Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without: Grandma’s Nut Mill

by Amber on March 16, 2010

I’m crazy for nuts! Give me a walnut, a pecan, or a hazelnut, and watch my eyes light up. I eat them for breakfast, as snacks, in stir fry, and throw them in just about everything I bake. But I don’t like getting out my bulky cutting board when I’m rushing to make my morning oatmeal. Instead, I rely on a tool my grandmother used: a nut mill.

When I moved away from home many moons ago, I left behind the comforts of my mom’s and grandma’s kitchen supplies. Gone were their perfect cookie cutters, their quality knives, and their pretty serving dishes. But what I missed most was that nut mill!

Whenever I’m baking a recipe that calls for nuts, my countertop is usually already filled with bowls, measuring cups, and lots of bulky ingredients. The extra space required for the cutting board, just to chop a few nuts, is annoying. My grandma’s old nut mill took up no more space than another measuring cup, and reduced the chopping time significantly.

Last year, when my husband and I switched our morning breakfast cereal to oatmeal, I longed for the speed of that old nut mill. I went in search of the tool at a fancy kitchen chain store (yes, I occasionally sin). I described the tool I was looking for, and a helpful clerk led me to a newer version of my grandma’s old nut mill. For the bargain price of $16, I snatched it up. Finally! I was ecstatic.

Using the new-fangled nut mill, however, has proven frustrating. The cheap plastic parts are held together poorly. As I grind, the bottom and top halves often disconnect. I have to use a delicate touch with a tool that should not be finicky. I have sent nuts flying across my counter and onto the floor many times because of this product defect. So annoying!

Lucky for me, I stumbled upon an old nut mill just like my grandma’s in the thrift store yesterday. Halleluiah! Made with a quality glass jar (not cheap plastic), this nut mill is built to last. You can turn the handle as quickly as you like, and there’s no chance that the top will unscrew from the bottom. There’s no lid on this older version (the new version has one), but it really makes no difference, because you have to push down on the top of the contraption (new or old version) to keep them secure on the counter while you spin. Inevitably, your hand acts as the lid on the old version. No problem.

I should note that the nut mill doesn’t replace the need to occasionally break out the cutting board. If you want large chunks of chopped nuts, you’ll still want to use a knife. Both the new and old version of the nut mill makes very small pieces, ideal for cakes and oatmeal. But if I’m making cookies or chopping nuts for decoration, I chop them in larger bits with my knife on a cutting board.

So, for $4 spent at the thrift store, I have finally returned to nut milling bliss—the kind from my days of yore. Don’t be fooled by the fancy new contraptions they’re selling in the fancy stores these days. Sometimes, you must believe in the old adage: if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is certainly true of the old fashioned nut mill.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chela March 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Ditto on this post. I grew up using exactly the kind of glass nut grinder you show in the picture. When I got married, I registered for the more modern version–the plastic one you had problems with. Luckily, it has worked okay for me though. And, I have to admit that I like having the easy-to-read measurements on the bottom half…my mom's glass version didn't have the measurement levels.

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