Saturday, May 5, 2007

First, the Coffee

Like any urban-leaning, Europe-traveling girl, I love my morning lattes, and the wonderful Gaggia I have at home to make them.

But for my early-morning walks down the farm road, or through wet fields in search of wild blackberries, you want something suited to your outfit of red Wellies, faded farm dress, and old sweater. Something really hot, flavorful, and abundant, comfortable in an thermal cup from back in the day when they sent Christmas presents to their good customers. In short, the good old-fashioned perked coffee of your father (or grandfather, as the case may be).

My percolator looks just like my father’s, except that, alas, it has a plastic rather than a glass dome. It cost $5.00 at Wilbur’s store in Little Compton, bought during Hurricane Bob in 1991 when the electricity was out for a week and all I had for cooking was a charcoal grill and, luckily, a propane-fueled commercial catering burner. Like all post-war children, I already knew how to make perked coffee, having seen my father make it some 5000 times while growing up. But I had no idea, until a hurricane, how satisfying it was.

Here are simple and imprecise directions. Go to the hardware store and buy an aluminum percolator that looks like mine in the picture. Mirro, of cheap cookware fame, makes a perfectly good one. If you can find them at your hardware store or at a good ‘ol 5&10 (if you can find a good ‘ol 5&10), also buy a package of Gourmay brand filters for percolators. These filters, made of a kind of fine rice paper, are great, but not to worry if you can’t find them. Of course, both items can be bought online; if you pay more than $15 for your pot, you’ve been had.

Remove inserts and fill pot with water to one of the marked lines—say, 5 cups. Line basket with a filter (if using), and add coffee to the comparable mark in the basket, folding the filter corners down over it. If making 5 cups of coffee, use approximately 6-7 tablespoons of ground coffee of your choice. For this purpose, I like Melitta Colombian Supreme, right from the market. No, it is not too fine. You can get the pot ready the night before if you want.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat; stick around, because as soon as it starts to perk (as soon as the water is forced up into the dome repeatedly) turn the heat down moderately low, but still perking steadily, and perk 3-4 minutes. Feel free to lean in and breathe in the steam: it’s tantalizing, and full of antioxidants. The coffee is done when it smells wonderful and is the color you like; you can lift the pot up off the stove and pour a bit into a white cup to check the color until you get your timing right. A lightly spattered stove after making perked coffee is acceptable and even a mark of distinction, but do not let the pot boil over. Burned coffee is bad coffee.

The hardest thing is the last. Remove the coffee from the stove and let it sit a full minute to “set.” This is a personal discovery, highly recommended. Remove the inserts before pouring.

This coffee is wonderfully hot and flavorful. Pull your boots on, and head outside.


Anonymous said...

Jane, very nice blog and I appreciate the lesson on the stove percolator. I have the same item and my wife brought it up from the basement while announcing that our electric drip coffee maker was broken. I'm glad for you advice on making good stove perk. Hopefully that other machine won't be replaced.
Also, by means of coincidence I lived in Little Compton for some of my early 20ish years. Nice place on earth, But so is here in rural southwestern Maine. I'll check back with your blog in the future. Best of Luck,
A 1949er

Jane said...

Thank you, hope it turns out well. Interesting you lived here--but agree Maine is nice, too. Think about subscribing--see links to left!

John Clymer said...

I am a Le Cordon Bleu Chef CC
I have been using this Mirro for almost twenty five years, every day. A small one person, 5"Tall & 4" diameter. It has a 5 stamped on the side. The pot is One Cup American or five small Asian size cups.
I fill it up to the handles first lower rivet inside with water.
Fill the basket with Folgers Medium Dark.
No Filter!
Up to a boil (perk) down to a real, low, low, perk. Perk twenty minutes.
Take off heat.
Let Steep five minutes.
Use a clothes pin to grab the basket shaft and remove and rinse under cold water.
Cream and sugar to taste.
Excellent Coffee.
This is the only was I can drink coffee. I can not stand drip coffee.
Never wash the pot or basket, only rinse and air dry.It must season. Never wash.
I can not find a back up Mirro replacement.
I was told a GSI, SS, 6 Cup #65206 will do.
If anyone knows where I can get another Mini Mirro Please let me know.
Chef John Clymer CC

Jane said...

John, your only hope of finding the mini Mirro is in a second-hand housewares shop, at a flea market, or possibly online. But new, the closest you can get is the current 9-cup Mirro: . If you fill to the lowest line, it will be about 2 American cups. The GSI is steel.

I'm amazed you perk for 20 mins--I will have to try, don't know how you can wait, though. Clothespin a good idea; I use tongs and they slide...

John Clymer said...

I found about six of the Miiro's on Ebay. $6.00 + $10 to ship.
Perk for 15 to 20 minutes, steep 5
The smell is Excellent while it perks.
3 minutes the water hasn't even turned brown :)
Don't be shy. Let it perk, real, real low. Just a gurgle.
I used to burn my fingers, then I used the Clothes pin. Grasp, but don't kill it.
Fresh Perked is the best coffee in the world!
I brought it into school one day and perked for thirty Le Cordon Bleu Chefs. 5 cups at a time.
It was a WINNER ! :)
I agree about the Science Diploma and Sanitation.
And the Pen is Powerful! Slice, Slice, Slice.
Pinch & Claw.

John Clymer said...

Do you have an address I can send you something?
If you don't want to post it, could you send it to me at:


Jane said...

Sorry, don't give out my address-sure you understand.