Wood Butter: For the Care and Keeping of Your Wooden Tools and Surfaces

During my last semester of college, I lived with a woman named Brenda. I had just gotten back from a semester abroad and all my friends already had homes, so I took to craigslist and found myself a sublet. Brenda had a 3-story row house filled with beautiful things in the Italian Market section of Philadelphia. Her basement (which you entered through a trapdoor in the kitchen) was filled with power tools that she taught me to use and a kiln that she used to fire pottery she made in her studio. In her turquoise kitchen she had a collection of wooden spoons from all over the world and a heavy wooden cutting board that I loved.

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Brenda’s kitchen is all about the details: her friend made her hand-poured concrete counter tops and used real leaves used to make imprints in them

I haven’t seen Brenda since I moved after graduation in 2011, but I made this wood butter thinking about her kitchen. I had always saved pretty things for special occasions, but Brenda used her Japanese spoons and hand-thrown bowls every day and taught me to do the same. Life’s short; use the good china, you know? Using things is part of what makes them special. On a shelf, they’re cold and impersonal, but use them every day and they become part of you: something worth passing on to people you love.

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In the spirit of using the good china every day, I’ve been working on balms and salves that will keep my pretty things pretty, even through lots of use love. This wood butter will keep cutting boards, spoons, hammers, awls, butcher blocks, and whatever else you can throw it at good for years so that one day, you’ll be able to pass them on.

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Burn Some Beautiful Spoons (Then Spice Up Your Life)

Do you know someone who loves to cook or wants to learn? There’s no such thing as too many spoons. You can use a wood burner to transform cheap spoons into beautiful art things that might just be too pretty to use. That’s nothing a little inspiration can’t fix. Encourage them to use their new tools by making a spice mix or two. Whether you’re crafting for a seasoned cook or a novice, chances are they would enjoy a new flavor in their armory. We’ve got five spice mixtures that can be easily incorporated into a snack or a full-blown feast.

Inspiration

Inspiration

You will need:

  • A Woodburning Pen
  • Wood or bamboo spoons or other cooking utensils
  • An extra spoon – To practice on the same kind of wood you’ll be using
  1. Sketch out some ideas. Keep it simple; a woodburner can be kind of unwieldy. Don’t forget that you’ve got the whole spoon (including the tiny little tip at the end of the handle) to work with. You might want to stay away from the actual spoon if you’re worried about food being hard to wash out or you might not. It’s your call. Go for lines, animals, words, swirlies, or whatever you’re best at doodling.
  2. Practice your plans on the extra spoon.
  3. Take a deep breath, you’re ready for the main event. You can either draw on the spoon with a pencil to give yourself some guidance or dive right in.

Spice Mixtures

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European and Latin American spices are typically easy to find in any grocery store. For spices that aren’t used as often in those cuisines, stay far away from places like Whole Foods – you’ll find them there, but they’ll cost you a fortune. Instead, head to a Middle Eastern (for sumac) or Indian (for turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, mango, black salt, and ajwain) grocery store. Indian store especially tend to sell large bags for much more affordable prices, which is great if you’re making a spice mix for more than one person. They’re also usually fresher because the typical customers at a cuisine-specific grocery are more likely to buy foods that would sit for ages at a generic grocery. Not to mention: you’re supporting a member of your community by shopping at a local store.

Adobo
6 T Salt
6 T Granulated Garlic
4 T Oregano
2 T Black Pepper
2 T Turmeric
2 T Onion Powder
Uses: Anything and everything

Chaat Masala
3 T cumin
1 T coriander seeds
1½ t fennel seeds
4 T mango/amchur powder
3 T black salt/kala namak
1½ t black pepper
1½ t ginger powder
1 t mint
1 t tumeric
1½ tsps ajwain/carom seeds
Toast and crush the mixture in a mortar and pestle/pilón or grind it up in a (well-cleaned) coffee grinder
Uses: Sev puri, add to fries, salads, and mangoes

Herbs de Provence
5 T dried thyme
3 T dried savory
2 T dried marjoram
5 T dried rosemary
1½ T dried lavender flowers
Uses: Add to omelettes, pizzas, popcorn, vegetables

Za’atar
2 T Thyme
1 T toasted sesame seeds
2 t ground sumac
½ t salt
Crush the mixture in a mortar and pestle/pilón or grind it up in a (well-cleaned) coffee grinder
Uses: Pita chips, add to olive oil for dipping bread, add to popcorn

Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 T ground cinnamon
4 t ground ginger
1 t ground cloves
1 t ground allspice
1 t ground mace
1 t ground nutmeg
Uses: Hot buttered rum, add to pancake batter, winter vegetables (anything orange), vanilla ice cream