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Category: Tools

Readers weigh in on my vintage Proctor-Silex JuicIt

Juicit ONE (1 of 1)Who knew that the Proctor-Silex JuicIt I found on eBay was such a cult item? After I wrote about my hunt for one these vintage juicers, emails and even a snail mail or two kept coming to expound further on the virtues of the Juicit.

“A new Proctor Silex Juicit was one of the first things we purchased 23 years ago when we moved from L.A. to northern San Diego County and our new home set amidst 400 orange trees. I have personally squeezed about two pitchers per week for the past two decades -- and still it performs well.  That's about 2,300 pitchers,” writes one reader.

A reader from Pacific Palisades tells me: “Mine was a wedding gift in 1976. It's beat-up looking and a bit corroded, but still works well. This time of year it gets a workout taking care of the profusion of oranges on my backyard tree (two months' worth of fresh-squeezed joy). “

Another in Santa Barbara, writes: “I had a JuicIt back in the '70s, one that I used to make my daily fresh orange juice without ever a hitch. I remember juicing a crate of oranges in one sitting for a brunch party during which I was going to serve Mimosas.  

Anyway, over time and with moving, I lost my JuicIt.... And then, about two years ago, I found a JuicIt at a garage sale. I found another one, but without the porcelain reamer. I bought it anyway so I would have a spare in case the first motor ever ran down.... I continue to go to garage sales, hoping to find at least one or two more of these treasures, not to hoard them, but to make sure that I will have at least one more spare, and hopefully to be able to give one to each of my kids when they establish their own households. “ 

He has a bone to pick with me, though. “You have now told the world what a treasure the JuicIt truly is.  What this means is that people will hold on to their JuicIts, not put them up at garage sales, or charge exorbitant prices to get them off of the Internet. Though all that you said is true, perhaps you could retract your column, claim that the JuicIt is old technology, and tout the benefits of electronic-based plastic juicers. At least until I can find just two more.”

Sorry, no can do.

Someone else sent in this testimonial: “I have been using the same model for decades and love it.  I started having trouble with it 15 years ago, so I took it apart and put in new grease and all was fine.  The motor is very big, and that is why it works so well. I, like you, picked up a spare one on eBay about 9 years ago just in case mine ever stopped working, but so far I haven't needed it.”

I’m stunned at the number of passionate JuicIt devotees out there. Sorry, holding on to mine now that I’ve got it. (And looking for a spare.)

A couple of readers, though, had backup juicers to recommend, namely the Black & Decker Citrus Mate Plus and the Waring Pro.

The most recent letter is from a reader seconding my championing of the JuicIt, but wondering how to solve the problem of juicing pomegranate?

Anybody out there have the perfect juicer for that?

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: vintage Proctor-Silex juicer. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.

Found at last: a vintage citrus juicer

Silex JUICITEver since my faithful little Krug citrus juicer bit the dust, I’ve been juicing oranges by hand on one of those old-fashioned glass models you sit over a bowl. Or else, with a metal Mexican hand-held job, a slightly larger version of the lime squeezer.

Why? Because I haven’t been able to find a small compact electric juicer that works. I don’t like to keep small appliances out on the counter, so I want something that can be stowed away in a drawer. And I don’t want some big pig of a machine, however efficient. 

I finally thought I’d found a compact electric model, ordered it online and returned it after making two glasses of juice. It had a design defect: The hole that the juice ran through kept getting clogged with pulp.

For larger juicing jobs, I’ve been borrowing a neighbor’s vintage Proctor Silex JUICIT J101W. This was last made in the '70s, I believe. The design is a bit lumpen, but it works beautifully.

Funny, when I was just in New York, my friend Mary complained how juicers these days don’t have a powerful enough motor: When you press the orange down on the reamer, the motor strains and sometimes stops. She got up on a step-stool to pull out her vintage juicer: the very same Proctor Silex model, 125 watts as opposed to 30 to 80 watts for some of the newer juicers.

OK, so I set up a search on eBay. The Proctor-Silex JUICIT does show up, but for weeks the ones I saw seemed too pricey or too worn. Finally, I bid on one in excellent condition and won the auction for $31, plus $10 shipping, which seems fair. It’s heavy duty. The body is metal, the reamer porcelain, and this juicer just rips through the oranges, giving out a steady stream with just the right amount of pulp.

Mornings are just that bit happier now.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: My new/old Silex JUICIT. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Microplane's new bartender garnishing tool

Microplane 1 (1 of 1)OK, you’ve loved those various Microplane tools for grating Parmesan or citrus zest. There are a zillion different models for different purposes. Pretty clever from a company that once specialized in woodworking tools.

The company's latest is the Bartender’s Garnishing Tool, which not only works as a zester and grater but also opens bottles! Yeah! 

The downside is that this compact gadget is no beauty. I’d love to see what an Alessi designer would do with the same basic concept. But it works: The surgical-grade stainless steel blade finely grates lime zest, and that little hole at the top, well, that has a blade that will neatly create a strip of zest or other garnish. It’s touted as performing that task without including any of the white pith.

But I couldn’t manage that trick. Every one of my strips, however lightly I dragged the blade across the citrus skin, included a light veil of white. No matter, it’s easy enough to remove it with the flat of a paring knife.

Think gift for the itinerant bartender or cocktail enthusiast.

Bartender’s Garnishing Tool, exclusively at Williams-Sonoma, $19.95.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Bartender's garnishing tool. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times.

New salt and pepper mill from design icon Richard Sapper for Alessi

SaltyRichard Sapper, the designer of Artemide’s Tizio lamp and so many other iconic designs, including the beloved 9090 stovetop espresso maker, has something new for the Italian housewares firm Alessi. Here comes the Tonga electric salt, pepper and spice mill.  

I’m not much for gadgets, but this looks like something I’d actually use. Slightly tilted, it also happens to be handsome enough to use at the table. The housing is thermoplastic resin. Inside, Sapper has made sure the ceramic grindstones turn effortlessly — and quietly.

The mill is 2½ inches in diameter and 9 inches tall, available in black or white for $120 from the Alessi online store and in a week or two from Alessi at Diva, 313 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 276-7096. 

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Tonga salt, pepper and spice mill. Credit: Alessi

Covetable: Painted antique wooden spoons

The monthly sale at Milk Farm Road, a collaborative online artists shop from artist and stylist Heather Chontos, is on. Among the goods are painted antique wooden spoonsThe monthly sale at Milk Farm Road, a collaborative online artists shop from artist and stylist Heather Chontos, starts today and runs until 6 p.m. EDT Friday.

These wooden spoons caught my eye. Each is unique and old, with painted handles. They're food-safe, but should be hand-washed, not run through the dishwasher. They're $30 each and available in pink, black, white and navy. 

Also, check out the wooden cheese knives carved in the shape of whales from Tim McDowell for Phoebe Hill. They're $50 each.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Painted antique wooden spoons. Credit: Milk Farm Road 

The big gift: Vitamix blender

The Vitamix blender is the gift every chef covetsOK, it's bulky and not much of a beauty, but this is the blender every chef covets. If you watch cooking shows, you will have noted that Rick Bayless and Jose Andres use their Vitamix blenders all the time.  

Small wonder. It's a real workhorse, holding 64 ounces and boasting a powerful 1,380-watt motor. No balking. Nothing will phase this baby. Plus, the switches are very simple and effective, making it easy to control the texture.  

Expensive, yes, but for someone who cooks a lot, a blender like this is invaluable --and a true luxury. (P.S. It comes with a seven-year warranty.)

Vitamix Blenders, from $450 to $600, depending on model. Available at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s and other retailers and online sites. Vitamix: (800) 848-2649; www.vitamix.com.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: A Vitamix blender. Credit: Vitamix

Stocking stuffer: Teak measuring spoons

MeasuringspoonsThere’s something so twee and comforting about these teak measuring spoons from the online store Merchant No. 4. I’d love to have a pair in my own kitchen, just as an alternative to those clanking metal ones.

Not to worry, the wood used in making these is plantation farmed and has no chemical finishes. The care is easy: warm water and soap. Just don’t put in the dishwasher or leave these or any wooden spoons to soak.

You’d have to have a very large stocking to fit the teak Swan Ladle, but why not? Sew a big one and stuff this beauty inside.

Teak measuring spoons, $20; teak swan ladle, $34, from Merchant no. 4; (212) 925-2235; info@merchant4.com. Gift wrapping is only a dollar more.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Wood measuring spoons, swan ladle. Credit: Merchant no. 4

 

Torchons, or kitchen cloths from France

TORCHON1 (1 of 1)Whenever I see the handwoven French kitchen towels called torchons at the flea market for a good price, I snatch them up. Most have a red stripe running down the sides. Some are plain weave. Others are woven in old patterns such as herringbone or bird’s eye. Some have initials embroidered in a corner. Most have loops for hanging.

I treasure the ones I have. And almost lost it the other day when I found my husband had gotten beet juice and tomato on one of my favorites. I tried to explain: These are handwoven. They're not meant to wipe your hands on or mop up spilt sauce.

Use them to cover dough while it's rising, or to dry plates that don't go in the dishwasher. Line a basket with one and wrap warm bread in its folds.

I love the hand of these vintage textiles and I know they won’t be made again. But I didn’t know much more than that until I came across a wonderful post from British textile collector and dealer Elizabeth Baer

She explains that torchons are "used in French kitchens to dry, clean and wrap china, 9c4bd8ce45b31e408b2beae1366a8678 cutlery, glass, iron pots and pans, as well as preserve bread, meat and fish, and keep flies off.  Most kitchens in old France had open fires for cooking, with hobs and chains to fix the saucepans at different heights as well as spits for roasting and any ovens were mostly used for bread baking.... Washing up was done in big flat stone sinks and of course the soft, creamy pottery soon became cracked and chipped.  The drying cloths came in many weights and patterns -- coarse and dark hemp for black pots, lighter linen for china and very fine for glasses -- with special ones for cutlery as well. They were hung to dry from rows of hooks and sometimes you find enamel racks with the different labels printed on them.  Hemp, linen and cotton were used in varying mixes and amounts, depending on local crops and weavers, and you can still find masses of them at any good linen stand at antique fairs and brocantes."

Also, now when you see foie gras au torchon on a menu, you know that it means foie gras wrapped in a cloth and poached.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Torchons from Elizabeth Baer's collection. Credit: Elizabeth Baer

 

No grief: This advanced peeler masters gnarly root vegetables

KYOCERA (1 of 1)I’ve noticed this Kyocera peeler in cookware stores before, and each time thought, no. I don’t really need this. But my little ceramic blade paring knife they make has become such a useful tool, I finally succumbed.

Not only is the blade of Kyocera’s Perfect Peeler super-sharp and thin, the head swivels and can be locked into vertical, horizontal or 45-degree positions, the better to peel that carrot or knobbly sunchoke. 

With this, peeling those spuds and gnarly root vegetables for Thanksgiving should be a cinch. It’s high-tech, like driving a race car compared with the usual dull potato peeler.

Kyocera CP-20 Perfect Peeler, $17.95. Available at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma  and online retailers, and from Kyocera at (800) 537-0294.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Kyocera Perfect Peeler. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.

 

No perfect volume? No problem with Bodum's measuring jug

Measuring cup1 (1 of 1)Some people have perfect pitch. I happen to have perfect volume. I know, I know. It's an odd talent, and I have no idea how I do it.

I can look at a pile of flour and tell you whether it's a cup or a cup and a half. I can eyeball a container for leftovers and everything fits in perfectly. My husband can show me a bowl of chopped ingredients and I'll tell him exactly how much he has in there. Weird, but true.

For times when he’s cooking and I'm not around to consult, I just bought him this nifty glass measuring cup from Bodum. Actually, they call it a “measuring jug.” 

Made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass, the Hot Pot Gourmet jug measures not only the usual cups and ounces, but also liters and imperial pints. And it also measures sugar and rice by the ounce or gram, the same with flour. It's genius. And I have to say quite handsome as well.

It's a good investment for the kitchen that will set you back just $24.95 for the 34-ounce size. It also comes in a smaller version that holds 17 ounces, at $19.95.

Available at cookware stores, many online retailers, and Broome Street General Store, 2912 Rowena Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 570-0405.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Hot Pot Gourmet measuring jug

Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.