The Food Strainer: My New, Old-Fashioned Gadget
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).