Monday, February 18, 2013

Fun with Pressure Cooking

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions but this year, I did resolve to get past my fear of the pressure cooker. My mom used hers all the time. In fact, I think mine was inherited from her but since I'm a big thrift store shopper, I can't actually recall. Sadly, I never got around to having her show me how to use it before she died. 

Last year, I resolved I would get over my fear of beans exploding all over my kitchen, dusted off the cooker, and contacted T-Fal who kindly emailed me the instruction manual. The PDF file was of a badly photocopied manual laid out every which way which meant I kept having to rotate the view so I could read it. Not that their was much to read. Most of the instructions were cartoon drawings with no explanation or even directional arrows to help clarify things. Oh well.

 Next, I discovered I needed a new ring gasket for the lid. I went online, spent 10 bucks and had one delivered within a few days. By then, my resolve had begun to wain. I put it all away and forgot about it except for the occasionally twinge of guilt when I'd glance down at it in the cabinet where it was stored. 
Recently, my daughter told me that we should start using it because her friends who live in a vegetarian collective have started pressure cooking their beans, whereas before than had been slow-cooking them. Ivy never cared for the beans at the Starship collective because they were always underdone and she prefers (as do I) more of a 'can' texture. I figured if these post-hippie anarchists could manage a pressure cooker, so could I.

Today, I present to you, two soups made with similar ingredients, over the course of an hour. 

The first is Lima beans and Cabbage with Pasture Raised Ham. 

  • 2 tbs fat from the rind of a ham steak, minced (you could also use bacon or salt pork)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lg carrots diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 1 quarter cabbage, sliced once horizontally then sliced vertically into strips about 2" long, 1/2" wide
  • 1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes and their juice
  • 2 cups soaked lima beans*
  • 1 cup diced ham (I used a ham steak from pasture raised pigs from Dismas Family Farm)
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregeno
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tps dried thyme
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tomato cans water 
  1. Over medium high heat, render the fat until it is browned and crispy. I originally started with about 1/3 cup of minced fat and it gave off way more liquid then I wanted so I drained all but about 2 tbs, keeping the crispy bits. I reduced the amount in my recipe but you may still need to drain some of the rendered fat. What I was after is a flavorful base for sauteing my veg, not a greasy mess. 
  2. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pan and cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent and the veg are giving off a nice fragrance.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to incorporate, and lock the pressure cooker cover in place. 
  4. Bring to full pressure than reduce to the lowest setting on your range that will allow you to keep full pressure. Cook for 14 minutes and use the quick release method (aka, carefully bring the cooker to the sink and gently run cold water over the lid, being careful not to get water into the pressure valve thingee). 
Taste for seasoning and doneness. If it is not quite cooked to your satisfaction, finish it off on the range the regular way. A few more minutes cooking time should do it. I did not have to do anything or even adjust seasonings. 

The next soup I made was Dilly Lima Bean and Cabbage with Beets. It turned a lovely deep coral. It would have been perfect for Valentine's Day. 

  • 2 cups Lima beans, soaked*
  • 1 cup hulless or pearled barley (if you use hulled barley, be sure to pre-soak it for a few hours)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 quarter wedge cabbage, sliced one horizontally, than sliced vertically to make strips about 1/2" wide and 2" long)
  • 2 small or 1 large beet peeled (or scraped if they are small) and diced
  • 1 golden delicious apple, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 wedges lemon, seeded
  • 2 tbs currents
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp anise seeds
  • 3 whole allspice berries
  • 8 cups water
Place everything in at least a 5 qt pressure cooker, stir a bit to combine, then bring to full pressure over high heat. Once it's at full pressure, reduce the heat on your range to the lowest possible setting to maintain full pressure. Cook for 28 minutes. 
I found the soup needed a bit of thickening, perhaps because it is covered under pressure, very little of the liquid evaporates. I simply cooked it for a few more minutes, uncovered, and stirred in 1/4 cup flour mixed with a bit of cold water to prevent lumping. 

Both soups were delicious but the beet soup had a great depth of flavor that I kept going back for. The only change I would make is to add more barley as the individual grains got rather lost. 

*I soaked my beans using the quick soak method which is to cover the beans with 8 cups of hot water, bring to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let soak for 1 1/2 half. I also added a tbs of baking soda once I turned the heat off. 

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