October 31, 2013

No Fear Here, Pressure Cooking Isn't Scary!

Pressure cooking.
It's one of those polarizing issues in the culinary world that I live in.  Some people hate it and think that it does a disservice to food, others are just plain scared of doing it.
To me, pressure cooking is the ultimate in convenience food.  It is quick, relatively easy and gives you a pretty healthy end product as well.
I used to mainly use pressure  for canning things like beans and broths, but after a few classes at Bread Beckers, I was sold on how quick and easy pressure cooking can be.
I also don't know that I buy the whole "danger" that food is cooked too quickly and isn't natural as traditional people used low heat and slow methods as some whole food proponents discuss.
When I look at the science behind pressure cookers I'm not appalled or disturbed.  It's heat and pressure, and not as much as one would even think.   You can check out this link for the details, and it is a pro-pressure site so be aware that as in most things in life, there is a bias.

Most cookers today are pretty fool proof and have built in safety mechanisms.  I started cooking with the one my grandmother received as a wedding gift in the 1940s.  I figured if I could work past  my fear (and it was an old, scary one) I'd invest in a new one.  My husband grew up in Alaska and he knew how to pressure cook and can from an early age.  He walked me thru pressure canning the first few times, and I wasn't quite so daunted by pressure cooking.  I linked to Bread Beckers and they have many of their cooking classes posted online with pdf files for each class's recipes.  These files are a great source of info.  You can see a full class demo on how to use a pressure cooker.
The main thing is to read the manual specific to yours.  Most cookers will not have anything to regulate.  There is nothing to adjust other than to turn down your heat once you achieve pressure.  The method to pressure CAN an item is different than what is used for just cooking.  Just be aware and educate yourself accordingly.

The cooker I use is a stainless Presto one.   I also have a pressure canner as well by Presto.  Amazon has good prices, but you can also get them on clearance at Walmart this time of year.
I want a cooker that is about 6 quarts and a sauce pan design so that I can put a whole chicken or somewhat larger items in, but it still be manageable for smaller items.  I also use the canner to cook really large items like pumpkin as well.

One of my most favorite items to cook in a pressure cooker is squash.  Not the summer ones, but hard winter squash.  I usually forget that I need them and then don't have time to preheat the oven and cook them for 30 minutes.  There are a ton of online resources for pressure cooker recipes so search and see what you can find (sorry to not be any help).

Squash split, seeded and put in the cooker!

I split squash in half, and remove the seeds Don't worry about removing the rind.  The flesh will fall right out once cooked.
Cooked squash.
Place your pieces  in the cooker with the specified amount of water (I usually go for about an inch) and I am using a trivet inside mine as well.  Bring to pressure at an appropriately high heat with the weight in place.  Once your cooker achieves pressure (you'll know based on your manual or when the valves shut), lower the heat to low-medium, and process about 3-5 minutes.   I use the longer time for larger squash like butternut, spaghetti squash, or pumpkin, and the shorter 3 minutes for smaller ones like Delicata. And yes, you can cook a whole pumpkin in 5 minutes.  I use my pressure canner as it is larger and cut the pumpkin into pieces, rind on, that will fit inside.
Quick-release with running water, remove the weight (ALWAYS remove your weight before opening your cooker!!!) and open your pressure cooker carefully.  The contents are hot!

I usually let things sit for a bit to cool, but if you can't wait, carefully remove or pour the items into a colander to drain.  You will  have perfect squash every time.

This post is shared with Gwen's Nest for Trim, Healthy Tuesday and Stacy Makes Cents for Centsibly Sugar-Free.

Additional pressure cooking resources and recipes that I have found helpful are Miss Vickie's site,  Alton Brown's Good Eats show his recipes on Food Network, and even revamped Julia Child recipes.
I have personally learned a lot from the Bread Beckers in Woodstock, Ga.  They graciously post their classes for free online and also provide the pdf at the top of the page with all of the class recipes.  This is one of the many pressure cooking classes they teach, and I do not get paid for saying so and I am not an affiliate, but their prices are also very good as well for the products they sell.
I would also encourage you to read vintage cookbooks that you might have stored as many from the 1950s and that era have pretty substantial chapters on the subject.

October 14, 2013

Under Construction

I've not had time for posting much lately but I don't want to slack off too much.
The truth is, I've really been focusing on family and life.  Homeschool takes up time and I need to be hands on with my toddler, not online.
And then we have decided to renovate the kitchen.  This would be a total re-do.  I ripped the tile off the backsplash on Saturday, and we spent yesterday repairing the mess of drywall.
I'll probably post all the gory details at some point and the process I went about and planning.
Honestly, it stinks not having a working kitchen, but the whole deal hasn't been too bad 4 days in?

And I look at the before photos and wonder now if it was worth all the work?  
 But then I look closely at the doors that are falling apart.  You just can't see that from a distance.
Or at how the corners aren't accessible so we had to add an island for storage and counterspace.  But that cut down on having more than one person in the kitchen at a time.  The baby could block entry it was such a tight entrance.