If you aren’t a fan of having an electrical appliance for every single job, then the Universal Food Grinder is just the right kitchen tool for you. Much to my surprise, I learned that they are still easily purchased.
My older grinder is a much nicer model, but the newer one will do most of the same things. I suppose that the company doesn’t sell enough of them any more to justify tooling a nicer design. I did own one that appears to be just like the new ones for a number of years. But after my mom’s tools came to me I chose to keep the older one.
There are five basic parts to the grinder: a hopper (or mill), a handle, an auger (or screw), a locking ring, and a cutting wheel. In addition there is a bolt to hold the handle on, and a wing nut to hold the cutter wheel in place. My grinder has four options of cutting wheel sizes. The current model only has three.
Essentially, you put this together, feed foods into the hopper, turn the crank, and get a chopped/ground product out of the other end.
The body is cast iron with tin plating. It washes easily as long as you don’t let food dry on it. As with any cast iron, make sure you dry it thoroughly or it will rust.
There isn’t much that can go wrong. There are no electronics, cords, or delicate parts.
It’s very safe. You are supplying the power, so you aren’t likely to accidentally stick a finger so far in it to get hurt. You can even let the kids grind things up. This was one of the first kitchen tasks I was allowed to do as a child, and my boys learned to make cranberry relish when very young. Don’t let one kid turn the crank while the other one feeds it, but if you are feeding it yourself you would never keep turning the crank if your finger was being pinched.
It’s versatile, although perhaps less so than a food processor. You can grind meat for sausage or hamburger. I ground venison from several deer over the years. The texture is slightly different from commercial grinders, but not bad. You can make fruit relishes, as shown in the video. You can chop nuts, although it would be silly to set it up for just a handful. I use it to make pickle bologna. I have a sloppy joe recipe that calls for lots of ground vegetables (the kids never knew how many veggies they ate with that menu!), and I use it for that. I remember a lot of wonderful meals of hash (ground roast beef, onion, and potatoes) from my childhood.
It does leak juice on the floor. Even my old model with the juice drain “ditch, ” will make a mess. For big jobs, I just put a bowl on the floor in the right place to catch most of it. That way I can save most of the juice. Then I just wipe up the floor. It usually needs it anyway.
The two models of this that I have owned will not fit on modern counter edges. The screw clamp may not open wide enough. The one I have has a maximum opening of 1.5 inches, which would be barely large enough to fit on my counter edges. However, you also have to have enough clearance to turn the screw to tighten it. I can’t quite tell from the pictures of the new grinders if the screw tab is as wide as mine, but, nevertheless, you have to have some clearance room.
You have to have some hand/arm strength to use it. You must be able to screw the clamp tightly to the counter top. Some foods may be harder to grind than others. Nuts can be a particular challenge- see my Experiment in Making Peanut Butter. Obviously, it weighs more than a plastic appliance would.
The Universal home food grinder was first sold in 1897, and was made in New Britain, Connecticut. The company continued until 1984. It’s electrical appliances had been sold to General Electric in the 1960s, and the grinder is now owned by Universal Trading Company of Elk Grove Village, Illinois. I am unable to determine if the grinders are currently made in the U.S.A.
These can be ordered from several places online, from about $20 to $25.