Monday, May 09, 2011

Oldest Operating Kitchen Tool

I just saw a discussion beginning on the Any Port In A Storm forum. It's about Oldest Kitchen Appliance. I believe that ours is a Foley Food Mill, dating back to the 1950s or earlier. (I don't think a tool has to be electrically powered to be considered an appliance. I would include my molcajete as an appliance.)

The Foley Food Mill is a device which predates the electric blender by many decades, yet is still useful today. I'd better illustrate it before continuing.

The appliance is sovereign for straining large quantities of food, such as cooked fruit. The action relies entirely upon muscle power. The food is placed into the wide mouthed receptacle, thence the handle is turned, forcing a curved metal plate against the food, and pushing it through a perforated metal base. Less desirable parts remaining behind in the receptacle can be cleared from the perforated plate by briefly reversing the direction of cranking.

A knurled knob at the exterior bottom is spring loaded and helps scrape off the pureed food as it emerges from the mesh plate. 

Last year, I made Yellow Plum Sauce with Chile Perón for Chinese Egg Rolls, using the Food Mill. I learned that it's important to pit the fruit before cooking, no matter how onerous, thus avoiding the task of trying to mill the plums and their stones within the food mill. In spite of the strain I caused it, it nobly weathered the challenge.

I'll admit that I use my high power blender far more than the food mill. But there are times when the food mill is just right for the task. An example is pureeing and straining the little bitties of carrots in my pasta sauce. (I've since stopped using the carrots.)

While researching this topic, I encountered an old booklet describing the many ways the food mill can be used. I'm uncertain as to whether I can upload it to here, as it's in PDF format. 
No; can't do it. But you can find it here, at

For cooks and fans of kitchen ware, Fante's is fascinating, and not just for food mills. There's an enormous array of foods and tools. Click here.

I suppose I should offer an illustrative recipe, but I'm lazy.
(See comments.)

Thanks to inquisitive commenter Lor, I Googled additional info on "Foley Manufacturing Company".
 I found this on
New Foley Facts and Sale At Mamas Treasures - Apr 30,2007 - One of the great Houseware Manufacturing Companies was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you ask most people about the Foley Manufacturing Company, they will either look very perplexed or say, “ that’s the food mill company, isn’t it?” Most people don’t realize they grew up using a variety of Foley products.
Foley Manufacturing was founded in 1926 by Walter Ringer, Sr. and yes, their first product was a food mill acquired and licensed from a foreign patent in 1933. This product grew in popularity during the Depression years with a reputation for thrifty food preparation and a timesaver in the canning process. This food mill is still in production today. Two other early products that were very succesful was the tri-blade Foley chopper and the Foley blender. Although most of us today refer to the blender as the Foley Gravy Fork. Both of these are very sought after by collectors but more so by people who want to use them on a daily basis.
During the war years the factory concentrated on producing mess kits and other neccessities for the war effort. When postwar production resumed, Foley expanded by acquiring the Meets-A-Need Co. and their Sift-Chine flour sifter and started making sifters under the Foley name.
During the 50s and 60s Foley continued to introduce new products such as handheld juicers, shredders & measuring tools that expanded their kitchenware line. In the 1960s, many of their items were made for them in Japan. In 1984 the Foley Company became part of the Newell Companies and production continued as the Foley-Martens Co. Products are currently manufactured at a plant in Kingsford, Michigan. Because their
products were such useful kitchen tools, finding them in mint condition with labeling intact is very difficult.

(Article continues.)

I checked Ebay for "Vintage Foley Food Mills, and typically, you can get them for under $10 USD.

 Don Cuevas


Anonymous said...

How come the type is so tiny on this post? Where is my magnifying glass? Oh, here it is in the desk drawer.

-- Felipe

Don Cuevas said...

Felipe, the type was strained through a Foleyfood mill on "Fine" setting.

Actually, it's my first post using the Chrome Browser by Google. It looks fine in Chrome, but in deference to your aging eyes, I'll increase the font size.

(Did you know that you can do that yourself by keying Control + on your keyboard? —Command + on a Mac)

I'm off to enlarge the font on a more permanent basis.

Don Cuevas

Don Cuevas said...

Done. It looks about the same as before to me, that is, in the "Normal" size type. I also changed the font back to my usual Verdana from the Trebuchet in which the post was first set.

Happy reading.

Don Cuevas

Brenda Maas said...

Mashed potatoes out of a food mill taste the best.

Question: Why did you stop putting carrots in your pasta sauce? I do that all the time and am just wondering.

Don Cuevas said...

Brenda, I prefer a pasta sauce without the crunchy little bits. I don't really enjoying food milling. I prefer pasta sauce with visible bits of red ripe tomatoes.

My favorite tomato pasta sauce is one from Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook.

Fresh Basil and Tomato Sauce

The following is for 4 persons.
1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves, preferably with the smallest possible leaves. This is the second most important ingredient

2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, seeded, drained and coarsely chopped. (I never drain them, as the Cirio brand Pomodori Pelati I buy are in a rich puree.
Seeding? Hah!)

5 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped. (Yes; this is good.)
1/3 cup olive oil, more if desired.
Freshly ground black pepper.

1. Remove stalks from basil, discard stalks. Rinse leaves in cold water, drain, roughly chop. You should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups.
(The next step may seem unorthodox, but it's fine.)

2. Put basil, tomatoes, garlic, 1/3 cup olive oil in a heavy, uncovered sauce pan, 1 tsp salt and pepper, and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes. Taste and correct for salt. (Sometimes I'll sneak in a little oregano and a few shakes of fine flakes of of red pepper. Occasionally, a couple of finely minced anchovies. But not always.)

The sauce is ready in 15 to 20 minutes of cooking, and it's delicious. Originally it was intended for spaghettini, but can be used wherever you want a simple but delicious tomato pasta sauce. —We like it on Kirkland Brand (Costco) 4 Cheese Ravioli.

By the way, I nver make meat sauce any more. It's just too heavy. I do use the above sauce and its variations on homemade polpettini (Italian style meatballs.)

Don Cuevas

Tancho said...

I use my food mill about as much as my hand meat grinder, the one you clamp on to the table top....

Brenda Maas said...

Thanks for the recipe.
I always grate my carrots and sometimes my knuckles, for the pasta sauce and put them in with the onions,celery, garlic to pre-cook before adding the tomatoes, etc. so they are not crunchy. I just like to add as many veggies as possible to things as Roy is not a big raw veggie eater.
If I want canned tomatoes here I have 1 option and that is a hit or miss purchase at 1 store, that is the La Costena brand diced tomatoes, no others available. I rarely shop at Walmart and Sams Club they may have other brands.
I no longer own a food mill.

Anonymous said...

Why is it called "Foley" food mill, did you buy it at "Foley"? If so, then how is it that it is so old?



Don Cuevas said...

Lor, I guess Foley was the manufacturer. Check the PDF file to which I linked, in the main post.

Yep; it says "Foley Manufacturing Company, Minneapolis.

Are you perchance confusing Foley and Fante's? Fante's is a modern day seller of kitchen equipment and cooking ingredients.

I Googled Foley Manufacturing Company, and I'll post it in the blog itself, in an continuing endeavor to bring new knowledge to you, our faithful readers.

Don Cuevas

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the additional research.

Turns out, I was completely clueless because I was thinking of a furniture store here in Mexico which, come to realize, is spelled "Foly". ( I couldn't figure how you happened to buy it here in Mexico 50 years ago!

Still, it is an interesting tool that looks like it would have been helpful during all those years of squeezing boiled grapes through a cloth to make grape juice. Ouch! I guess grandma never knew about it...


DonCuevas said...

Nice work, Old Camper!

Don Cuevas