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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Useful Gifts

The posting of my Sunday morning blog has become somewhat of a compulsion for me and until last Sunday I haven’t missed since I can remember. However illness in the family has taken precedence this week. Still I hope today’s subject is timely for those who, in this traditional gift giving time of year, are trying to think of interesting/useful and reasonably priced gifts for those who have everything.

Pictured on the left is a wine cooler.  It is an unglazed pottery cylinder sized to hold a wine bottle. The trick is to take your cooled bottle of white wine out of the frig, put it in the cooler that has about ¼ cup of water in the bottom and put it on the dinner table.  The water seeps into the clay and evaporates taking the heat energy from its surroundings to do so and keeping the wine cooled indefinitely. Try wetting your finger – its cooling illustrates the point. 

For centuries before refrigeration when people used to churn their own butter and needed to keep it cool, they used a similar technique. To make the process more convenient, in the 1600’s someone invented a butter bell as a way to store butter. As the video shows, butter is packed into the ‘bell’ and water is added to the base. The bell is then inverted and set into the base where it displaces some of the water so that it rises and seals the butter off from the oxygen and bacteria in the air. Originally, of course, the base was unglazed pottery and the evaporation cooled the butter and it was a convenient hygienic way to keep it.

Butter bells disappeared when ice boxes and refrigeration became common about 70 years ago but they have now been resurrected and can be purchased on line in several places for example at Amazon.  Unfortunately the concept of cooling by evaporation has been lost in the new ones that have glazed pottery bases so the butter is not chilled to the same extent.  However, apparently they still keep the butter cool but spreadable even in very hot summer weather. if the water is changed every 3 or 4 days, you can store butter in the bell for up to 30 days or more. 

Another unusual kitchen item that every good cook would probably appreciate is the ‘salt pig’ pictured on the right.  They are particularly convenient when you just want to add a pinch of salt or, if more, a small wooden spoon is available.  In the summer when there is lots of moisture in the air, be sure to mix a half teaspoon or so of rice with the salt to absorb water and keep it from caking.  They are available also at Amazon and other sites on line. 

Happy shopping!   Rie

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