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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A Blast From the Past

Over the past couple of years as I have upgraded or purchased new pieces of kitchen equipment, I have shared them on this blog.  I thought it would be rather fun to share some of my blasts from the past during April.  Over the next month I will share a few things like my pre-Depression Era tea set (Fairfax by Fostoria), Depression glass (mainly American Sweetheart by MacBeth) and a few other treasured pieces that despite their age are still in full service, some daily in our home.

I am a collector of books, jars and anything kitchen related mixed with a few dolls and antique furniture.  A piece makes its way into our home not because of its value but because I like it.  The piece may have character or the colour appeals to me or sometimes it is bought for nostalgic reasons like my ancient Sunbeam stand mixer.  I seldom ever think of selling a piece even though I usually know their value but some pieces have been gifted to our kids.

promotional character jars
During the Depression Era, it was common for companies to include pieces of dinnerware or other novelties in their product as an incentive to buy that product.  In the midst of that, some companies got creative by using character shaped jars that were intended to be used as penny banks when empty.  I have five such jars.  The small one with the metal lid (far left) is 16 oz Gattuso Bambino Olives penny bank.  There is a slot in the lid.  This jar was made sometime between 1900 and 1950 but I have not found an actual date.  It is on display with some of my antique mason jars.  It's value is about $35.  The three bear shaped jars are from Kraft peanut butter circa 1988.  It is quite common to find these types of jars without the lid.  I still buy them because at some point I may find a lid and if I don't they make for a cute flower vase.  Each of these jars cost me 50¢ but are valued between $25 and $30.  The pig shaped jar in front was made by Libby St. Clair in Wallaceburg, Ontario.  It has the marking for the penny slot but it was never cut through so the jar is perfect for storing dry beans.

promotional metal containers
I love promotional tin cans of which I have several.  They are perfect for holding homemade gifts from the kitchen so a lot of what I pick up tend to go out the door.  I keep a few for myself for regular use like the Maxwell House Coffee can (1992), the Ritz Cracker (1990) can and the Uncle Ben's Rice (1987) can.  The Ritz Cracker tin was issued in Canada and features Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers.  It is currently valued at $15. The Uncle Ben's rice tin is valued at $6 and the Maxwell House Coffee at $8.  Of note, if these cans contained their original contents and were still sealed they would be valued close to the $50 mark.  The value decreases with rust or scratches.  My cans are in rather good condition, perfect for protecting food from rodents while bringing a bit of whimsy into the kitchen.  The coffee and cracker tins sit on my counter, containing tea bags and soda crackers.  The rice tin is in the pantry and it does have rice in it. 

Pyrex divided casserole dish
Even as a newlywed over 30 years ago, I never got into the plasticware craze.  While my friends were turning their cupboards into walking billboards for Tupperware, I was busy collecting old mason jars.  Glass does not absorb odours and the contents can easily be seen.  I saw no need to buy plastic storage containers when foods could be stored in the refrigerator in the very same dish they were baked in.

This Pyrex divided casserole dish was one of the first pieces I acquired that was fancier than the plain glass Anchor Hocking rectangular, round and square casserole dishes.  This piece has a brown base with copper highlights.  The glass lid is clear and stamped with Pyrex on the end.

Anchor Hocking Fire King peach lusterware
I have two round nesting sets of Anchor Hocking oven and microwave safe glass bowls with plastic lids bought about 4 years ago.  I use them for storage in the refrigerator, occasionally in the microwave oven but not for regular oven use. All of my other Anchor Hocking bakeware (2 rectangular casseroles, square casserole, 2 round casseroles) with the exception of my vintage pieces are circa late 1970's and early 1980's.  I still have the rigid plastic lids for them as well as the two round glass lids for the round casseroles.  I prefer the older and vintage Anchor Hocking because it was made with low expansion borosilicate glass, perfect for oven use.  Newer Anchor Hocking is made with tempered soda-lime-silicate glass which is prone to shattering due to thermal shock especially if a dish in the refrigerator is put into a hot oven.  There have been reports of shattering simply upon removal of the newer glassware from the oven.  

Fire King is a brand of pressed glassware that was manufactured from the 1940's through the 1970's by Anchor Hocking.  Fire King in script or block letters with or without the Anchor Hocking logo is embossed on the bottom of Fire King pieces. Basically if the piece says Anchor Hocking Fire King or just Fire King, it is a vintage piece.  The age can be determined by the font used in the embossing.  However, some of the later Fire King pieces lack the embossing due to the mold wearing which was replaced with a sticker that usually is missing.  Fire King was meant for daily use so it is normal to see signs of wear.  Pieces with chips or cracks should not be used for cooking although if a piece really appeals to you, it can be used for a non-cooking purpose (eg. holding potpourri). Fire King was originally manufactured for refrigerator and oven use prior to microwave ovens.  I don't use my Fire King pieces in the microwave simply because I am not sure if it would damage the finish.  I doubt there would be a problem with the clear pieces but I'd rather be a bit cautious.

Peach lustre was produced by Anchor Hocking Fire King in the 1950's and 1960's which makes it vintage although if using the 50 year mark to determine if antique, these pieces are getting close to being antique.  I have the 1½ casserole dish (467) with matching lid (lid also has 467 on the ends) and two custard cups.  These pieces are still in use.  I don't wash them in the dishwasher though just to be on the safe side as I don't want the dishwasher detergent clouding the finish.

Anchor Hocking Fire King casserole dishes and bread pan
I have a 1½ quart clear glass casserole dish with lid (433), a 1½ quart Sheaths of Wheat on milk glass without lid (cira 1952 to 1963), a blue cornflower on milk glass bread pan, and a 12 oz clear glass casserole dish with lid (1072).  All of these vintage pieces are in regular use both in the oven and refrigerator.  Each is valued around the $15 mark.  The value does decrease if the lid is missing or if there are any chips. 

It is quite common to find the bottom piece of the casserole dishes without the lids.  These are usually round or oval.  The lids are missing because they are the piece most commonly broke during use.  I often pick up lids at the resale shops for 10¢ to 25¢.  If the lid belongs to a piece of Pyrex, it will have the word Pyrex embossed on the ends just over the handles of the lid.  If the lid is for an Anchor Hocking Fire King piece it will have a number that co-responds to the number on the base it belongs to but this can vary as neither of my clear pieces have any indication as to brand on the lids.  The single clear glass lid (lower right) is a duplicate to the glass lid on the clear glass casserole dish so perhaps I will get lucky and find a base for it sometime.  The bread pan was manufactured without a lid so is complete as is.  These pieces are also hand washed as I don't want any dulling of the finish.  There are other Fire King pieces available (mixing bowls, mugs, nesting bowls, dinnerware, and jade-ite restaurant ware) but I like the casserole dishes.  I did have a few of the Fire King mugs but haven't seen them for awhile.  They are likely in one of the many boxes of mugs and glassware that are still unpacked in the garage.  Martha Stewart brought out a line of based on jade-ite restaurant ware made with new molds and stamped Fire King, 2000 not to be confused with the vintage jade-ite restaurant ware made with the original molds.

The biggest problem some folks have with vintage pieces is using them for fear of breaking something they may not be able to replace.  While I am somewhat protective of my pre-Depression and Depression Era glass, and even that does get used, I am not as protective of my vintage pieces.  The do see regular use!  The casserole dishes are the perfect size for cooking for two!  Anytime I stop at a resale shop, I am always on the look-out for vintage Fire King pieces.  They are also perfect for holding gifts from the kitchen for those folks who enjoy using the vintage pieces as much as I do.  If you are looking for vintage Fire King, be careful especially if buying jade-ite pieces as there are recent reproductions from China that some dealers are selling as authentic.  If you stick with the pieces clearly embossed with Fire King on the bottom, you will know for sure you have an authentic vintage piece.  Keep in mind that some later authentic Fire King pieces did not have the embossing but rather stickers so always compare to those pieces with the embossing.  The style will be the same on authentic pieces even if the embossing isn't there whereas there will be deviations from the original style in a reproduction piece.  I'm sure once you have used a piece of vintage Fire King you will want more pieces.  They are practical, affordable and they look great!



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