I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone with many of you who are getting over the hectic craziness of the Thanksgiving holidays – I use the plural because any holiday that begins on a Thursday in America, is certainly not a singular holiday – and this is a celebration that stretches on for four days. Let’s just say that my sleep these last few days has been super-good, as it always is when the body is tested by just a bit too much fun and frolic! And food and drink too!
I’m sure I’m not alone.
I’m kinda sad that with only three true turkey dinner re-dos (you know, the repeats of the Thanksgiving dinner itself), that experience is over for another year. Part of my sadness is that in a moment of weak thinking, we decided on a 12 lb turkey, and that was with guests coming! What was I thinking? In past years, we always had a 20 pounder -for the two of us – and we did fine! More than fine, we simply slipped some in the freezer for later, and our re-dos extended a full week or so – I must admit remembering that this resulted in complete turkey burnout for some time to come – but hey, that’s part of Thanksgiving!
Whatever. We still have a goodly amount of turkey salad, and I made so much stock for the meal that after the gravy was made, I still had about 8-10 cups of stock left. Wasted? Not on your life – this was all planned for the post Thanksgiving soup made with the turkey carcass, the leftover meat, and winter veggies (cabbage, kale, onions, leeks, carrots, potatoes and rutabaga) – super good! And the taste lives on, even if the bird is only a memory.
I’ve been wondering about what to blog about this week – my kitchen recreation has been limited – the Thanksgiving prep stuff felt so much like real work -even if I loved it- that it seems wrong to include it as blog material – and I baked so much stuff for the holiday, that it may take us a week or two to get back to baking again. So I thought I’d do a snippet or two on a few of the tools and materials that have become essentials in my kitchen – and I just wanted to put in a good word for them.
So here are a few of my favorite kitchen things:
- Baker’s Parchment – Everybody knows about Baker’s Parchment, but I don’t think everybody knows just what a super bargain it is in bulk! I was always kinda annoyed about the absurd price of this stuff in the small rolls, and even five years ago, it wasn’t easy to find in any form – but once you start using it, you must have it.
So, I began “begging” to purchase the stuff from a few of our local bakeries – and for awhile, that worked fine – but one day one of the bakers said to me, “Hey, why don’t you just get yourself a box of this stuff at the restaurant supply store – it won’t go bad, and it’s a lot cheaper than I’m selling it to you for.” So I checked it out – and what I found was a huge box with 1000, 18”x27” sheets. Since this size fits a full size commercial baking pan, and most home ovens use ½ size baking pans, each sheet will make two sheets, thus giving you 2000 sheets. I paid $20 some 7 or 8 years ago, and I’d guess it’d cost double that now – but that’s still just 1 cent per use – check that against your current cost of roll parchment.
For those of you who think you’ve got no place to put this honking box, I found the perfect place on top of my refrigerator – what’s on top of your refrigerator? Mine has a basket of towels and a few indoor plants – the box of Baker’s Parchment, end opened for easy access, sits almost unseen under those items, out of the way and ready for instant use when needed.
Yes, this is a lifetime supply – in fact, I’ll be including it in my will for my baking daughter. But I still think it’s one of the most cost-effective purchases I’ve ever made – if you use this stuff, I encourage you to do the math, and I’m sure you’ll do the same.
- Oven Tiles – I keep seeing stuff on the web regarding how the tiles you can buy at Home Depot will NOT work in your oven as baking tiles. Well folks, that just ain’t true – I’ve had the same Home Depot unglazed quarry tiles in my oven for the past, god only knows, many years! No cracks – no chips – no breaks on any of them! They are beginning to look like my cast iron skillet, but that’s fine with me.
Yes, I had previous bad experiences, but I finally asked a sales rep which of them would withstand high oven temps, and he suggested these I now have – their ability to withstand heat has a lot to do with the temperature at which they were fired in the kiln, and the better
ones get fired at higher temps than the cheap ones – so ask.
You might even check with your local pottery supply shop too – they will know even better which stones will withstand extreme temperatures, and they’ll probably have some for sale too.
- Vacuum Sealers – Ah, here we are playing in the world of commercial sales strategy and consumer manipulation – and I’m almost reluctant to include this section in anticipation of having a visit in the future from Bruno and Guido – I’m referring here to the practice made famous by Mr Gillette of giving the razor away in anticipation of selling overpriced blades later.
The practice is alive and well today in any number of arenas, most notably, printers/ink, medical testers/test strips, and in this case, vacuum sealers and bags. If you are unaware of this particular instance of “commercial influence”, let me briefly bring you up to date – let’s say you wished to prepare your summer garden produce for freezing, it would be wonderful to have a vacuum sealer and a supply of bags in which to put your veggies for the freezer – Perfect!
Perfect, that is, until you learn that although the sealer itself can be purchased for about $50-$100, the bags themselves are 40-50 cents each! It’s a special bag that is needed to work in their machine. What this means is that there is now little reason to prepare your veggies this way for the freezer (and this IS the very best way), because it’s almost less expensive just to go buy your frozen veggies at the local grocery.
So, what makes these bags so special? Ribs, or channels. They are ribbed on the inside, which somehow makes them work with their machines, whereas a “smooth” bag will not. But is it impossible to seal and freeze food in smooth bags? No – all industrial vacuum sealing is done with cheaper smooth bags with great success – but the least expensive commercial vacuum sealer using smooth bags is about $1200.
But surely some competitor has risen to this bait and produced an inexpensive machine to use the cheaper smooth bags. Well, yes, there is one – but in the world of “truth is stranger than fiction”, that competitor is a most unlikely one – in this case, the competitor is Sorbent Systems, the very maker of the “channel ribbed” bags for Tilia/FoodSaver, the largest producer of home vacuum sealers in the U.S. And now a little story–
Some 6 or 7 years ago, when I went looking for my first vacuum sealer, I discovered that Sorbent, an industrial producer of sealing equipment and bags, also sold a very inexpensive home unit that used the same process -and smooth bags- as did the large industrial sealers, essentially a thin, hollow snorkel, which is placed inside the bag containing the product, and then withdrawn as the bag is sealed – I bought that vacuum sealer and 1000 assorted bags – I still have several hundred.
Believe it or not, this machine -looking exactly the same as the one I bought 7 years ago- is still available at the same price I paid back then! $99 And the bags are still very reasonable, in spite of the spike in oil prices – making these bags about 7-10 cents each, as opposed to the 40-50 cents each for the FoodSaver bags. Quite a difference.
Now, admittedly, I haven’t had much time lately to do the needed research on this interesting contradiction, but I sure will – and I promise to keep you all informed of what I find – unless, that is, if Bruno and Guido get to me first. So, if my blog suddenly becomes silent, … you’ll know.
I love my little Sinbo vacuum sealer, and for the life of me, I have no idea why it isn’t more popular with the public – although, given Sorbent’s unique relationship with FoodSaver, it’s not hard to understand why the Sinbo isn’t advertised – but still -??? After all, I gave this little baby quite a workout over the years, and yet it still serves me well – I think I may simply retire it soon -like a fine racehorse- and order up a replacement and another 1000 bags or so.
Yes, this is surely one of my most treasured kitchen tools.