measure: 2 1/2" wide by 1 3/4" tall.


The custard cups are antiques and weren't included.  I happened to be making my rounds one day at one of my favorite antique row shops in Philadelphia when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted 7 creamy-white custard cups (all with crazing).  A perfect match.



The original at Martha's Westport Television Studio.


Text below is from the pamphlet that came with the rack.

Martha's Spice Collection

Spices, the dried buds, barks, roots, seeds and berries of plants have always been so valuable that the search for the fastest trade routes to spice sources put the world as we know it on the map: Marco Polo went east for spices, Columbus went west.  The places they discovered had been using the spices they found for thousands of years.

It was the Romans who established the use of spices in the West.  Not until the eleventh and twelfth centuries, though, did spices gain a wide hold on the tastes of Western Europe.  Returning Crusaders brought back Eastern spices, mostly in Venetian ships.  Spices revived the bland medieval diet and helped to preserve food.  They also made maritime Venice rich: Rarities like pepper were literally worth their weight in gold.

This special collection of aromatic and savory spices and herbs has been selected by Martha Stewart and the food editors of Martha Stewart Living as the most frequently used in their recipes.  All of the spices and herbs listed here are included in the rack of seventy tins; those included in the smaller collection of thirty tins are identified by an asterisk.  Each aluminum tin is filled upon order for maximum freshness; refill them once they are empty with any spices you buy.  We've provided suggestions for using them, but we encourage you to experiment--the real beauty of spices is the brilliant way in which they blend.


Grinding Spices

Many of the spices have been left whole so you can grind them yourself as needed; this prolongs their freshness and flavor.  Toast whole spices briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat before grinding them.  Whole cinnamon and nutmeg can be grated easily with a small, finely perforated hand grater, and berries such as allspice can be ground in a pepper mill.  Some spices, such as star anise, are difficult to pound by hand.  An inexpensive electric coffee grinder is useful for these types and can also be used instead of a pepper mill for the berry spices.  Buy an extra coffee grinder especially for this purpose, to avoid the accidental cup of cardamom java.

If you use a coffee grinder for spices, clean it out occasionally to keep it in top condition.  Unplug the grinder; remove loose grounds with a pastry brush.  Place a piece of soft bread in the bowl; grind thoroughly.  Bread absorbs leftover oils and residues to ready the grinder for the next spice.



✯✯✯✯✯

31 comments:

  1. Could you post what the labels look like

    ReplyDelete
  2. The design is definitely nice. I've had contractors take measurements of it in order to build one themselves!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! That is one heck of a spice rack. And it looks so good with the custard cups on top.

    Have a great weekend.


    Pru

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Pru! You know, those British custard cups that I found at the antique store were sitting there, I want to believe, just for this purpose! Cheers to you dear & a great weekend too!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Does anyone know where I can get the spice rack that holds the 70 spices? My email fhodges52@comcast.net. thanks

    ReplyDelete
  6. a 70 spice rack is ebay now:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Martha-Mail-Large-Spice-Rack-Atlantic-Green-NOS-Rare-/150637373409?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2312afe7e1#ht_656wt_1185

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was so saddened when Martha by Mail became defunct...does anyone know why? All the items were elegant, most reasonably priced, and the items themselves were usually high-quality. Had I known, when it was around, that it was going away, I very might well have taken out a loan and ordered 2 of everything I liked!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Martha by Mail had become unprofitable and expensive to maintain, so it was shut down in 2004. I know what you mean about the quality of the products. There are so many things I wish I had bought, but alas... There's always ebay!

    ~David

    ReplyDelete
  9. I currently have this spice rack for sale, without the spices, i have had no luck in selling it, hmmmmmmmmm. I love it and hate to part with it, but after recently moving house, my new kitchen doesn't have the wall space to accommodate it, i tried to persuade my husband to use it in the garage for small storage (nails. screws etc) but he wasn't interested LOL. Ideas anybody?
    Liane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liane, what size is the rack you're selling? I might be interested, even without the spices and containers! My name is Aimee and I will check this site in a few days to see if you're replied. Right now I can't reply under my Google name (argh!) so I'm "anonymous!" Maybe I can figure out a better way for us to get in touch with one another... .

      Delete
    2. Hi Aimee, it is exactly the same as the one David has pictured with his custard cups, same colour everything.
      Thanks. Liane.

      Delete
  10. I'm not sure what to say, except that someone SHOULD buy it. Even without the spice tins, which by the way you can easily find & label yourself, the rack itself can be used a number of ways. Good luck!
    ~David

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi, Liane! If you're still interested in selling, please contact me at this email [diehl (at) shoreham.net] with price and shipping information. (It's a normal email with the @ sign--just trying to avoid the spambots.) Thanks so much! Aimee

    ReplyDelete
  12. Liane, I haven't gotten an email from you (and I've checked spam). Maybe you changed your mind and found a new use for it! If not, please email me at diehl@shoreham.net. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had forgotten about this simply elegant spice rack. I used to subscribe to the magazine and loved Martha's original television show. I can imagine this rack being used for more than spice tins. A clever woodworker(using the proper measurments)could create a rack for a coffee cup collection, perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Trout, I also LOVED the old format of Martha Stewart Living. I agree about this particular spice rack being compatible for other areas of the house. I cherish it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is one of several items from the Martha by Mail catalog I so regret not purchasing. I was too busy collecting the cookie cutters!

    I'm hoping to have a carpenter make me one now, but first I need to track down appropriate canisters. Could you please let me know the canister dimensions? Thank you so much for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Kristina, I just put the measurements in the blog post. If you want the exact tin go to one of my favorite stores, Fantes.
    Here's a link: http://www.fantes.com/spice.html#tin

    It's the small tin: 2.5" diameter, 1.75" tall.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have been kicking myself for years because I didn't buy one of these racks. If anyone sees one for sale please let me know; otherwise I guess I'll have to make one myself. I just moved into a new house (a little bungalow built in the 20's) and it would be perfect for my kitchen. I also have a great site for tins (and they are cheap). You can get lids that screw on too. See here: http://www.papermart.com/Product%20Pages/Product.aspx?GroupID=14267&SubGroupID=14268&ParentGroupID=19037#14268

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you so much for the measurements. Now must get the carpenter organized! K

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm also looking for this spice rack. Laine, did you sell yours? I'm interested if you didn't. Please e-mail me at zcosca@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hello
    Interested in buying if you still have it.
    Thanks so much
    Ps or if anyone know where to get one
    Contact simplymeanttobe@yahoo.com
    Thanks again Christine

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm curious to find out what blog system you happen to be using? I'm еxperiencing some minor security problems
    with my latest websіte and I wоuld lіke tо finԁ something mоre
    safeguаrdeԁ. Do you have аny sοlutіons?
    Feel free to surf my homepage ... japanese knives

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi David. I have s replica of the 30 spice rack. A friend made for me years ago although the measurements aren't exact to the original. Is there anyway you can post the original measurements to the 30 spice rack? Thank you David and have a wonderful day!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Coco, I will do that later today and add it in the post! Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you David for the 30 spice rack measurements.

    ReplyDelete

Thank You for Posting!