Dorot Frozen Herb Cubes

I’ve been using Dorot’s frozen garlic, basil, ginger, and cilantro cubes in my cooking for a little over a year, after discovering them in my local Trader Joe’s. Now I don’t need to keep buying a garlic bulb or piece of ginger root every other week, after the unused portion (which is most of it) has lost its freshness. The cubes are conveniently sized (example: one cube = one clove), already minced, and last forever in the freezer. And I can’t tell the difference in most recipes from fresh.

-- Loren Bast  

Dorot Frozen Herb Cubes
About $2 per 20-cube tray



Bodum French Press Coffee Maker

Cold brewing has recently become my preferred method for brewing my morning cup.

I love my coffee iced, but I never loved my typical approach: brew hot coffee, cool it, store it until I’m ready to drink. Half the time I forget to brew ahead and I end up drinking it hot.

Cold brewing coffee works like this: combine ground beans with room temperature (or cooler) water and let steep for 12 to 15 hours. That’s it.

I love the smoother flavor of cold brewed coffee. From what I’ve read, some folks consider the resulting coffee to be a concentrate in need of dilution. Not me. Maybe it’s the ice.

One of my favorite things about cold brewed coffee is it requires no special materials. There are cold brewing devices on the market from Toddy and Filtron, and maybe they deliver an even better cup, but I must confess I can’t imagine how. As long as you can soak ground beans in water, and give them a good 12 hours, you’re good to go. That makes a French Press, in my estimation, the perfect vehicle for cold brew. It’s how I do it, but by all means use whatever tool you prefer.

According to Wikipedia, cold brewed coffee seems sweeter due to lower acidity. “Because the coffee beans in cold-press coffee never come into contact with heated water, the process of leaching flavor from the beans produces a different chemical profile than conventional brewing methods.” That seems like maybe it would be easier on people with heartburn or sensitive stomachs. I have neither; I just like the way it tastes.

To be clear, the resulting cup of coffee looks just like any other hot-brewed cup. It’s not the color of tea, it’s not some strange brew, it’s a regular cup of coffee. It’s just not hot. And yes, I still have to plan ahead to make it the night before, but there are fewer steps so it seems easier.

I’ve read that you can cold brew your cup and then heat it, and that the resulting hot cup of smooth drinking coffee is outstanding. But I can’t personally attest to this; seems like in that case I’d just brew hot coffee in the first place. Cold brewing coffee is clearly perfect for those times when you prefer your coffee iced, which for me is about 360 days a year.

-- Bill Sawalich  

Bodum Chambord 8-cup French Press Coffee Maker
$34

Available from Amazon



Stainless Steel Steam Juicer

This is a lifetime piece of kitchen equipment, made in Finland of quality stainless steel. With almost no mess or work, it turns quantities of fresh fruit into clear, sterile, hot juice which you can then pipe directly into Mason jars, where it will self seal with no further processing.

Picture a multi-layer double-boiler sort of arrangement, the size of a big soup pot. All stacked up, it’s 16″ high, and about 12″ across. The lowest pan gets water in it, to boil for the steam. The topmost pan is a 10.5 quart colander basket, where you put the fruit; this has a lid. The middle pan looks like an angel-food-cake pan, with a conical hole in the center. This is where the juice collects.

In a brilliant move, they attached a hose to the lower part of the juice-collector pan. This has a spring clamp to close it off, which clamp also serves as a hook, to park it on one of the side handles when not in use.

This juicer is especially useful when you have a sudden supply of fruit, and don’t want to spend days making jelly or heating up your kitchen. Once the juice is canned, it will keep for years, and can be made into jelly at any future time. The fruit needs hardly any prepping: whole cherries, grapes, blackberries, quartered apples or nectarines. I’ve stacked fresh rhubarb in vertically, yielding something akin to lemon juice. When you’ve simmered the water for an hour or two, you end up with about five quarts of juice and, in the top basket, some pulpy mush for compost (or you can stop after about 2 quarts, like I did with nectarines, and have mush still useable in a cobbler). The tastiest juice I ever made was when I got a case of Bing cherry “seconds”: a tiny jar of the juice was like nectar to drink straight.

The 48-page booklet that comes with it tells how you can use it to cook meat, vegetables and anything else you might want to steam. I once easily made steamed broccoli for 40 people.

The Lehman’s catalogue sells this one for about $200, and a somewhat smaller Chinese version for $80. I got my Finnish one on Craigslist second hand. Amazon has it, too.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

[Above: a video of Virgina Wind demonstrating the steam juicer.]

Available from Amazon



Vintage French Fry Cutter

I picked up this handy little gadget at a garage sale this spring for a buck. As someone who loves homefries, I’ve longed after those big commercial french fry cutters, but couldn’t justify taking up that much space in my kitchen.

This cutter, made by Uebel Co. in the mid-1900s, is simple yet effective, made from an aluminum frame with comfortable grips and a crosshatch of sturdy wires. It takes up hardly any space, and cuts sturdy fries that are a nice size for frying or baking. It takes minimal effort to cut through the potato, especially if you first slice the bottom off the potato so it doesn’t roll around while you’re cutting it.

I haven’t seen these new anywhere, but they can be found on Etsy for under $10.

-- Abbie Stillie  

French Fry Cutter
Available on Etsy from about $5 to $12



Lansky Blade Medic

Sharpening serrated blades has always been a bit of a puzzle, but the Lansky Blade Medic makes the process simple. The tapered diamond sharpening stick will quickly sharpen nearly any size or shape serration, and the ceramic strip dresses them up. As the video shows a couple of swipes across the back of a serrated blade will remove the burr that sharpening the serrations creates.

-- Clarke Green  

Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic
$11

Available from Amazon



Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

Opened my eyes to many facets of charcuterie, including the chemistry of meat preparation and preservation. It’s well written, and lay people who are not professional cooks can easily understand it. Reading this book changed the way I think about my home cooking with regard to meat preparation. Contains many “Aha!” moments.

-- Tom Hess  

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn
2005, 320 pages
$25

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Preventing Trichinosis by Freezing

Trichinosis, a foodborne sickness caused by the larvae of the Trichenella worm in pork and wild game, was once common in the United States, mainly contracted by eating pork that hadn’t been thoroughly cooked. Today, pork is far less likely to carry the larvae than are wild game, and the disease is relatively rare. About 38 cases were recorded each year during the 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And since then, regulations in how pigs are fed, as well as increasingly informed consumers and the ease of freezing meat, have also contributed to the reduced incidence.
Nevertheless, trichinosis does exist, but preventing the remote possibility of its occurrence is easy, and in some cases a necessary precaution. Though many chefs who dry cure sausage consider freezing meat sacrilege, as a precaution, we recommend that pork that is to be dry cured (that is, not cooked) be frozen before using. The Centers for Disease Control says that pork less than 6 inches/15 cm thick can be frozen for 20 days at 5°F/-15°C or less to kill the trichinosis larva. The freezing time can be shortened by lowering the temperature to -10°F/-23°C (for 12 days) and -20°F/-30°C (for 6 days).

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Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press

I’ve used this tool for about 10 years and it’s still going strong. It’s probably the best garlic press in the world. It’s constructed very robustly from stainless steel; it has an unusual lever-action which is far superior to the one-to-one action of most garlic presses; it opens up easily and is trivial to clean.

To see a demo, have a look at America’s Test Kitchen Equipment Review (below) where they come to the same conclusion.

But note that Kuhn Rikon have another garlic press called the Easy Squeeze, which is a lot cheaper. It has a slightly different action and plastic handles. It’s not nearly as good.

-- Stuart Wray  

Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press
$38

Available from Amazon



Tervis Tumbler Handles and Travel Lids

I have been using Tervis tumblers at the cabin to keep drinks cold on the pontoon for years but didn’t know they made a handle and cover for them. What an amazing add-on! Allows you to comfortably hold the tumbler without worrying about spillage or the tumbler slipping out of your hand.

Tervis tumblers are double-walled insulated and some with a lifetime guarantee. A great drinking “tool” made in America since 1946.

tervis-lid

-- Mike Moroz  



Blendtec Home Blender

I’m tempted to say that this tool is a life changer, but I’m prone to exaggeration, so I’ll just say it’s a game changer. The game being that by mid-day I’m usually rolling with my writing or book layout and don’t like to take the time to make a decent lunch.

Enter the Blendtec and “green smoothies.” I combine greens plus fresh or frozen fruit, vitamins, protein powder, almonds, hemp seeds and whatever else I see around, turn on the Blendtec and have a delicious drink while working. I do it 2-3 times a week.

I’m getting fresh-from-garden raw greens — parsley (which is fragrant in drink), kale, chard, or lettuce, whatever looks good, plus fruit, protein, carbos, vitamins. There are tons of recipes for green smoothies. I use Gold Standard vanilla whey protein — good flavor, high protein (something like 55 grams in 2 scoops).

This is a big powerful machine and it can be used for any number of things. It’s nothing like the blenders most of us are familiar with. In addition to smoothies, you can chop, juice, grind grain, and make soup or ice cream.

I got it for $400 from Amazon. Expensive, but high quality, highly useful, long lasting.

Here’s a comparison between the Blendtec and the other super blender, the VitaMix. You can also do a search for “Blendtec vs. VitaMix” in Google for more comparisons.

-- Lloyd Kahn  

Blendtec Home Blender
$360

Available from Amazon



Prep Master Cutting Block

My wife and I have been using these cutting boards (we actually have two side by side) for about a year now.

What makes them so great is that you can scrape your scraps — peels etc. — in to a hole in the front of the cutting board, below which is a metal tray. When that metal tray is full you can simply pull it out, carry it to the garbage, and throw everything in. It’s so much easier than either picking up all your peels off the cutting board and carrying them (often dripping) to the garbage, or else picking up the whole cutting board and tipping whatever is on top in to the garbage. There’s also a groove around the whole board, so whatever liquids end up on the board end up in the groove, which channels them in to the metal tray.

It’s superior to other cutting boards because a) it’s a thick, heavy board that’s going to last a lifetime and b) it’s got the removable tray. Lots of people comment on how well designed it is.

-- Julian Humphreys  

John Boos Newton Prep Master Reversible 18″ Square Cutting Board with Juice Groove and Pan
$150

Available from Amazon