Sunday, August 27, 2017

Vintage Enamelware Bowls

I have a penchant for mixing bowls, all types of mixing bowls.  Bowls are a must in any home because they are practical and helpful with a number of tasks in the kitchen.  From holding items for your mise en place and mixing batters, to serving portions at the table and storing leftovers, a good set of mixing bowls will always be welcomed in the kitchen.

Vintage enamelware bowls have slowly started to make their way into my home, because I find them to be charming and a perfect fit with the other vintage kitchen items that I love to collect.  I first took notice of them while visiting flea markets eons ago, but I never really inspected such pieces up close.  They were "filed away" in my memory under a future maybe/maybe not.

To put it simply, it didn't take long for me to get the first set of vintage enamelware bowls into the kitchen before they started to multiply.  It was instant attraction. 

Enamelware began to be manufactured in this country in the late 1800s, and continued to be produced right up until the end of World War II.  What made enamelware such a sought-after kitchen must-have, was its durability, its practicality, its affordability, its light-weight properties, and its usefulness in homes throughout the country.  No longer was it necessary to deal with heavy, stoneware bowls and pans that could chip, crack or break, because enamelware was virtually indestructible.

Made from light steel and coated with a colored porcelain enamel, each piece was then baked at very high temperatures.  This created a very durable finish, that was smooth and shiny.  Enamelware became a staple in many kitchens for this simple reason.  Bowls, ladles, pots and pans, basins, pitchers, percolators, mugs, plates and a number of other kitchenalia, were manufactured for decades by several American companies, such as the St. Louis Stamping Company (this later moved to Granite City, Illinois; hence the name 'graniteware'), Vollrath, Lalance and Grosjean of New York (they made blue-colored agateware), and the Bellaire Stamping Company.  One might venture to say that enamelware could be found in just about every American kitchen at the turn of the twentieth century.

In terms of colors, white was the most popular.  White pieces were often given a contrasting color along the rims of the vessels, with blue, red and black being the predominant colors.  Graniteware, which was given a speckled finish, became another popular type of enamelware; these finishes were often found in blue, red, and gray.  Other colors that were made during this time include orange, green, brown, purple and pink.  Many pieces meant for cooking, such as pots, pans, roasters and molds, were given contrasting colors on the insides.

The manufacturing of enamelware took a break for about twenty years, before starting up again in the 1960s.  Manufacturers around the world have been producing beautiful, utilitarian pieces using these traditional methods for decades.  Among my favorite of these international brands is Kockums of Sweden.

Of late, before I even reach for one of my prized stoneware bowls off a shelf or for some of my jadeite bowls that are in my cupboards, I will grab an enamelware bowl.  I love not having to worry about being extremely gentle with these bowls when I'm preparing food or desserts. 

Since enamelware, especially the vintage variety, is prone to cracking or chipping, I make it a point to look for pieces that aren't too damaged.  A little bit of scratching on surfaces is normal, a chip here and there is not uncommon.  If the pieces are used for display purposes only, then chipping and rusting shouldn't present any type of dilemma.  If, however, you plan to use your pieces for food preparation, then I strongly suggest that you find those which have no chipping on the inside surfaces, where food items will sit.

Vintage enamelware isn't for everyone, I know, but if you do in fact want to start a collection, visit a flea market and see what catches your attention.

Enamelware's bygone style and appeal is something that makes them suitable for our old home.  I love how they look sitting in my colonial kitchen ready to be used for the next job.  Because my bowls are old pieces, I do treat them with great care so that I can enjoy them for many years.  The bowls don't get placed in the dishwasher and they are not scoured with stiff pads or sponges.  I like to hand wash each piece in warm, soapy water, using a natural sponge or a soft bristle brush.  Metal whisks, spoons and spatulas are not used for food preparation whenever I use my vintage enamelware.  Instead, I use silicone spatulas and wooden spoons.  

I hope I've sparked an interest in enamelware for you.  Utilitarian, charming, and undoubtedly useful, are just some of the virtues of enamelware from olden days.  Don't overlook it the next time you're out antiquing, because you may find yourself wanting to use it just as much as I do. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

'Holiday Cookies' by Elisabet der Nederlanden

Holiday Cookies by Elisabet der Nederlanden is a book that every baker is going to want to have in their kitchen this year.  It's so nice when I can preview a book that I know all of you are going to like.  Best believe that you will be pleased with this one the moment you get it!  

The compilation of classic holiday cookies will have bakers everywhere reaching for their aprons and carefully measuring out flour, sugar, butter and spices, for baking year round.  It's great to have "new" recipes to turn to during the holidays, especially when we want to gift homemade baked goods to friends, neighbors and family.

Elisabet cleverly divides her chapters with Very Merry Classics, Cookie Exchange Party ideas and suggestions, Warm Holiday Spice, baking from Around the World, classic Holiday Confections, and Decorated Delights.  I'm already looking forward to baking some Icebox Pinwheel Cookies, Fruitcake Shortbread, Glazed Eggnog Madeleines, Hungarian Kiffles, Chocolate Caramels with Bourbon and Vanilla, and some Candy Cane Cookies.  I can't wait for the aromas of spice to permeate my home in the coming months!

The ingredients, the step-by-step instructions, and the beautiful photography found throughout the pages of this book make it an instant classic.  Keep in mind that the cookie and confection baking book published by Ten Speed Press is due to be released on September 5th.  Order several copies today!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Our Little Lion

The passing of a loved one is never an easy thing to go through.  As much as we think we can prepare for it, it is not easy.

Our beloved Lion passed away this morning in our home as peacefully and as gently as he lived his life.  Having had everything his way and on his own terms these past eighteen years, our baby decided that it was time to go.  As much as I wanted to bottle up his love, soul and affection, and keep it forever, I knew that I too had to let go and make my peace.  It's difficult to put into words how upsetting this is for us.

Isn't it always the case that we feel as if we are going to have our babies forever?  That the affection and unconditional love they give us each and every day, will be there for us day in and day out?  I can't believe that the little kitten we adopted back when we moved into our first home is no longer with us.  

Two days before he passed away, Lion took a small stroll outside and sat on the driveway for a couple of minutes.  It seemed as if he were taking a final look at his territory, the beautiful kingdom we were able to provide for him.  I know deep down that he was happy with the good, long life that was his.

Our house is empty now of the sounds of his little feet walking on the hardwood floors, or of them going up the old pumpkin pine staircase for bedtime.  No longer will I have Lion's furry little face and whiskers waking me up in the morning to tell me that he's hungry.  The companion that sat on my husband's lap during tea and purred for minutes on end, is but a sweet memory that will endure in our hearts forever.

The comfort that we take at this moment, however, is with the fact that we gave Lion one of the best lives anyone could have had.  

Our home that always provided him with love, nourishment and boundless devotion, was his for the taking.  I am honored that Lion gave us so much unconditional love. 

Lion: 10/1/1999 - 8/11/2017

Lion was our king.  

He will be greatly missed.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Farm Fresh Eggs

Life seems so much better with farm fresh eggs, don't you think?  The day I arrived back from my trip to California, I had a text message from my friend and neighbor, Luke, saying that he had a little surprise for me.  The airplane was literally taxiing down the runway when I got his message.  I told him to stop by the house later that afternoon after I had settled back home and unpacked.  

When he arrived I noticed that he had a small bounty of vegetables from his garden in one hand, and an egg carton in the other.  He said that they were small gifts from his home that he hoped I would enjoy.  I was really touched at such a thoughtful gift.  

I knew that Luke was a kindred spirit the moment I opened the egg carton. The multi-colored, farm fresh eggs from his chickens were absolutely beautiful and simply perfect.  I began asking him about his animal husbandry, and came to find out that his flock of chickens were just getting started.  I also asked if his starter chicks had come from Murray McMurray Hatchery.  As soon as I said that, Luke's eyes narrowed and he asked, "how did you know?".  I responded with, "Martha Stewart".  We had quite a chuckle at this because he said that he had no idea she ordered her chickens from them.  Small world!

Araucana Eggs & Jadeite Glass

His "Easter Eggers" from Murray McMurray include Bantams, Araucanas (hence the green-colored eggs), Ameraucanas, Faverolles, and several others. I'm so happy that I now have a weekly standing order of freshly-laid eggs from Luke.  My baking and my cooking is going to be that much better because of these eggs.  I can't thank my friend enough for his generosity and for his animal husbandry endeavors! 

I wasted no time in utilizing several eggs for a chocolate cake straight out of Martha Stewart's 'Cake' book.

As much as I like the convenience of organic, cage-free eggs from the supermarket, nothing beats getting eggs straight from the source or from a farmers market.  I try my best to get the best of the best for my cooking and baking, so it's good to know that my eggs will now come from my neighbor's chickens.  Not to worry readers, I've already asked Luke if I could visit his chickens and blog about them in the near future.  Stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!