Friday, May 27, 2011

Cuivre Ancien

Copper is an ancient metal, known since about 5,000 BC in arms, and later, around 3,500 B.C. as Bronze, an alloy of copper and pewter.  I like to remind people that for the French, “modern” starts in the 17th Century.   So perhaps it is no surprise that by the 19th Century the French had perfected copper, in beautiful, functional forms, and in relatively “mass” production.  The 19thC might be my favorite period of all, because it is affordable, true to the old styles, and generally available, at least in France!

Laura and I are able to source a variety of old copper pieces, dating from the 19th and 20th Centuries, mostly in decorative forms, though many of them can still be used.  The pieces we show here are indicative of the merchandise we can source; let us know if there is something that captures your heart that you must have in your kitchen~

My favorite piece among all is a Marmite, probably late 19thC; the color is so warm, almost pink.  This would have been used for potatoes or meats; the lid seals tightly~


Everything is hand-made, the rivets and the strip holding the lid; the brass ring too~ see the maker mark at left, the only identifying mark on this piece~


Even the rings at the side, artisan-made~


More modern pieces, this bain-marie or double boiler, French porcelaine about 50 years young, but still well-made with iron handle~


Laura and I both found tea kettles on this trip, there is nothing like hot water from a copper kettle~


This kettle has a perfectly arched handle, and a beak-like spout~


Details on old copper pots are rarely seen today, such as copper rivets in the iron handles~


As with other French items such as baskets, copper  pieces were often made for one  particular function, such as this louche de miel or Honey Spoon~


The handle bears the maker’s mark, several times~


When people ask what they should buy for a “starter piece of copper,” I always recommend this piece, which is known by several names, including as a bassine a blanc (egg whites bowl), cul de poule (a reference to a chicken’s anatomy) or simply copper beating bowl.  You will see them in various sizes and with one or two handles, or with ring attachments. This antique piece has a nice fat rolled rim and is entirely hand-hammered~


I use it for beating egg whites (the copper reacts with the egg whites to give them more volume), making cakes, any kind of mixing, really….here in Beaune the three girls got together and made molleux or molten chocolate cakes, also with the little bain-marie~


This piece is called a sucrerie, or sugar pot, for making sugar syrup, pralines or other kinds of candy; the pot is unlined for better conductivity, and the straight sides and small pour spout are made for working with the hot sugar syrup~


The maker’s initials are on the side~


France also has what is referred to as “yellow copper” or Laiton, sometimes called brass, but it is not the usual copper & zinc alloy we know as brass~


This is a beautiful 19C piece, a cauldron~


The handle is perfectly finished, in iron~


The entire piece is perfectly hammered by hand~


We hope you enjoyed a little copper tour; be sure to check our Laura’s molten chocolate cakes and Andrea’s lavender-lemon cakes today to see the copper in action~

Andrea & Laura


Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Seeing it all makes me SO happy! I'd like one of each please. :)

Karena said...

Andrea I just love seeing all of this glorious copper!! The quality you have shown is simply superb. So glad that you and Laura came back with some very nice pieces!

Art by Karena

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Love that copper! I love to coook with it especially when it is restaurant quality thick!!!!!!The photo of the Bateau shirts is killing me......... LOVE them in summer......Maryanne ;)

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Hi Andrea & Laura, What wonderful copper pieces! I have a small collection of antique copper cookware that I cherish. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pieces.