I confess that despite all the cooking I have done through the years, I have never owned a food mill. But I could have used one last week when I made Concord grape pie.
A food mill is a kitchen utensil best described as a mechanical sieve. With a hand-turned paddle that forces food through a strainer plate at the bottom, it removes skin, seeds, and fiber. During my mother s and grandmother s era, a popular brand was the Foley Food Mill.
A food mill would have made my Concord Grape Pies easier and faster (see article at right). When I talked to a friend about how hard it was to get my grape pulp through my kitchen sieve, she suggested using a food mill to save more of the pulp. Without it, much of the pulp is wasted. She said she also uses a food mill when she makes jam.
"A food mill has a wire that scrapes the pulp off and catches any tiny seeds," says Sharon Dela-Hamaide, owner of Kitchen Tools & Skills at 26597 North Dixie Hwy. in Perrysburg. Today s food mills are stainless steel as compared to the tin food mills of earlier eras. "There are three different discs. Use the smallest holes to keep the seeds from going through."
Mrs. Dela-Hamaide s shop carries three food mills, including a generic Mini Food Mill for making baby food at $15.50, which would be best for the small seeds of Concord grapes. She also sells a generic food mill at $35.50, and the Frieling at $41.
"People use these a lot in the fall," says Mrs. Dela-Hamaide, noting that they are great for applesauce, straining fresh cooked pumpkin, and to remove the seeds from tomatoes. "You turn the handle and it pushes the food through quickly. Some people use it for mashed potatoes, spaetzle, and tomato sauce if you want a chunkier consistency."
The new food mills "are far superior to what my mother had with the Foley Food Mill that was tin," she says. "They rusted easily. In the summer with the humidity you had to make sure it didn t get any moisture." (Today s Foley Food Mill is rustproof, stainless steel and dishwasher safe, and available by mail through the Vermont Country Store.)
The use of a food mill was something that was not mentioned in any of the three recipes I had for Concord Grape Pie. When so much of the pulp was wasted because I couldn t get it through a standard sieve, I cut the Concord grapes in half and removed the seeds that way, which kept the pulp intact with the skin. In a Concord Grape Pie, you use the skins even if you ve slipped them off the pulp. (I note this only because I don t want you to be discouraged from making this pie if you don t want to buy a food mill.)
Food mills are available at other cookware stores, such as Gourmet Curiosities in the Starlite Plaza at 5700 Monroe St. in Sylvania, which carries three varieties priced from $15.50 to $35 for stainless steel. "I always have these in stock," says Christine Wilson, who suggests using them for strawberry coulis, raspberry sauces, baby food, and for straining and pureeing food.
At Essential Gourmet at 5650 Mayberry Square in Sylvania, there are two sizes, large at $35.50 with a three-quart capacity and three sizes of discs, and small at $16 with 2 discs. "We use it when making salsa," says owner Kathleen Hooker. She also sells the cone-shaped strainer called the chinois food mill by VillaWare at $40.50, a stainless steel mill which sits on a stand or has a hook that goes over the pot; it comes with a wooden pestle is used to push the food through the fine mesh.