Save Time, Money & Effort with Crockery Cooking
SLOW COOKER SECRETS
by Wendy Louise
Welcome to the world of slow-moist cooking. Like most good ideas, the concept of slow cooking has been around for a long, long time. Tried and true, it has simmered and braised meats to fork tender, root vegetables to perfection and even desserts to savory sweetness.
From the Marmite Pot to the Bean Pot, the Chinese Clay Pot to the Colonial Dutch Oven, succulent meals have been slowly cooked for centuries. -Perhaps the first 'slow cooker' was fashioned from an earthen pit lined with heated rocks, or smoldering embers, piled high with wild game and gathered vegetables wrapped in moistened corn husks or huge banana leaves. Covered over with a mound of earth the food cooked, unattended, while people went about their daily tasks of survival. With the advent of the slow cooker in the 1970's, slow cooking was raised to a "modern art form". Based on ancient concepts (i.e. good food, easily prepared), the slow cooker brought economy, convenience and flexibility to the modern-day kitchen.
But that was 1970 and this is the 21 st Century you say...Well, just think about it for a minute...Wouldn't it be nice to by-pass a stop at the Deli, the Drive-In, the Takeout... and come directly home (your time and budget intact) to a wonderful meal, completed to perfection in your very own kitchen? Just imagine the 'instant gratification' of returning after a long day at work or school, opening the door and taking in those first, comforting aromas of your awaiting meal. With a little advanced planning and prep work in the morning, your family can sit down to an economical and nutritious meal in the evening. And won't you enjoy it more?...knowing 'clean uÏp' is a breeze, when the meal is over! With the mastery of a few basic concepts and a little creativity, you too can enjoy the benefits of crockery cooking.
Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes -from one-quart capacity for singles and small recipes, to six-quart capacities for six persons plus and larger style cooking. To take full advantage of your slow cooker, the recipe should fill the pot at least half-full to three-quarters full for maximum cooking performance. You may find you will want to have more than one slow cooker (perhaps in varying sizes) to enhance your cooking capacity...a small one for that dip you are serving at a party, a large one for that whole chicken, soup or stew and even a medium size for a side dish or dessert.
Most commonly crock pots have two settings: the "Low" setting which cooks at approximately 200 degrees F. and the "High" setting which cooks at approximately 300 degrees F. The Low setting is great for all-day and unattended cooking; allowing for flexibility of timing and 'holding' food (with little worry about drying-out or scorching your meal) -a perfect solution when you are caught in that traffic-commute after work or the boss has had you stay late to meet a day-end-deadline. The High setting is great for Saturday and Sunday meals, when you might want to cut your cooking time in half. Throw in a couple loads of laundry or craft in your scrap book; go to a movie or sit down and watch the football game; play baseball with the kids or go to the gym; take a quick shopping trip to the mall or put your feet up and read a good book. Before you know it your meal is done and you have been far a field from the kitchen! The general rule is 1 hour of crockery-cooking on High is equal to about 2-21/2 hours of crockery-cooking on Low...Or in layman's terms, 1 hour of cooking time (out of the kitchen) spent at the gym is equal to 2-21/2 hours of cooking time spent (out of the kitchen) watching a good movie... 'Sounds good to me!...how about you?
There are a few basic safety rules that should be meticulously followed when using your slow cooker. After cooking and serving your meal, the remaining food should not be stored in or reheated in the slow cooker. Foods that are left to cool to below 185 degrees F for any extended period of time are greatly susceptible to the growth of bacteria. So promptly transfer your leftovers to a container for the fridge and do your reheating in a microwave, on the stove or in the oven. If you are assembling your dish the night before (and storing it in the refrigerator) do not mix-in any raw meats. Add them in the morning just before you start the cooking process. (Any raw marinades should be discarded if not incorporated into the cooking process directly.)
Slow cookers are designed for slow and gentle cooking. To avoid cracking, do not subject your crockery liner to extreme and abrupt changes of heat. If you have assembled your dish the night before and are transferring it from the fridge to the heating coils do not attempt to 'pre-heat' the base unit to speed up the process, so to speak. Put the chilled and filled liner into the base unit and turn it on Low. It will warm up gently and simmer all day. Likewise, when cleaning your slow cooker insert make sure to treat it with the same gentle respect, avoiding abrupt temperature changes. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, as they may scratch the glazed surface of the liner. Spraying your liner with cooking spray before assembling and cooking your dish also makes for quick and easy cleanup. (And, obviously, do not submerge the electrical portion in water.)
It sounds mundane, but don't forget to turn-off and unplug your slow cooker when done! A good 'rule of thumb' is to get in the habit of "turning off and unplugging" before you vremove your finished dish to the table. Many a story has been told about removing the liner and leaving the base unit heating away on the counter!
Mike's Bean, Ham Bone and White Corn Soup
1 (16 ounce) package Great Northern white beans
1 ham bone, with a little meat on
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel white corn, un-drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken stock
Additional water if needed
1 tablespoon dried, crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Season-All® type seasoning
1-3 bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and quartered
2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed or diced tomatoes, pureed Sliced green onions to taste, including tops Cayenne (optional)
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Soak the beans overnight in water to cover. Remove meat from hambone and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes, to about 3 cups. Set aside.
Drain the beans and place in slow cooker, along with the carved hambone. Add corn, chicken stock, additional water if needed to cover, and the seasonings. Cover with lid and cook on high setting for 3-4 hours.
Add the remaining ingredients, except for the reserved ham cubes and the green onions, and mix well. Reduce heat to low setting, cover with lid and continue to cook for about 5 more hours. If you like, during this second-cooking segment you can add cayenne and red pepper flakes to add even more flavor. About 30 minutes from end of cooking time remove bay leaves; mash some of the beans against the side of the liner to thicken the soup slightly; add the reserved ham cubes and the sliced green onions. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Cook's Note: The soup can be served as a complete meal by itself or over rice for an added treat.
Recipe contribution by Michael Gulan, Champion Press Ltd. Publishing Assistant
Glenn's Beef and Beer
2 pounds stew meat
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons salad oil
2 cans beef consommé
1/4 teaspoon each: thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion
1 can beer
1 bay leaf
Dredge meat in flour; brown in oil. Put meat in slow cooker and cover with soup, seasonings and beer. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours
Cook's Note: Serve over rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.
Recipe from the kitchen of Glenn Koopmann
Lucile's Homemade Apple Sauce
Cook's Note: In the fall and winter, this side dish makes a great accompanying garnish for pork roasts and pork chops. Like most old-fashioned recipes, there are no particular measurements used.
Freshly picked apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
Sugar, to taste
Dash of cinnamon, to taste
Water or apple juice, for simmering
Place all in slow cooker. Cover with lid and cook on high setting for approximately 3 hours, or until apples are blended and softened. (You may mash them smooth or leave chunkier as in home-style sauce.) Turn slow cooker to low setting and keep the sauce warm until serving time.
Cook's Note: Serve warm with roast pork and potato pancakes.
Recipe from the kitchen of Lucile Feiereisen
Excerpted from The Complete Crockery Cookbook Wendy Louise. Copyright © 2003 Wendy Louise . All rights reserved. Excerpted by arrangement with Champion Press, LTD. $16. Available in local bookstores or call 877.250.3354 or click here.