I love pressure cookers, a lot. I have two ten quart Fagor pressure cooker and keep them in constant rotation. Love, love, love them. When I first started blogging, I received a couple of emails from nice but concerned people that I was slowly poisoning my children with my rampant speed demon ways so I felt really very vindicated by Food Renegade's post on how they are, indeed, healthy (see HERE). One of the best things about the pressure cooker is the way they can take cheap, tough cuts of meat and make them melt in the mouth fabu in half an hour. From frozen. This is especially important for those of us who do not have a magnatron in their homes (read: microwave).
We had a microwave at our old house and largely it was used to boil water, sterilize cleaning sponges, and hold baked goods but it was a constant temptation. My husband hated it, he told me it creeped him out, but he would sometimes thaw meat in it, warm butter in it, or even re-heat left-overs. He and the kids both. When we moved to the farm, there was a microwave here but in that cramped pantry with space at a premium, we took it out to make room for all the things we really needed. Now it is not a temptation because it is the barn. If I forget to thaw meat, not only can I not thaw something really fast but there is not an option of running to the store. The small town is almost twenty minutes away but only has a post office. So, I need to be on my game.
Yesterday my husband took the rest of the kids into the big town to meet the dog some of us had already visited at the Humane Society and then called to say they were able to bring the dog home. Not only did I need to get dinner ready after an afternoon with only little ones and lots of (attempted) school room organizing, I had forgotten to thaw the meat and now needed to get some things ready for the dog I did not expect until the end of the week (she was recovering from being spayed). Oh, Fagor to the rescue!
|Melt in your mouth beef.|
First I tossed the beef into the sink for a short thaw in water. In the pressure cooker I dumped in two pounds of chopped bacon and two chopped Vidalia onions and cooked until browned and yummy and deglazed with about a cup of red wine. Then I added four cups of brown rice (I sprout my own, see HERE), eight cups of water, a big fistful of bay leaves and a FROZEN two pound beef roast of some sort. Probably a chuck, because it is cheap. I brought it pressure before I turned down the heat and walked away for 35 minutes. Afterwards, I pulled and chopped the beef and stirred frozen veggies (all-purpose vegetables, as Eli calls it). Stirred the whole pot and viola! Dinner for a dozen in forty-minutes and all from frozen. Uh, for reals. Even the bacon. Just to drive to and from the closest grocery store would have been twice that.
How the heck does that work?
Pressure cookers work by increasing the temperature through, you guessed it, pressure. Think back to grade school. Atmosphere creates weight which pushes on the surface of water which resists boiling. This means it takes more heat to boil water at a lower altitude (more weight on the water's surface) than at a high altitude (less weight). Because the outlet of steam is restricted in a pressure cooker, it increases pressure to the point that the boiling point of water can be as high as 240F. The higher temperature means faster cooking. At sea level (where I am now) water boils at 212F, where I lived in Colorado it boiled at 204F. This means that food cooked in Denver takes longer than food cooked at a lower altitude because there is actually less heat, because once you reach the boiling point of water, you get vapor and the temperature no longer increases. Pressure cookers make even more sense at high altitude where every degree counts. And...this is why you need to process home canned foods longer at higher altitudes.
These few degrees make a giant difference in that it cuts cooking time in half, or even more. Brown rice can take one hour or more whereas in a pressure cooker it is about 24 minutes. Beans which might take two hours to boil can take only 40 minutes. My frozen beef roast went from barely able to pry out of the wrapping to falling apart tender in 35. But here is the rub, it was 35 minutes at pressure. It took a few minutes to get it to that point. I usually start my electric kettle while I chop or prep or brown the aromatics so it is rocket hot when I add it, which means it boils and comes to pressure very quickly.
Here are some more tips for working with pressure cookers:
- Remember to use a small amount of liquid because they use steam, you can use one or two cups of any flavorful liquid. I will use left over beer or wine or small amounts of bone broth but almost always cut 50/50 with boiling water to make it go faster.
- Don't use too much liquid because it won't evaporate and concentrate. Start with a sparse amount and add richness and flavor by using broth or booze to begin with.
- Remember that milk and other dairy curdles at high temperatures so don't rush milk based puddings or use coconut milk with an additional 20% water added to the total amount of liquid.
- You can't add thickeners to the pot as easily because you can't open it as quickly. I will use either Masa Harina (Mexican cornmeal) or run corn tortillas through the food processor and sprinkled liberally over the top of stews but not stirred in. It will thicken the whole pot.
Lastly, you can de-pressurize the pot in a couple of ways:
- Most pressure cookers have a release valve, but it makes a lot of hot steam and tends to be loud.
- You can turn the heat off about ten minutes early and let it coast in the rest of the way.
- You can put it in the sink and run cold water over it until it is cool. This is my preferred method for thickened soups and puddings, like rice puddings.
In other news, it's a mad busy life for everyone, all the time. Here is my little slice:
- Tomorrow will be the Bearnaise sauce because I won't have time to make it today. Kids are having roast chicken made by the college student. Sorry y'all, but I have a date with hubs. So, maybe I am not really sorry. At all.
- We just got a dog and the kids are trying to love it to death. Don't worry, I will have photos and details later. Suffice it to say she is some kind of hound/lab mix and has the energy and patience to keep pace with eleven kids. The kids wanted to name her Cookie but Ben is not really digging it. He has decided to spell it Kuki and pretend that it is the Finnish surname that is her name. If deception makes you happy, honey, go ahead.
- Finnfest USA starts tomorrow. In Europe it is based on the Nativity of St John the Baptist but it coincides with Midsummer and here it also coincides with some significant immigration dates. You can see some about it HERE. The mania surrounding it is hysterical here. I have been warned the kids will be up to midnight this week. Because bonfires are a big part of it. And on the top of the planet the sun does not set until ten meaning it is not dark until 10:30. Hence, midnight bedtime for everyone!
- Also, my kids have become bug food. They are bitten and eaten up and have ticks all the time because they run through the back fields in grasses taller than they are. Why? I don't know. Because all they do is scream every time they see a tick or whine every time they get bitten. *Sigh*
What is new with you?