In my last post, I asked you to weigh in with your thoughts about pressure cookers, and oh boy did you! I was gratified to hear that so many of you do use–and love–your pressure cookers (PC from here on out) but was disturbed to hear how many of you are truly afraid of them. I was especially amazed to hear how many people actually own PC’s but are reluctant to use them. As a service to those of you who are scared of using your PC’s, I thought it’d be helpful to take you step by step through pressure cooking a simple recipe.
But before I get to that, there’s the important matter of giving one lucky reader a copy of Jill Nussinow’s DVD, Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes. I asked the random integer generator at Random.org to spit out a number between 1 and 160 and it chose…
…which just so happens to be the number of the comment left by OzPolly, one of those readers who has a PC but just doesn’t use it. Polly, drop me an email with your mailing address, and I’ll let Jill know to put your DVD in the mail. I hope it’ll convince you to “dust off the never used pressure cooker.”
One of the things that the PC is good at making quickly is vegetable broth; you can save up all the scraps and peelings from your vegetables, store them in the refrigerator or freezer, and then in about 15 minutes make your own, basically free, vegetable broth. I like to make a very simple broth that can be made with a head of garlic and just a few other common ingredients and can be used anywhere a chicken-style broth is called for. It’s a light colored broth that may be lightly or heavily flavored with garlic, depending on your taste.
The photos below are of my Kuhn Rikon 7-liter PC, so the way the pressure is indicated will vary depending on the type of PC you use. The basics are the same, though, and most “second generation” cookers will have similar safety mechanisms and some type of pressure indicator.
Garlic Broth Ingredients
1 head of garlic
1 large onion, quartered
1/2 cup fresh parsley, stems included
a few springs fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
4-6 ribs celery, leaves included, cut in 3-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
6 cups water
Optional: 3 teaspoons nutritional yeast and salt to taste
Remove the outer skin on the head of garlic and separate the cloves. Do not peel the cloves.
Place the garlic, onion, parsley, thyme, celery, and sage in the cooker. Add the water.
Fit the gasket inside the rim of your PC. Make sure that it is clean and fits well. Gaskets that have stretched, shrunk, or cracked should be replace by ordering from the manufacturer.
Note the main valve in the center; it regulates the pressure by allowing steam to escape if too much pressure builds up. If it somehow became clogged, the blue-rimmed safety valve next to it would release steam in controlled and safe manner. (I’ve never had that happen.) There are also little cut-outs that you can see along the rim that will allow steam to escape in the event of too much pressure built-up. Again, I’ve never had to see that.
Put the lid on the cooker, lining up the arrow on the lid with the lower handle. Rotate the lid handle until it’s over the bottom handle and will not go any further. The cooker must be tightly sealed or pressure will not build up.
Turn the heat on high. When there is no pressure in my cooker, the valve stem is flush against the top of the cooker. As pressure builds up, the stem rises. When the first red ring appears, the cooker is at medium pressure, 8 pounds per square inch (psi). Keep the heat up until the second red ring appears, indicating that the food is at high pressure, 16 psi. (Follow your PC manufacture’s directions for cooking at high pressure.)
Reduce the heat so that the cooker stays at high pressure for 10 minutes. If you have an ancient ceramic-topped electric stove as I do, you may have to take additional action. I drop the heat to very low and move the cooker so that just 1/3 of it sits on the heating element. My stove is slow to change temperatures, and I know that the cooker will overheat if I wait for the temperature to drop. Once the temp has dropped, I move the cooker back onto the heat, but I stand by to move it again if the pressure rises. (If the pressure goes past 16 psi, the valve stem continues to rise, allowing steam to vent beneath it.) It’s important to be nearby when using the PC so that you can make sure that the cooker is maintaining the correct pressure so that the contents cook correctly.
Once the broth has cooked for 10 minutes at high pressure, remove it from the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. This means waiting about 10 minutes until the valve stem returns to the original position.
Open the cooker carefully, tipping the lid away from you to allow steam to escape away from your face and any liquid to drain back into the pot.
Set a strainer over a deep bowl and pour the broth and vegetables into it. Remove most or all of the garlic cloves (a few may have lost their skins and have broken down; it’s okay to leave them in the strainer.)
Press with the back of a spoon to get all of the broth out of the vegetables. Keep pressing. You should be able to get out almost all of the 6 cups of water that you added because pressure cooking does not cause loss of liquid through evaporation.
If you would like your broth to be heavily flavored with garlic, squeeze 1 or 2 of the remaining garlic cloves out of their skins, mash the garlic, and add it to the broth. Save the remaining cloves. Like roasted garlic, they make an excellent spread for bread or add a great flavor to dishes such as mashed potatoes. They’re just as important as the broth!
To make the broth have an “Unchicken” flavor, add the optional nutritional yeast while the broth is hot and stir well before using. You can also add salt to taste, but I prefer to keep it salt-free and add salt when I use it in a recipe.
The broth will keep about 3 days in the fridge, though it tastes better when used sooner. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.
I hope this little tutorial has helped convince you that with careful handling, a pressure cooker can be a safe, quick, and economical way to cook. For information about your specific cooker, always check the manual or the manufacturer’s website. For information about cooking times and recipes specifically for the PC, I recommend (in addition toJill’s DVD) Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, which has helpful charts that give you pressure cooking times for grains, beans, and most types of vegetables.