I left off yesterday with canning, specifically pressure canning.
My canners are described in the manuals that accompany them as “pressure cooker/canners,” so I was always aware that pressure cooking was a possibility. And I did exactly that when it came to dried beans.
As you can see, we like beans. They store like that (or rather, in airtight containers) for quite some time, so the only reason to can them is for convenience. Rather than cooking one pot of beans for a long time on the stove, I could do 7 quart jars at one time and be done with it.
But this is what changed everything for me.
Fresh eggs are great. They are marvelous until you want to hard cook them. Then they do this.
Not only do they look terrible for deviled eggs, but you end up tossing part of the egg that is stuck to the shell so even if you’re going to chop them up, the whole thing is wasteful.
This drove me crazy.
It drives a lot of people crazy, it seems, since you can Google it and find all sorts of articles explaining how to hard cook eggs the “right” way. The “right” way, if you’re going to hard cook them on the stove without pressure, is simply to wait until they are as old as I am. Then they will shed their shells without a single bit of swearing on your part.
One day, I read something about hard-cooking eggs in a pressure cooker and how that solved the problem. I got out my trusty little precious baby All-American canner, put a trivet in it along with some water, and pressure cooked a few very fresh eggs, and became a believer.
Canners are heavy, though. It’s a pain to get one out just for everyday cooking, even my beautiful baby All-American, so I bought yet another pressure cooker.
Hell, it was about $35. It’s a Presto, like my big canners. It’s light and handy. And it has cooked a boat load of eggs.
I also realized that it does a magnificent job with dried beans.
And pot roast.
And then one day, I got an idea. [It seems that this wasn’t exactly an idea that only occurred to me, since lots of other people got the same idea, but I came up with it independently.]
It takes three minutes, in that pot, to hard cook eggs. One day I realized that it also takes about three minutes to cook cut-up potatoes.
So, I put the potatoes in the pot, along with some water (you have to have water to create steam or you’ll have no pressure), and then I put about five eggs right on top of the potatoes. Three minutes.
It isn’t really three minutes because the cooker has to bring the water to a boil, the steam has to build up to the point that the pressure begins to mount, it has to reach the appropriate pressure, and then the three minutes starts, and then it takes a couple of minutes to bring down the pressure afterwards. It’s actually more like 10 minutes.
But during that time, I chopped up onion and celery, mixed in mayonnaise and some relish and some spices and salt and pepper, in a large bowl.
When the cooker was done, I put the eggs and potatoes in a colander and ran cold water over them, chopped the eggs, tossed it all in the bowl and I had potato salad in less than thirty minutes start to finish.
Call me happy. We like potato salad.
I was a pressure cooking person. I began to use that thing several times a week, sometimes daily.
And then I noticed that people were talking about this.
That’s an Instant Pot. It’s actually my Instant Pot.
To say that I was resistant to the idea of this thing is an understatement. At first I was really skeptical. I’m not terribly fond of having multiple small electrical appliances all over my very small kitchen where counter space is precious.
After all, I have five pressure canners and a pressure cooker. What in the hell do I need with yet another one? Surely I can do anything in my little Presto pressure cooker right on the stove that can be done in that Instant Pot? Right?
For one thing, the Instant Pot (at least my model – I have the DUO60 7-in-1)) has a cycle that makes yogurt.
I have made yogurt for years. After all, we have a cow. If it’s made from milk, I’ve pretty much made it or at least thought about making it.
Making yogurt requires three things (beyond milk). You have to heat the milk to 180 degrees, cool it down to 110 or so before adding the culture, and then incubate it for several hours at that warm temperature.
I made it by heating the milk on the stove using a cheese thermometer, cooling it, stirring in the culture and then putting it in quart mason jars, and incubating it in a small cooler with about three inches of hot water in the bottom. After about three hours, I’d add some more hot water to the cooler and incubate it some more.
It worked fine.
But it was fiddly. I had to mess with it all day long.
The Instant Pot does it all for me in one pot. The only thing I have to do is take out the inner pot, cool the milk, stir in the culture and put it back in the device and set the culture time. It keeps track of the time and temperature for me.
After it’s done, I put the resultant yogurt in a nut bag to drain off some of the whey and it’s the best yogurt I have ever made. Absolutely the best. I suspect it’s because the pot keeps the incubation temperature far more stable than my cooler did.
But beyond that, the Instant Pot makes pressure cooking simple. When I use the pressure cooker on the stove, I have to monitor it. I have to set the heat to high, wait for the pressure to build, set a timer for the required cooking time, reduce the heat so it doesn’t overpressure, and then come get it when it’s done. The Instant Pot does all that for me. Set it and forget it. It not only beeps nicely when it’s done, but then it keeps the food at a safe hot temperature practically forever and monitors how long it has been done.
This means that I can start dinner two hours before dinner time, and just keep it on hold until Dave comes home, or until he comes in from outside, or until I finish whatever I’m doing. It means that I can put frozen food in the pot, set a timer telling the pot how long to cook it and when I want it done and it will do as it is told.
I have cooked chicken and beef and lamb and pork in it. It makes excellent rice and I don’t have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t stick. Furthermore, I can put chicken or beef in the bottom of the pot, add a stainless steel trivet on legs, then put a small stainless steel bowl on the trivet with rice and water in it and cook the whole meal.
I’ve made soup in it. It’s no different than making soup in a pot on the stove except that it’s done in a few minutes instead of a few hours without any help.
And of course, it cooks dried beans and eggs just as well as the little Presto does.
I know the Instant Pot is a bit of a fad right now. That’s another reason I was skeptical and resistant for so long. But sometimes products become wildly popular because they work, and this is one of those times. A lot of people are afraid of pressure cookers, and the Instant Pot takes all the fear away.
I wasn’t one of those fearful folks, but I sure appreciate the time it saves me. Now if they would add a deep fat fryer function. . .
There are more websites and blogs about the Instant Pot than you can imagine, and lots of Facebook groups and Youtube videos.
The best I’ve found are:
Hip Pressure Cooking Ignore the nutritional “information” and just know that the recipes have been tested and the times are pretty accurate.
This Old Gal, which is probably my favorite.
And on Facebook, the Instant Pot group is pretty much the best I’ve found.
And I’m eyeing sous vide. It’s tempting, but I haven’t succumbed yet.