Top | cafemama — an inconvenient life

all i want for christmas is...

(post, Sarah Gilbert)

Kim sent me, and some of the other writers for Culinate, an email asking us for gift ideas in two price categories. I knew almost instantly what I wanted to offer up for the under-$15 category: Taha'a Vanilla Salt from The Meadow. I bought a jar of this immediately after smelling its heady, rich vanilla scent, and have been putting it in everything: mashed sweet potatoes, dried cherry lavender scones, toast with butter and honey, and the best use: shortbread cookies made with equal parts butter and honey, mixed together with white whole wheat flower, a few pinches of vanilla salt, and whatever other flavoring strikes my fancy (last night: freshly-grated Ceylon cinnamon and the Hershey's cocoa that sits forlornly in my baking shelf, having survived the pantry purge almost a year ago). (And if you must know, I usually use about 1/2 cup each butter and honey, no more than a teaspoon or so of other flavorings, 1/4 cup cocoa if it's going in, about 2.5 or 3 cups of flour, until it makes a nice not-sticky-but-not-crumbly dough, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 310 degrees.) But what should I offer for the higher-value item?

I could think of a dozen things I wanted at that price. A few pickling crocks, for one; they're hard to find, but a five quart (or larger) pottery crock is a valuable thing in a house where I'm always culturing things. A few gallon-sized jars, for two; if I was buying them as a gift, I'd add in a kombucha or water kefir starter and a couple of cotton "flour sack" kitchen towels for a delicious fermented-beverage set. Maybe an ice cream maker; I still haven't purchased one, partly because I don't have the space on my counter, and partly because I harbor some reluctance to purchase new electric appliances.

Perhaps, then, some cast iron. This dutch oven from Lodge would make a fabulous addition to my slow-cooking lifestyle. Or maybe some cast iron muffin pans as my aluminum ones are, well, aluminum.

I got ideas from friends on Twitter, like really, really good Laudemio olive oil (great idea) and a mini-Cuisinart (got one!).gorgeous Weck canning jars, lots of (plastic) strainers and cheesecloths and such for making cheese and yogurt. I want all of these things.

But in the end, while looking across my kitchen table at the cleanup I'll need to do after having made butter in my mixer, I realized that my very most desired item for Christmas is a brand-new (vintage off eBay) four-quart or larger Dazey butter churn. The base for my old one cracked in an unfortunate dishwashing accident for which no one is to blame. I realize that I may be getting a knockoff for under $50, but I must be honest, I really don't care about its provenance. I just want to keep the buttermilk off my walls.