Last week, in the first post of my new series for beginning canners, I wrote about the basic equipment you need to get started canning. The list included things like a stock pot to serve as your boiling water bath canner and a pair of jar lifting tongs to help you move your jars in and out of the hot water without injury.
Today, I’m here to talk about a few pieces of equipment from OXO, that while not absolutely necessary for basic canning, will make your canning prep work infinitely easier. This post is sponsored by OXO and features a giveaway at the end.
When I was a senior in college, I lived with two friends in an off-campus house. When we first moved in, we spent an evening unpacking our kitchen boxes together, choosing from the duplicates and making a list of the things we needed to fill any gaps in our tools. At that point of my life, I thought I was fairly well-versed in all available kitchen utensils, but when Andrea pulled out a pair of squat, metal pincers, I had to ask her to identify the tool. She told me it was a strawberry huller. Later, when strawberries came into season, I tried her huller, found that it was was far more trouble than a paring knife and wrote off strawberry hullers forever. Or so I thought.
A few years back, I found myself in possession of a OXO Strawberry Huller (I think it was included in a gift bag I picked up at a conference). Remembering my previous experience with hullers, I was ready to dismiss it. However, it happened to arrive right around the same time as a flat of strawberries and so I tried it. Immediately, I was won by its charms. It has the ability to remove the leaves and hard hull of the berry without pulling away any valuable flesh. It wastes so much less than my old paring knife technique and does it in less time, too. I am now among the huller converted.
The first year I canned cherry preserves, I was foolish. I pitted an entire flat of sweet cherries with an unbent paper clip. I learned the technique from a video on Gourmet’s website (oh, how I still miss Gourmet!) and thought that if it was good enough for them, it would be good enough for me. What I didn’t realize was that there’s a big difference between pitting a few cherries for a tart and pitting 8 quarts for multiple batches of jam.
By the time I was done, it was 1 am and I’d spent four hours removing pits from cherries. Though I was dizzy with exhaustion, before I went to bed I logged on to Amazon and bought myself an OXO Cherry Pitter. I’ve used it ever since and it has made my stints as a cherry processor far more pleasant.
Growing up, we had just one colander in the house. My mom liked it best that way, because it meant there was less to store and manage. However, almost every time I needed to drain or rinse something, I’d reach for the colander to discover that it was already in use. This led to many frustrating moments and overcooked pots of pasta. I swore that when I had my own kitchen, I’d have a few colanders around, to ensure there was always one available when needed.
I may have taken that promise a bit too far, because if one were to count the number of colanders, perforated berry bowls, and fine mesh sieves currently in my kitchen, they’d discover nearly a dozen different options. I don’t see them as clutter though, because in the course of a week, I’ll use nearly every one. I guess I do a lot of rinsing and draining.
Lately, as berry season has gone full-bore in the Philadelphia region, I’ve found myself turning to OXO Berry Bowl and Colander set more and more often. You can give your berries a good rinsing, pop the colander into the bowl and put it right onto the table, without dripping or an extra plate set underneath to catch extra water. The bowl also has a lid, which makes for easy leftover storage.
Last, we come to the OXO Food Mill. This is the food mill of my dreams. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I inherited a large box of vintage kitchen equipment. It had all belonged to my Great-Aunt Doris and had been living in my cousin Angie’s garage for the last 15 years. Included in the box was a dented oval roasting pan, a rusty french fry cutter, and ancient Foley food mill. The roasting pan was quickly demoted to storage vessel, the fry cutter is still caked with rust, but the food mill went straight to the kitchen.
I used it for years, despite the fact that it was impossible to clean (it was a one-piece model without a detachable screen), had a tendency to discolor acidic foods, and was slighted dented (which made it hard to turn the handle smoothly). Two years ago, I bought a new food mill from one of those discount shopping websites, thinking I was doing myself a great service. The first time I used it, the little legs that keep it elevated over the bowl all snapped off. I was ready to swear off food mills entirely, when I used the OXO version while teaching a cooking class.
The screens popped in and out without pinching my fingers and were easy to clean. The supportive legs were sturdy and could take the pressure necessary to mill the tomatoes I was deskinning and seeding. And the handle turned smoothly and easily. It was my dream food mill and I use it all year long to make fruit butters, sauces, soups, and tomato products. I will never use another.
Thanks to the kind folks at OXO, I have one of these berry packs to give away to a Food in Jars reader. The winner will receive a strawberry huller, cherry pitter, berry bowl and colander and food mill. Here’s how to enter:
- Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite OXO tool. If you don’t have one, take a look at their website and name one you wish you had.
- Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, July 12, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, July 13, 2013.
- Giveaway is open to US residents only.
- One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.