A huge part of what we do here is gardening and raising livestock. But with that comes a lot of cooking and baking to prepare the foods we harvest. And let’s not forget that while going a year without groceries we have to process all of our food so anything that saves time and makes our life easier is going to be in our kitchen. So in time for the holidays I’ve decided to do a list of my favorite, can’t-live-without kitchen gadgets that the cook in your family might enjoy but doesn’t have yet.
**Disclaimer: I am not receiving any monetary compensation for listing these items. I have not used all of these specific brands so I cannot vouch for their quality. This is simply a guide to show my favorite tools.
The Mandoline. I use this all the time for cutting pickling cucumbers, slicing onions, making fries, and when I have to do a lot of slicing.
The Immersion or Stick Blender. I use this for making mayonnaise (makes it in less tan 30 seconds), whipping cream, making purees, and creamy soups. It doesn’t work for beating egg whites, but I’ve got a standard hand mixer for that.
The Microplane. This is great for zesting citrus. I also use it to grate frozen ginger into a paste. You can also grate garlic, spices like nutmeg or just about anything else with it.
The Citrus Zester. This is indispensable when making marmalade. It eliminates having to slice the zest off and then trying to cut long, thin, even strips.
The Pasta Machine. There is nothing quite like homemade pasta. I also use it to make crackers because it makes a nice, even, very thin sheet, which is what you need for making crackers crisp.
The Kitchen Scale. Sometimes you need to know weights of foods instead of just volume measurements. I use my scale every day.
The Food Mill. I appreciate this tool more than any other item in our kitchen except for the mandoline. But they are on equal footing. We used ours primarily for making homemade tomato sauce. It eliminates the need to seed and peel the tomatoes. We just boil the tomatoes and then run them through the mill and it removes all the skins and seeds. It’s also good for making apple sauce, jams and gnocchi.
The Pizza Stone. We make pizza once a week and this is probably the best thing I’ve ever purchased. It’s also great for baking bread on and can be used in the barbecue. The key is to get it really hot before putting the dough on it. We got a red one that changes color when it gets hot.
The Cast Iron Dutch Oven. Not just for braising and stewing. I find this key for baking the crusty artisan type breads. We use ours almost weekly. And you don’t have to buy the expensive brands. As long as it’s cast iron it will do it’s magic. Sometimes you can even get lucky and find one at a thrift store. Enameled or not, get one!
The Pressure Canner. If you ever plan on canning low acid foods this is a must have. Today’s canners are not as scary as they once were and you just have to treat it right. We actually have two of these. The first one got knocked off a 6′ shelf by a naughty cat, so it’s now my water bath canner. If you get one just make sure to have it tested once a year. Most Cooperative Extensions can help you get that done.
The Grain Mill. Manual or electric, if you want the best whole wheat flour you’ll need to mill it yourself. The oil in the bran quickly goes rancid once the grain has been milled so for the best tasting flour you’ll need to grind it right before use.