Thursday, October 28, 2010

CARE FOR SPICES Toleware History

Many spices have already circled the globe to get to a store shelf near you, so buy from a specialty spice shop or food market with a high turnover to ensure freshness. For maximum flavor, aroma and health benefits, buy smaller amounts of spices more often and, where possible, buy them in their whole form, e.g. cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, peppercorns, and grind them yourself. Tip: Buy a mortar and pestle to grind your spices; easier and quicker still, use a small coffee grinder, but make sure it’s only used for this purpose – you don’t want curry-flavored coffee.

Keep your spices in airtight containers, otherwise their volatile compounds will dissipate into the air. Make sure you store them in a cool, dark and dry place as heat, light and moisture will all have a negative effect on flavor and aroma. (However, don’t hide them in a too-dark corner of the pantry – if you don’t see them, you’re less likely to use them) Be conscious of how long spices last: in a whole form, you’ll get around 12 months out of them; if they’re pre-ground or powdered, it will be less, around 6-9 months, particularly if you’re opening the jar often.
Toleware became popular in the 1700's. Often called japanned due to the luster of  lacquered color were items made of formed sheet metals. Some made from dipped iron into tin or copper, while others made from pewter. The term toleware is derived from the French name of such objects, tole peinte. These tinplate sheets were worked into a wide variety of decorative and domestic items. The items would include serving trays, tea pots, candlesticks and spice boxes.  Japan producing many items in black lacquer were recreated in Europe finishing these metals with a japanned appearance using mixtures of linseed oils, dries, and colors finishing them with an elegant appearance. 

As spice was an important means of flavoring foods, households commonly kept special spices that were used is seal tins. These tins would be kept secured in the Spice Box made of Toleware finally becoming known as Toleware Spice Boxes. The lid often had a raised embossing with a bail handle to carry the box. It also would have a clasp so that the box could be secured by a lock as spices were expensive. Each box large enough to hold around 6 spice cans of approximately 3 to 4 ounces. These tins too would be finished as the box becoming a set.  The spice tin often were round but they too were made in square shapes.  The common spices were Nutmeg, Cinnamon, All Spice, Cloves, Mace and Ginger. Because nut meg required grating, a grater often was included the slide into the underside of the lid. Most of these boxes are finished in a deep dark brown or black color with gold trims. Spice cans may also be stenciled with the spice type on the lid. 

During the early frontier, Pioneers often carried a spice box for baking special treats and meals. Few if any Chuck wagons would have not likely carried such items. However, they would have been available and were common production items at the turn of the 20th century. Today, they are used as decorative items accenting an early American or Colonial and Country Kitchen decor.
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