Pressure Cooker Basics
March 12, 2012 § 15 Comments
And boy do I mean basics. I’m not a pressure-cooker expert—far from it. But I’m writing this because:
- My friend Katherine hinted that she’s always been a little uneasy using pressure cookers, and perhaps a Dainty tutorial was called for (um, Katherine, you’re a DOCTOR, and likely have had your hands elbow-deep IN people or delivered babies – my lord, if you can do that …)
- Pressure cookers are totally useful kitchen tools—they can cook some long-cooking bean or stew or hunk of meat in much less time. Who doesn’t need to shave some time off the cooking process without totally bailing and ordering take-out? If I can help spread pressure-cooker love to just one more person, then my mission is done (well, not done but I’d certainly feel good about it).
- I just pressure-cooked a pot of chickpeas, and since I need something to post about, why not this?
Again, I am sooo noooot a pressure-cooker expert. These are just some quick tips and bare-minimum suggestions from someone who was once afraid of the device and is now totally cool with its use.
Completely forget the stories your Mom or Grandma told you each summer … the story about their pressure cookers explosively losing their lids as their batch of homemade tomato sauce was being sealed and canned for winter. Sauce everywhere, they said, and you didn’t believe a word until Mom redid her kitchen and they moved the stove and found the tomato splatter evidence. THAT’S. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. Not nowadays. Not with a) today’s technology and b) today’s litigious society. A lid explodes, a child gets hurt … that can’t happen.
Spend the money. Buy a good, reputable brand. Jennifer bought a Kuhn-Rikon. It’s Swiss. And you know those Swiss.
Read the manual. Seriously, do it.
Get a specialty cookbook with pressure-cooker recipes. We have Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. It’s very useful.
The gasket is important. It fits in the inner lip of the lid and helps create a seal within which the air pressure can increase. A damaged gasket? A missing gasket? No seal.
Make a match. Most lids fit on the pressure cooker pot in a certain way and require a certain action. Ours requires that the arrow on the lid match with the arrow on the pot handle, and with those matched up, you then twist and lid into a LOCKED position. With the lid locked, it’s not going anywhere.
It hisses. When the pressure inside the pot increases to a high level, it will start hissing. Putting my “I’m not an expert” hat on, I believe the hissing happens when the pressure inside is too great, and the hissing is the “I’m too pressurized!” value releasing the excess pressure. The hissing is also a noise that reminds you, “Oh, right, I gotta turn the temperature down now.”
Leave it be. When your beans or stew or whatnot is done, just turn the heat off and let the pressure come down naturally. There will be some sort of indicator on your lid that will tell you when that happens (more of an explanation below). The steam within the sealed pot is SUPER heated and can severely burn you. So, take your time opening the lid and always open the lid AWAY from you. IF YOU MUST open the lid soon, you can place the sealed pot under running water to help bring the temperature and the pressure down. Again, the indicator on the lid will tell you when they’ve come down.
By way of example, here’s a simple recipe for cooking dried beans of any kind, and we used chickpeas.
Basic Beans in Aromatic Broth (based on the Pressure Perfect recipe)
- 1 lb. dried beans (in this case, chickpeas), rinsed and with bad beans removed
- 9 cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbs oil (helps prevent foaming)
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, leave skin on
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large celery
- Leek greens (if you have them)
-Add all ingredients in a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Lock the lid according to your manual.
-Turn the heat on high and bring the pressure within the cooker to high. AS AN EXAMPLE, high pressure is indicated on our Kuhn-Rikon when two red bars appear.
-Turn heat down so it’s just hot enough to maintain the pressure at high. In our case, we turn our gas from high down to just between “2” and “lo.” That works perfectly.
-Maintain high heat for the number of minutes indicated in your pressure cooker book for that specific bean. For chickpeas, that would be 28-30 minutes for a firm bean (for stews and such) and up to 35 for a softer chickpea that would be used in purees such as hummus.
-When the timer goes off, you can let the pressure come down naturally (15-20 minutes or so) or put it under cool running water until the pressure comes down. TILT the lid away from you no matter what. You gotta be careful.
-Try a few. Too firm? Hard, in fact? Put the lid in place, lock it, and bring it up to pressure again for between 1-5 minutes, depending on how firm you think they are. Go through the same depressurizing process.
-Look at that! You made beans!!
-Lorna suggests that if you have the time, let the beans cool in their liquid. That way they will complete the cooking process. Meanwhile, remove the carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic, and discard.
-When you are ready to drain, you should totally reserve that cooking liquid. It’s ideal as a water or veggie stock replacement in soups or stews. So, put a colander over a bowl to catch the brothy goodness.
Still on the fence about using a pressure cooker? Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand!
Homegrown Food Challenge—Days 6 & 7
October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.
Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.
Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.
Pressure Cooking Black Beans
September 20, 2011 § 3 Comments
You’re going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I actually really like this two-thirds vegan kick I’m on. Now, let me clarify:
1a. Two-thirds vegan means two meals out of three meals each day are non-dairy, non-poultry, non-animal products. Not even a boiled egg on my lunchtime salad – and I love a good boiled egg, too.
1b. What about snacks, you ask? What am I gonna do, eat a meat stick? Almonds, an apple, hummus and chips if I feel the need.
2. I first mentioned the two-thirds vegan thing back in … was it March? April? Lest you think I’m Superwoman, I need to inform you that I haven’t been two-thirds vegan all the time. Vacations don’t count. Weekends away don’t count. And sometimes that boiled egg would find its way onto of my salad. And, last week … I had a whole mess o’ Old Bay-seasoned wings on my business trip to Baltimore. The only wings I’ll eat, and the only town I eat them in. There are rules about being two-thirds vegan, and I make them up as I go along.
3. And sometimes, you go away for the weekend and someone makes you a three-egg omelet. With mozzarella. And lobster. Just be sure there’s a veggie burger in your near future.
BUT! It’s a new season. And I have a renewed interest in sticking to the vegan thing. At least two-thirds of the time.
BUT! I need more protein. That’s what a recent doctor visit and blood test suggested. So, here come the beans, which are an
excellent source of protein and fiber awesomely tasty food. Rather than stocking up on cans upon cans of beans – they add salt and calcium chloride, which, by the way IS a salt! – we buy the dry. Oooo … I like the way that sounds, “buy the dry.” Plus, they are cheaper (I’m showing my frugal side).
Dry beans are NOT a pain in the ass to work with. It’s easy. If Dainty can do it, so can you. And you don’t have to wait around 24 hours while your beans soak, etc. etc. Invest in a pressure cooker and your beans will be done in 30 minutes, and that includes 5 minutes of prep time.
The recipe we use comes from Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. (Oooo … sassy.) Hey, meat lovers, there’s a roast chicken on the cover! That’ll assure you Lorna has added something for everyone inside. There are a bunch of bean recipes included – the one we use is for black beans with soft tortillas. We use just the first half of the recipe and add our own seasonings depending on what we’re using the beans for. Here, I’ll just go through the first process and produce a batch of pressure-cooked beans.
- 4-6 cups water (depending on how much bean broth you want)
- 1.5 cups dried black beans, pick over to remove icky ones, small pebbles, etc. and rinse
- 1 small onion
- 4 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 TBS oil (apparently it prevents or controls foaming)
- 1/2 tsp salt
-Combine everything in a 4 qt. pressure cooker.
-Lock the lid in place. If you’re like me, you’ll do it three or four times, making absolutely sure the lid is on and won’t fly off. Seriously though, when it’s locked, it’s locked. No hardhat needed.
-Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure over high heat. READ YOUR PRESSURE COOKER INSTRUCTIONS! It will tell you how you can tell when it has reached high pressure. For our Fagor pressure cooker, high pressure is indicated when two red lines are visible.
-When it has reached high pressure, turn down the heat to a temp that will maintain that high pressure. For ours and on our gas stove, that means at a point between “lo” and “2”.
-Let the beans bubble away in there for 25 minutes. Then turn off the heat. Let them sit there as is – don’t open the lid! – and let the pressure come down naturally. READ your cooker instructions to find out how you can tell on your device.
-When the pressure has come down, open the lid AWAY from you. You don’t want to get a face full of super-heated steam, right? Always always always be careful.
-The beans should be tender. If not, lock it up, stick ’em back on the heat and cook for another couple of minutes. Repeat the heat coming down and all that.
What you have now are several cups of firm yet tender beans in broth. If you used 6 cups of water, you are halfway on the path to making a black bean soup. If you used 4 cups of water, you have a bit less broth. Letting it sit, the beans and broth will thicken slightly but not much.
We use 4 cups of water, and after the beans are pressure cooked, we typically add a touch more salt, some pepper, several shakes of red pepper and a diced small tomato. We then serve it over a bowl of rice. We’ve added other things, as well – roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, for example.
If you have any suggestions for what to add in to the black beans, I’d love your suggestions. We need to keep up the variety. Please leave your comments below!