When I think of a pressure cooker, my memory goes to visions of my mother cooking green beans just picked from the garden, and the sound of the familiar rattle and hiss of steam generated from a shiny pot that seemed to be on the verge of explosion. The sounds of the rat-a-tat-tat and the hiss of steam were constant for a period of time. Then mom announced that supper was almost ready. In no time at all, my family was at the dinner table enjoying delicious food.
So how does a pressure cooker work? As cooks, we can sauté, brown, boil, etc., but a pressure cooker is a closed box. No tasting, watching, or adjusting. This is a sealed pot with a valve that controls the steam pressure inside. The liquid inside forms steam as the pot heats up, which raises the pressure inside. This high pressure has two major effects. First it raises the boiling point of the water in the pot. The boiling point is 212 degrees F, and that’s the limit. With pressure, the boiling point can reach up to 250 degrees F, enabling the food to cook much faster. Second, as the pressure increases, the liquid is forced into the food, making the contents more moist and tender creating complex flavors and textures. It is important to remember that this pot is under pressure, and releasing the pressure is gradual. Do not try to open the top if under pressure as it can cause harm.
There are virtually no limits to what can be cooked in a pressure cooker. Rice will cook in just a few minutes while beans and chickpeas is just under an hour. Mostly it’s used to cook beans, stews, and vegetables. A recipe book is included with a pressure cooker to help with cooking times of foods. Today there are electric pressure cookers that seem “safer” than the traditional stove top models. For a working family, a pressure cooker can save time in the kitchen when everyone is hungry. It provides a means to prepare nutritious, whole foods that our bodies need.
Consider the pressure cooker. It’s highly efficient and uses far less energy that many other appliances. Many web sites contain recipes and information about using a pressure cooker for meals. Really, it should be called a fast cooker.
Cream of Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup
- 4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
- 1 sprig of Sage
- 1 large Onion, roughly chopped
- ½" (2 cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon, nutmeg
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup of toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish
- In the pressure cooker, with the top off, over medium heat soften onions with the sage, salt and pepper.
- When the onions are soft, scoot onions aside and tumble in enough squash cubes to cover the base of the pressure cooker, let brown for about 10 minutes stirring infrequently.
- Add the rest of the squash along with the ginger, nutmeg, and stock.
- Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker.
- Electric pressure cookers: Cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
- Stovetop pressure cookers: Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker indicates it has reached high pressure, lower to the heat to maintain it and begin counting 10 minutes pressure cooking time.
- When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure.
- Fish out the woody sage stem and discard.
- With a stick immersion blender puree' the contents of the pressure cooker and serve!
- Garnish with salty, toasted pumpkin seeds.
Health-bite: When under pressure, food cooks faster
Recipe Source: hippressurecooking.com