When Being Under Pressure is a Good Thing!

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The Foodie:

As a kid, I remember watching my mother make pies on Saturday or a roast on the rotisserie on Sunday. For me food has always been more than sitting at the table and eating. In our house it was also about the process of preparation, the love that went into the table, knowing that we eat with our eyes first.

When I would come home from school and walk up the driveway I would always try to guess the meal based on any smell that would make it outside. On days when I could not (and on days when I would want to take a guess) I would always ask, “Ma, what’s for dinner?”

There was weekend food and there was weekday food. You didn’t get lasagna on Tuesday nor would you get breakfast for dinner on Sunday. Sunday was for that roast or for sauce and macaroni. By the way, when did this whole “pasta” thing start? It’s not pasta and cheese, is it?

Oh yeah, and on Saturday we ate soup and sandwiches made with cold cuts (always pronounced colecuts when I was a kid … or at least that’s how it sounded to me). I loved that. My mother would make soup (always homemade) and lay the meat out on a dish. The bread was passed and we made our own sandwich (pronounced sangwich by one of my grandmothers).

She would often make soup in a pressure cooker. That thing was big; it was loud and quite frankly, it was really scary. For all of the time I would sit by and watch my mother in the kitchen, when that pot came out I would think of something else to do. If I could go outside and play, all the better.

Last month, during my canning adventure (I did “put-up” 12 quarts of San Marzano tomatoes, thank you very much) I drove to Batavia to buy a 16 quart pressure canner/cooker. Holy cow, is that thing big! I can barely wash it in my sink.

The whole concept of the pot had me curious. The first time I used it I must have read the directions 10 times before even setting it on my stove. I had flashbacks of that clanging and the thought that the kitchen might explode at any minute and I was not going to bomb my house while trying to can a tomato.

It was loud but not so that you could not have a conversation. I used it again and started to understand the purpose of each part of it. I decided I was going to try my hand at making soup and saved the task for Columbus Day.

It took longer to clean and chop the vegetables than it did to cook the soup. The recipe gave proportions but the only advice you need is to not fill the pot more than half full. That is because in order for the contents to cook properly under pressure there has to be a certain amount of head room in the pot.

So I washed and I chopped and I dumped potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, green beans (frozen) and tomatoes into the pot with about four pounds of beef short ribs. The only seasoning was coarse salt. That’s it. No pepper, no garlic, nothing except salt.

I must admit, I was skeptical. That’s it? No braising, no sautéing, no organic low sodium stock to add to the pot? Just vegetables, meat, salt and water go into the pot which is brought up to 15 pounds pressure for 20 minutes.

Seriously, that’s it.

Yes, it was kind of loud but the pot did not clang like I remember my mother’s did when I was a kid. It did take a little while to get the pot up to 15 pounds pressure but the actual pressure cooking time was not very long. The soup was finally done when the pressure goes down to zero on its own. That took a little while but what I did not count on was the smell in my kitchen.

It smelled wonderful. I wanted to leave and come back in just to smell it. And, best of all, it was the best beef vegetable soup I ever made.

Do you use a pressure cooker? What is your favorite recipe? Share with me and I will share with all of our BelowTheFalls friends.

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