A reader sent me these photos and I’m mystified. Can you help?
Writes reader Joanna,
I wonder if you could help identify this incredible piece I found at a brocante here near Bordeaux last week? It’s huge, must weigh at least 10 kilos (22 lbs), and unlined, so presumably for patisserie/chocolaterie/conserverie work? For scale, I’ve put it up against a lovely 30cm daubière I also found.
We both noticed the distinctive light line around the midsection, that looks as though the pan was set atop a narrower vessel.
I’m wondering whether it sat inside something more industrial, like these giant bain maries in this jam makers’ site?
But I can’t work out why it’s conical. Being near to Bordeaux I did wonder if it was to do with wine making, but I’ve found nothing so far.
To my eye, this pan is the love child of a flat-bottomed confiture basin and a deep round-bottomed cul de poule. I’ve been trying to think of the cooking purpose for this pointed shape — round-bottomed pans help with stirring and scraping, but a conical pan, especially one this large, heavy, and deep, does not seem convenient for that. Whatever solids are in this pan will seek to settle and concentrate at the bottom where there is not much room to stir them. Could the narrow base be intended to catch and collect unwanted debris of some kind — perhaps for boiling the skins off of fruit and collecting the skins below? Is there a wine-making process that seeks to separate fruit and skins in this way?
What do you think? Have any of you seen a piece like this before, and if so, do you know its purpose and provenance? Both Joanna and I would be grateful for the help!
Edited to add:
Here’s the additional photo of the interior from Jo.
Val Maguire also sent over a photo of a commercial candy-making setup:
Photos contributed by Steve Nash (FrenchAntiquity on Etsy):