Still useful are the pastry blender, rolling pin, and hand held grater.
If you like to make pies from scratch and for whatever reason choose not to own a food processor, do yourself a favor and make sure you’ve got a pastry blender tool in your kitchen drawer. A pastry blender simplifies mixing the fat into your flour when making pie crust. It will help you get the flour and fat mixed and cut into the pea size pebbles you are after in the mixing process. I find I need to use a knife to clean fat off the pastry blades until I get a good start on the mixing process. Also, if you use a high sided bowl, it minimizes getting flour all over your work surface. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can get the same results with a knife and fork although it will take you longer. Just place the knife through the fork tines, drop the utensils into the oil and flour mixture and pull the knife through the fork tines. Raise the knife and fork and repeat. Move the knife and fork around in your bowl to keep cutting the oil or lard into bits. As you cut bits they will get coated with flour and after awhile your bits will be pea size. Your knife and fork substitute for the pastry blender.
A rolling pin can be used to roll dough out when making cookies, biscuits, or pie crust from scratch. It can also come in handy when wanting to flatten store bought biscuits or crescent dough. If you are new to using a rolling pin, note it is a skill that gets better with practice. Also, homemade pie crust carries that signature look that you did it yourself, and that is a good thing. The more you roll dough, the easier it becomes to push the dough where you want it to go with the thickness you want. Talking to seasoned pie makers to get tips and tricks for pie crust is a good idea. If you don’t have a rolling pin, you can substitute an object that has smooth sides, a reasonable width, and that will roll. Consider a glass bottle, water bottle, or an oil bottle. Remove any paper label and make sure the container will handle pressure as you don’t want to break the container and hurt your hands. I’ve used a glass bottle carefully when I needed a rolling pin. Maple is a popular wood choice for rolling pins. The small rolling pin on the cutting board with the dough and cheese curds is made from Osage. You can choose from all sizes of rolling pins. You also have a choice on your rolling pin handles. Some have handles that are integral with the pin and some have an axle that allows the body of the rolling pin to spin. Pete inherited an older, maple rolling pin from his Great Grandmother that I hijacked. It is ever so slightly oblong instead of round, but still does the job fine!
Pictured here are two sizes of grater called “Wonder Shredder.” Even if you have a food processor, these hand held gadgets are great if you only want to shred or grate a small quantity of something. Clean up is super easy too. Wash and dry when done. If you don’t have electricity or just want to simplify, these graters do the job. I’ve used them on cheese, zucchini, lemons, oranges, and apples.
All of these gadgets can be found in antique stores. Part of the fun is finding them and then using them. Make sure the pastry blender metal isn’t too bent out of shape or rusty. Check rolling pins for cracks and any warpage. Look for graters with the metal in good shape and rust free. I make it a point to clean these items right after using them so food doesn’t get a chance to dry on the gadget. Hand drying with a dish towel is a must after washing. Also, I don’t use dish soap on my rolling pin. Instead, I use hot tap water.
I hope you’ll find some practical uses for one or two of these gadgets in your kitchen. Check out the first Forgotten Kitchen Gadgets post, and be on the look out for a future post on more kitchen gadgets. What is your favorite kitchen gadget?