The view from Pier 17.
A few things we never tire of.
In the beginning all my copper cookware came from France, Belgium and Portugal. A few years ago I had seen coppersmiths hammering out pots on the side of the road in Romania, and I looked into importing copper cookware from that country. Man, that was slow going, and, idly, I wondered about American made stuff. Later I started to research American copper cookware, having one piece from the mid-19th century given me by an old friend in Vermont. Retinned it works great, but to this day its provenance is a mystery.
Turns out copper cookware hasn't been made in America for over a generation, but the last of it was made right here in Brooklyn. A series of happy accidents lead me to Jeff Herkes and his Bushwick shop, at that time deep into fabricating the 1001 different bits needed to restore the HighLine elevated rail line-cum-public park, which finally opened early in 2009. Jeff had acquired all the old chucks and other tooling for the Waldow line of copper cookware when he bought his fabricating shop in the 1980s. It was all there, along with the metal-working talent, ready to be resurrected.
I had already founded BrooklynCopperCookware.com (and its sister sites, Slowfoodcookware.com and Organic-Cookware.com), had Barbara Stork doing my designs, and right in my backyard the seed of a supplier was already planted. Everything needed was a couple of subway stops, rather than half-a-world, away. Jeff and I have had a great time scheming up our approach, and we're frankly both content to keep things small (not quite knowing what that means yet).
The BrooklynCopperCookware.com test kitchen, aka Chez Mac.
“Copper pots are the most satisfactory of all to cook in, as they hold and spread the heat well and their tin lining does not discolor food. To get the full benefit of cooking in copper, the metal must be 1/8 inch thick, and the handle should be of heavy iron.”
Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 1961
Love, love. Win-win.
You see, we love to cook and we love to eat what we cook. We have a small (“one-ass”) Brooklyn kitchen, so cooking usually heats the place up. Upon picking up my first pieces I read that copper cookware is very “thermally efficient” (uses much less energy). Well, to me using less energy was just bonus points because I already loved how much better I could do all my old tricks. And friends loved the results. And I love compliments on my cooking. Win-win.
For our 20th wedding anniversary in '08, my wife and I ran up to Maine and PEI for a celebratory vacation. We'd not had a vacation since Portugal, and as we looked out from Camden over coffee and the sunrise on Penobscot Bay she put to me pointedly “Give me the three things you're going to do in the next twenty years.” I could only think of two, one of which was “cooking.”
I thought about that for the rest of the trip as we tucked into lobster on Mount Desert Island, clams and early corn in Calais, Moule Frites in Charlottetown, and blueberries pretty much with everything. No restaurant, no cookbook, but something to do with cooking...
Nina Shen Rastogi
“Mining and processing bauxite ore into a ton of aluminum takes about 91 gigajoules of energy. Compare that with 72 gigajoules for a ton of stainless steel from virgin sources and 32 gigajoules for a ton of copper.”
Nina Shen Rastogi - Slate.com
Whose Idea Was This, Anyway?
We started Organic-Cookware.com on the heels of two events. The first a revelation, the second the answer to a simple question.
The first occurred in the mountains of Portugal, over the hamlet of Sintra, a village favored by Lisboans for daytrips and which Lord Byron immortalized in his writings as “the most beautiful in the world.” After approaching through a splendid National Park and well-preserved formal garden we alighted at the Pena Palace, a fairy-tale confection spread over a mountain top and overlooking the village. Indulgent does not begin to describe the appointments, but what stopped us for a long spell was the kitchen.
400 years old, good as new, still in use.
Much of the copper cookware collection there had been made on the premises over the course of four centuries. The docent commented that the copper pots and pans, rather than preserved as museum pieces, were still used occasionally for festivals and demonstration, even in films, and were easily maintained much as the oldest among them (~500 years) had been over time. “The story about them is still being written,” she allowed.
The take-away: Copper cookware last forever. Pretty much. It was time to get some. That was several years ago.
10 generations of hand-me-downs.
To Jeff and me, planting the ideas of efficient, organically pure and renewable into the field of cookware is as important as selling the goods. Copper cookware costs more to start, sure, but over time it's much less expensive in a lot of ways. We figure any pot that's destined for the trash heap is something you rent, not something you invest in. Hands up, anyone who has ever chucked a non-stick pan, even an expensive one. That's a huge number of canceled leases in your local landfill. We want to sell you one and only one of anything (well, everything), and we want you to love it so much that after a bunch of years the tin gets old and we hear from you about relining it. That's our take on customer relations - getting old together.
Copper cookware is an investment that pays dividends not only in the form of renewability, but in lower energy consumption - it takes less energy to use and even takes less energy than other cooking materials to process from raw (or recycled) materials. Another big plus is you never have to think about what else the pot is adding to your food, or what you're adding to the wastestream.
Finally, of course, there's the way Hammersmith Copper Cookware performs, which, if you love food, is the best case for using it. We don't hope you'll enjoy using Hammersmith, we know you will.