The Food Strainer: My New, Old-Fashioned Gadget

By Marla Walters on 11 November 2010 (Updated 4 November 2011) 12 comments
Photo: Dinner Series

Those of you who follow my blogs know my obsession with do-it-yourself food processing. I usually find that making things yourself results in better quality food products, and often, less expensive ones.

As background, one of the fruits my husband (aka “Mr. Green Jeans”) grows is lilikoi. We estimate that this summer we have, so far, processed close to 200 pounds of it. With the nectar, I make jelly, butter, juice, and other products. Before he gifted me with the food strainer, this was the process: Cut lilikoi open with a knife. Scoop the pulp out with a teaspoon into an old, clean dishtowel. Squeeze the dishtowel until all the juice comes out. Repeat. Talk about a laborious process! I used to dread seeing the full bucket of fruit at the back porch door. (See also: Frugal Gluten-Free Living: Kitchen Tools that Stretch Your Budget and Your Time)

Besides cutting the processing time dramatically, the food strainer also does a much better job of straining out the seeds and pulp than I did. The fruit goes into the top section of the strainer, and then you turn the crank, which forces the fruit out through the conical screen. The juice goes through the holes in the screen and is collected by the “squirt guard,” which funnels it into a collection bowl. The pulp goes out the end of the conical screen and falls into a waste bowl. Talk about easy — and no electricity is needed!

I realize most of you probably do not grow lilikoi and are wondering what use a food strainer would be to you. Well, how about marinara sauce? I found beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market, and into the strainer they went. I had no idea what a difference fresh, minimally processed tomatoes would make to the flavor of a sauce.

If you like applesauce, no peeling or removing the core or seeds is necessary. Wash the apples, remove stems, quarter, and run them through the strainer. Other ideas from the instruction booklet include vegetable-tomato juice (similar to V-8), applesauce butter, and even carrot cake.

I wish I had owned this product when our daughter was a baby, because I would have loved to have made my own fresh baby food. You simply simmer the vegetables, such as squash or carrots, until tender, and then put them through the strainer. Purees are seedless, skinless, and free of tough fibers. If you enjoy cooking with your kids, I think they would like helping to make things with the strainer, too. It is pretty safe (no exposed sharp parts) and even little hands can turn the crank easily.

If you are a home canner, you would love this appliance. It really takes the tedium out of processing berries and fruit, and it cuts canning time in half.

My strainer came from Amazon.com, one of my favorite websites. It is a Back to Basics brand, which, according to Internet folklore, is made by the Victorio company. The cost was about $76, which included an accessory kit with three additional sizes of straining screens and a grape processing spiral. The accessory kit came with a brand name of Roma, apparently also made by the Victorio company. Some strainers come with suction cups, rather than clamps, for fastening to tables or countertops, but our research indicated the suction cup mechanisms were not as reliable as the clamps.

Lastly, if you want to try making that marinara sauce in your new strainer, you can find the recipe I use in the strainer manual (PDF).

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Guest's picture
Lorenzo

I grew up with one in the house. I have four, in my search for one that processes tomatoes quickly and effectively.

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Lorenzo! This brand's tomato/apple screen sure worked well, but of course I don't have a lot of experience with different types of strainers. I also liked the berry screen, which worked on guava, another problematic fruit.

Guest's picture
Guest

are you talking about a food mill?

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Guest! They are similar products. Maybe a good way to state the difference is that the strainer is helpful for canning prep, and a mill processes cooked foods expeditiously. But BOTH can do things like make mashed potatos or applesauce.

Guest's picture
Marla Zumwalt

I'm going to go check out that strainer. Had been wanting one, and you always do such good research on your product.

Thanks for another informative posting!

Guest's picture
Pinoncashew

I make New Mexican chile with my food strainer. I boil the chile's, blend with garlic and water (not the water you boil it in), and then run it through the food strainer. The water to chile ratio takes practice. After, you need to heat the chile on the stove, it should not be liquidity but not thick either, somewhere in the middle. It is a silky smooth delicious, can't live without recipe. It can be used on enchiladas, tacos, eggs, ham, etc....

Marla Walters's picture

Wow. That sounds great. I hope you will write again and tell us what types of chili peppers that you use I really love chili sauce on eggs. Thanks for commenting!

Guest's picture

Hi! Me again, they are usually only found in New Mexico and there are several types depending on the spice level. However, I also believe that they are known as anaheim chiles outside of New Mexico. But we have New Mexican food distributors such as Bueno Foods that ship all over the US to grocery stores and they have their own package of dried red chiles, you may want to keep an eye out for this product.
Thank You so Much. I hope you are able to find them.

Guest's picture
Guest

Really helpfull info. Thank you. Can I also use the strainer for guavas?

Marla Walters's picture

Aloha, Guest. Glad you found the post helpful. The answer to your question is yes. It is much less tedious than cutting up guavas with a knife, as recommended in my recipe. HOWEVER, I found that I still needed to put the pulp into cheesecloth for the day to let the nectar drip into a bowl. Guava jelly and jam is pretty labor-intensive -- and in Hawaii, only about $4 a jar. I have issues with making it. I have frozen guava nectar in the freezer but have to make it "for the love of it" and not because I'm saving any money. Hope that helps.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thank you for your help. Did your strainer come with different screens?

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Guest. In answer to your question about the screens: it came with the tomato-apple and the grape screens, but I also got the extra set of screens (pumpkin, salsa, and berry). I use the "berry" screen the most because it really gets the juice extracted. I am glad that I got the extra set. As I mentioned earlier, though, it still is not 100% perfect with the guava.