Thursday, March 6, 2014

My New Pressure Cooker

While I was growing up my mom used a large Mirro pressure cooker to make dinners for our family of six. I remember being fascinated by the jiggly round piece that danced on top. It was the kind that had separate holes labeled with numbers denoting which pressure was being used; 5, 10 or 15 pounds.
You can buy this as a replacement part for older cookers
The 2 meals I remember coming from the cooker were pork chops and rice. I believe she spread mustard on the chops and browned them first. The other meal was pot roast which would then be served over baked noodles. It is highly probable there were other meals but these are the ones I remember.

I've canned many foods in the past with my 17 quart Presto canner including venison and tomatoes though I have since used a water bath canner for the tomatoes. I received it as a gift from my mother-in-law back when we lived in Virginia, but I never owned a smaller pressure cooker to be used only for meals till this week.

For years I'd been telling Hal I should probably buy one but had been putting it off because I really wondered how much use it would get. Then a couple weeks ago I made chili using dry beans. I'd done it in the past, soaking beans over night, boiling for a few minutes, rinsing, etc., but this time the beans just did not want to get soft.

Now maybe the problem was caused by using my new crockpot which doesn't seem to get as hot as my older ones, but it was still frustrating as I had to pour the beans into a pot on the stove, boil them and then return them to the crockpot. Or the beans may have been older than I thought since I've mainly been making chili with store bought canned beans. Whatever the reason I figured there must be an easier way because I'd like to use dried beans more often. They are more economical and there aren't those cans to dispose of. So of course I searched on line and discovered that I could use a pressure cooker.

So next I had to decide what size, 6 or 8 quart and aluminum or stainless steel. Though being much less expensive I decided against aluminum simply because acidic foods like tomatoes will stain the interior. Plus there are those who say the aluminum will oxidize and leach into the food. I don't know how scientifically accurate that is, but why not just avoid the possibility all together? As for size, I was leaning toward the 8 quart because I read that beans foam a lot and could plug the vent hole in a smaller pot that could lead to all sorts of problems, primarily over-pressure and the disastrous consequences. But the one I had my eye on at Amazon suddenly jumped in price $16 and that bugged me. I was not going to pay more for something that could drop in price again tomorrow. But I didn't want to wait (it has since dropped $6, but still!)

Plus, do I really need to have 4 quarts of cooked beans to make a pot of chili for 2 people? (pressure cooking beans means filling the pan only half full, but 4 quarts of dried beans would be a lot of beans when cooked.) So I went with the 6 quart and I went with Presto because they've been around for decades, parts are sold everywhere and they are still cheaper than most other brands. Turns out that very same cooker had been on my Amazon wish list since August of 2009 and it had dropped $5 since then.
My cooker arrived this week in a huge box that felt empty but inside there was my cooker which weighed a lot less than I expected for being made of stainless steel. Heck, my stainless steel pots and pans seem to weigh more. The box was square which means the handles could not have been attached and sure enough, it was up to me to put it all together.
All together now
Note the weight on top is not the interesting round one but one that is designed for 15 pounds of pressure. Fancier pricier ones apparently have 2 pressure options, the other being around 8 pounds and used for more delicate foods (I assume). The 15 is for foods like meat and beans.
 After a thorough washing and drying to remove the manufacturing oils (particularly on the rubber gasket)I was ready to cook. But let me put that in my next post.

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