Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Taming My Fears - In Which I Try Out a Pressure Cooker!

This week I conquered something new on what my friend Sara would call my "Mighty Life List". I have always wanted to use a pressure cooker but have been too afraid up until now to try one. Hubby's memories of his mother's 1950's pressure cooker lid flying off and food sticking to the ceiling had me set in a permanent limbo of wanting to try one for myself and fearing for my own life.
Fear not! say my friends, the new pressure cookers have safety valves and locks. Nothing is going to fly off the handle, not even you.
So I ordered the Splendid Stainless Steel 4-Quart Pressure Cooker by Fagor from Cookware.com and waited with semi-frightened anticipation for my shiny new toy. Even after it arrived all sleek and new looking, I let it sit out on the stove-top to admire from a distance. Warming up to actually cooking with it. If you haven't gathered, I can be a bit of a wimp.

So last night, flushed with triumph from a very successful dinner for my family, I set about actually test-driving my new acquisition. I chose a simple recipe, no need to complicate things when trying something new. I made homemade apple sauce, which is actually a favourite of hubby's and I usually make it in the slow cooker - but who has 6-8 hours when you want it for dessert that night?
I put the ingredients into the pot, I secured the lid, I turned up the heat. I was done. I couldn't believe it! By the time the pot had come to temperature, the sauce was done! There are two ways to relieve the pressure after cooking, you can vent it by turning the knob or you can let it come down "naturally", which is to say - turn the heat off and leave it alone. This recipe called for the natural method so I didn't have to do anything but give it a bit of time. Ten minutes later I fed my tender apples through the large setting on my food mill and had the most delicious apple sauce ever! It still seems like a miracle to me.
The Splendid Stainless Steel 4-Quart Pressure Cooker by Fagor came with instructions, recipes and even a DVD to make learning to pressure cook a snap. It is an ecological and economical way to cook as you use far less heat and electricity - no more wasted energy! The pressure cooker keeps the steam in, making your food tender and, because it cooks at about 250F (38 degrees above the boiling point), your meal will be done about 70% faster.
I chose this size as we are mostly just the two of us for dinner now, a larger family will want a larger size - 6 and 8 quart are also very common sizes.
Pressure cookers are great for cooking dried beans and make even the toughest cuts of roasts tender and delicious in no time.
So, when are you going to conquer your fear of the pressure cooker?

Pressure Cooker Recipes are Fast
Makes about 4 1/2 cups

3 lb (1.4 kg) apples, peeled, cored, and
3/4 teaspoon (4 ml) ground cinnamon
1 cup (250 ml) water or apple juice Optional: Grated lemon zest
Optional: Fresh lemon juice
Optional: Honey


Place the apples, cinnamon, and water (or juice) in pressure cooker. Lock the lid in place and bring to pressure, then turn off heat. Allow pressure to drop by the natural release method [1].

You can serve the applesauce chunky, or puree it in a food processor.

Prior to serving, if desired, stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and honey to taste.

Serving Suggestion: Top warm applesauce topped with some raisins and chopped, toasted walnuts.