“New” Vintage Pyrex Casserole Dishes

I know I’ve been posting so many pics lately of my “new” vintage pieces that I’m preparing for the upcoming market season, but I’m so hyped! I’ve found so many cool things that I can’t wait to share with you all. For example:

I’ve featured the Daisy pattern (1969-1970) on my blog before, but this is the first time I’ve had a casserole with the clear lid. It was also printed in the same pattern on a white lid during the same run.

The Early American pattern (1962-1971) was also called Early Canadian; the pattern is the same, but it was named differently for the different markets. It came in multiple colourways, and all of featured designs printed in 22-karat gold. Since microwave ovens only started to become affordable for home use in the early 1970’s, and common beginning in the 1980’s, the company wasn’t able to foresee the issues surrounding metal decoration for dishes. Therefore, as with all Pyrex dishes with gold designs, this one isn’t microwave safe — but it is still good for fridge, freezer, and oven.

The Wheat pattern, from 1978, is a little more versatile than its fancier brethren, since the non-metallic screen-printed design is microwave-safe.

Last but not least, I found two versions of the Market Garden print (1971-1982), which remains as colourful and detailed as the day they were printed. These dishes were labelled as JAJ pyrex, which means they were made before 1973, since Pyrex made in England was only labelled as such between 1921 and 1973; after that it would have been labelled Pyrex England, when the company changed hands. I do find that there is quite a stylistic difference between the dishes made by the American and English subsidiaries of the company. Overall, the ones with American or shared designs tend to be plainer and simpler. However, many of the ones released solely in England are much more complicated, often with multiple colours, finer lines, and designs that are closer to photos than line drawings. Which one is better is entirely a matter of personal preference, though; functionally, they all work just as well.

“New” Vintage Tupperware

I just received the email confirming that I’ve been accepted to the 613flea on March 9th — only three Saturdays away. Sadly, this means I’ll be missing the market this coming Saturday, February 23rd, as I have schedule conflicts that day. Even so, I’m really exited, and I have so many “new” items that I can’t wait to show!

A perennial favourite is the Tuperware Pick-A-Deli; it’s so popular that they still make them new (although the colours have changed over the years). I believe that they started making this design as early as the late 1960’s, although I’ve had a hard time finding a firm date on that one. It’s really great for storing pickles in vinegar, fruit in juice or syrup, pickled eggs in brine, carrot or celery sticks in water — just about any solid food that you’d generally store in a liquid, really. The trick is the strainer with the handle, which lets you lift the solids out of the liquids easily without making a mess.

Tupperware pitchers (or, as we called them in our household, juice jugs) are also very popular, and they’ve come in many shapes and sizes over the years. Variations on this look are still available new as well! For people of my generation, there’s something about the older styles that conjures childhood memories of Kool-Aid or frozen juices from concentrate, served in matching tumblers in the summertime.

This last one, now, made me laugh when I found it. I never knew that Tupperware paired up with Blockbuster to make popcorn bowls. I’d guess that this happened sometime in the 90’s, when now-defunct Blockbuster was at its most popular. Apparently this kind of promotion ran more than once, since now that I’ve known what to Google, I discovered that they also came with a “Blockbuster Music” logo. It’s essentially a 26-cup Fix-N-Mix bowl with different branding, which was originally intended to throw your salad fixings inside, add some dressing, and then close the lid to mix it all together. It could still be used for the same, but I have a feeling that the Blockbuster version was marketed to put popcorn in, add butter, salt, and/or other seasonings, and then close and shake to mix. How else were you supposed to use a large plastic mixing bowl to “make it a Blockbuster night”?

“New” Vintage Pyrex

I’m so looking forward to the 2019 market season! For me that won’t start until the March 9th edition of 613flea, which means that until then I’ll be working on leveling the collection I have to share. Even though I have to have patience until my next market, I have to admit, I’ve been taking a great deal of joy in some of the “new” (well, new to me) Pyrex items I’ve found.

One of the things that has been holding me back when it comes to posting about my latest finds is that, frankly, I didn’t have enough room to photograph them decently. My workspace had become cluttered and messy, and my light box was just too small for the larger items. I have an absolutely lovely fold-up light tent that has worked for me for years (it’s so convenient!) and I’d eventually love one in the same style in a larger size, but right now I needed something quick and easy. So I got some large pieces of poster board and made something very akin to what you’d find in this tutorial. I think the results were pretty grand!

I absolutely love these Cinderella mixing bowls in the Colonial Mist pattern, which was originally sold from 1983 to 1986. One great thing about this style of bowl is that they’re also ovenware, so they do double duty as casserole dishes.

This set of three mixing bowls in the Homestead pattern (1976 to 1980) is a more standard shape, but also be used in the oven or microwave as well.

I was especially happy to find this Pink Daisy casserole, even though it’s a bit worse for wear and without its lid, because pink is a highly sought after colour. This particular pattern ran from 1956 to 1962, so this dish is between 57 and 63 years old, which adds to its rarity.

These Pyrex England stacking casseroles in the Emily or Spring Garden pattern aren’t quite as vintage, but since they’re from 1986 that means they’re still 33 years old — and they’re imported.

Given the colours of the pattern and the brown lids, I would have pegged them as being from the 70’s, but these Pyrex England casseroles in Brown Vine are from 1983 to 1985.

People have asked me why I like vintage Pyrex (and vintage kitchenware in general) so much. Although I really do love that I’m keeping perfectly serviceable items out of a landfill, I there’s more to it than that. I think it boils down to the fact that I like pretty, unusual things, and when I use such things I feel better about whatever I’m working on. Cooking is something that has to be done every single day, and it’s easy for it to become dreary and monotonous. I try to alleviate this by trying new dishes, new styles of cooking, and new techniques, but I think that it also helps to surround yourself with things that make you happy. To me, there is a thrill of the hunt for things that I consider both practical and beautiful, as well as a great deal of satisfaction in using these things once I have them. To paraphrase Marie Kondo, for me, these things spark joy.

Resolutions

1. Crafting

This is a two-part resolution. Firstly, I’d like to use up the materials I have purchased over the years, and/or use recycled or thrifted materials whenever possible.

Secondly, I’d like to participate in more group or community projects, like Mochimochi Land’s Let’s Knit a Ball Pit — ideally using materials previously specified. The ball pit will be a part of Vogue Knitting LIVE in New York City, and once the event is over they will be donated to the American Foundation for Children with AIDS. I contributed the two knitted balls in the photo above to this project, and I really enjoyed it! I hope that they arrive in time. I’d like to keep the ball rolling, as it were, and donate my time and skills to other events, even if it’s something as simple as hats for the newborn babies at the local children’s hospital.

2. Environmental

I would like to try to decrease our household’s reliance on single-use plastic, and to continue to reuse, repurpose, and recycle. To me, that doesn’t mean being rid of plastics entirely; actually, I think it would be rather wasteful to completely be rid of the plastics we do have, just to buy all new replacements in another material. Rather, I’d like to commit to using recycled plastics, either post-consumer recycled commercial products, or finding a new home for second-hand plastic products, like the lunch boxes above that I bought at a thrift store.

3. In the Kitchen

I want to expand my cooking knowledge, skills, and style — while at the same time trying to keep it reasonably healthy. I think I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut lately, and I want to do better! To that end, I have purchased even more second-hand cookbooks that I’m not only going to try out, but that I’m going to read through for ideas. At Thing 1’s request, I am looking into more Japanese food:

Sushi by Ryuichi Yoshii (1998)
The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber (2004)
Ten-Minute Bento by Megumi Fujii (2007)

Of all of the books that I have thrifted lately, I think I am most excited about The Japanese Kitchen, which helps break down and de-mystify each ingredient, and Ten Minute Bento, which is all about quick and easy (and I think will become a favourite cookbook to pull out to prep dinner on busy weeknights). There is a lot about Japanese cooking that I don’t know, but these books look like they’ll really help me get a better grasp on it.

In a more general vein, I have also picked up:

Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Flavour by Gordon Ramsay (1996)
Deliciously Dairy Free: Fresh and Simple Lactose-Free Recipes for Healthy Eating Every Day by Lesley Waters (2015)
Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens by Jennifer Schaertl (2010)
More Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway (1997)
Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube Presents: The Cake Book by Cupcake Jemma (2014)
Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tessa Smith McGovern (2014)

Now, some of these, like the cupcake book and the cocktail book, are just for fun — but shouldn’t cooking be fun? The dairy-free one and the one about cooking in small kitchens (and I have to say, that title grabbed my attention) are probably the ones I’d use the most, though. Yet every cookbook is a kind of inspiration for me, even if I don’t try a single dish.

4. Business

I think that it’s time for my business to expand from flea markets to online. I think I will start with local sales, since a lot of my products are both heavy and quite breakable. I just don’t know that it would be cost-effective to try to ship vintage Pyrex or, heaven forbid, cast iron cookware. But vintage Tupperware is both hardy and light enough to make the trip! I think that this expansion will challenge my photography skills (since product photography is quite different than casual snaps) and my organization skills. I’m also looking at how to make it all as environmentally-sound as possible; I especially don’t want to package items in styrofoam, bubble wrap, or air-filled bags, since they’re all single-use plastic. I’m looking into wool and straw and other biodegradable options. People shipped things without breaking them long before plastic was invented, so there have to be options. The question is, can I keep it cost-effective? Challenges, challenges!

So what are your resolutions for the New Year?

Kitchen Gifts

Of course, because my friends and family know that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, a lot of my Christmas gifts this year centered around that.

One of my friends gifted me with some delicious Chex Party Mix and a lovely loaf of Makivnyk (a Ukrainian style poppy seed tea roll) from the Black Walnut Bakery. Oh, and Thing 1 gave me the Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix In A Jar that she’d made, thus ensuring that she would get to eat some of them too.

I also acquired a number of cookbooks over the holidays, some as gifts, others from thrift stores or as bargain books.

The Perfect Pie Book by Anne Marshall, 1984 (thrifted)
Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, Hershey Chocolate Company, 1971 (thrifted)
Anita Stewart’s Canada by Anita Stewart, 2008 (thrifted — and I’ve wanted my own copy for quite a while)
Bread! Simple and Satisfying Recipes for Your Bread Machine by Kathrun Hawkins, 2006 ($4.00 at Dollarama)
Pumpkin Butternut & Squash by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, 2000 (gift)

My parents gave me an Instant Pot and a handmade apron, my brother gave me a copy of Jamie Cooks Italy (since I’m a huge Jamie Oliver fan), and a friend gave me a Paderno tamagoyaki pan.

I can’t wait to try out all of my new toys!

Cleaning Coloured Pyrex

At my last flea market, one of the other vendors (a lovely lady selling the most fabulous knitwear) asked me how I get my Pyrex so clean and shiny. She’d had some issues keeping hers looking its best, and was wondering if I had any tips or tricks. I kind of brushed it off with an, “Oh, I just wash it!” But later I thought about it and realized that I really do have a process that I use. I thought I would share it here so that I can help other collectors.

For the purpose of demonstration, I’ll use the two pieces that came into my possession recently. The top one is a JAJ Pyrex casserole in the Market Garden pattern from 1971. (James A. Jobling’s company produced Pyrex in England from 1921 through 1973, when the patent rights reverted to Corning; after this point, the “Pyrex England” backstamp was used.) The bottom is a rectangular casserole from 1956 by the American Pyrex division in the Snowflake pattern, which is the very first pattern that was ever screen printed onto Pyrex. Given the age and condition of these pieces, I really want to keep the designs intact. Most importantly, when I got them there were no chips or nicks, which is something even the best cleaning can’t fix!

To be honest, these dishes aren’t in the worst condition of the ones that have come into my collection; some good examples of how bad it can get are in my old Cleaning Glass post. As is quite common, the inside of the casseroles were in pretty good shape, since people are most picky about keeping the parts that touch their food in the best shape, but the bottoms were worse off. But do not despair if you see this brown residue on a dish that you want, since it will totally come off with a bit of work!

One of the most important things I can say about cleaning old coloured Pyrex, whether it be solid-colour or screen-printed, is not to put it in the dishwasher. They won’t warp or chip in there — after all, they’re meant for the oven and even the oldest are safe for the microwave if there’s no metallic trim. However, the harsh chemicals and high heat of the dishwasher can fade or even completely erase the beautiful colours over time, so I really would recommend avoiding it! Of course, modern Pyrex and Corningware are dishwasher-safe, so if you’re not sure of the age of a piece, look for the stamp on the bottom that labels it as such.

On the Market Garden piece, the worse part was where food debris had collected in the edge around the rim. This is usually really hard to get out, but I have a technique for that which works for most dishes.

When cleaning coloured Pyrex, one of the things you want to avoid the most is heavy-duty scrubbing. So, no highly abrasive cleaning powders or scouring pads! (Although I’m quite enamoured of Lee Valley’s stainless-steel chain mail scrubber, which is great for cast iron, it would utterly ruin a Pyrex dish.) So your best bet is to fill up a sink with hot water and a generous helping of dish soap, and then let that sit overnight. Yes, the same technique for tackling the roasting pan from the Christmas turkey works with Pyrex, but why wouldn’t it?

When it comes time to scrub the dishes in the soapy water, I like to use the double-sided cleaning sponges with the green scrubber. I find that they’re generally abrasive enough to get rid of stains, yet not abrasive enough to remove designs (unless you scrub for a really long time — always be careful!).

And here you can see my secret weapon: bamboo skewers. They’re perfect for getting into tiny little areas that accumulate grime, but because they’re so breakable it’s really difficult to scratch the finish with them. The wide end of the skewer can even be used to concentrate your effort on areas with a thick layer of baked-on grease; I used them to great effect on my enameled cast-iron pan. As a bonus, they’re not strong enough to go through the enamel on cast-iron either (on which you also don’t want to use anything too abrasive lest you damage the finish).

I was lucky this time in that the Snowflake dish came completely clean with this treatment, even though it looked like it was in the worst shape. So I only had to do the next step on the Market Garden piece: a paste of baking soda and lemon or lime juice. The juice is acidic and the baking soda is slightly abrasive, which makes for a perfect cleaning combination. I left the past on overnight to dry, then added more lemon juice to scrub off the stains the next morning. Then, for a super-shiny finish, I gave it one more good wash in dish soap and water.

Sometimes, with dishes in really rough shape, you have to repeat these steps a few times. One other thing you can try, although only as a last resort, is a sink full of hot water and a single dishwasher detergent packet, left to sit overnight. I only do this when the dishes have resisted every other cleaning method, because the detergent is really harsh and concentrated. But I much prefer using one of the packets instead of giving up altogether! However, this time I didn’t have to resort to such drastic measures.

So here are my cleaning results:

Pristine bottom surfaces.

Edges like new.

And interiors from which you’d be happy to serve any guest.

So next time you see an old Pyrex piece that’s a bit worse for wear, don’t automatically discard it because of the amount of work that’d be involved bringing it up to snuff. It may take a couple of rounds of soaking, but it can look like new again without all that much elbow grease!

613flea Saturday November 17th

We’re getting down to the Christmas crunch, which means more flea markets for me! This coming Saturday is 613flea at Lansdowne Park. It’s not technically the Christmas market (that’s in two weeks on December 1st), but a lot of vendors will be bringing out their holiday wares because people like to shop early — especially if they’re shipping presents to family, or are planning on traveling themselves. Considering that the local Christmas craft fairs started up the Saturday after Halloween, I don’t really think it’s too early.

Once again, I’ve managed to narrow down my social media pictures to two, and I can’t choose between them. Which do you like best, this one:

Or this one:

I mean, they couldn’t be more different, but I like them both. It’s very hard to be objective when each one holds some pretty happy memories for me.

I’m also really excited this week because I have found some absolutely fabulous new pieces that I’ll be including at my booth. Once again I have warm colours:

Versus cool:

I honestly love them all and would be happy to keep them in my kitchen, but if I kept every piece that I like I wouldn’t have anything for my booth.

Hope to see you there!