Extension Viewpoints: Using a pressure cooker

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    By Terry Schaaf
    PREVIEW Columnist

    Did you get an electric pressure cooker, a multi cooker or an Instant Pot gifted to you this year or even last year and haven’t taken it out of the box yet? Are you unsure of how to use it or a little afraid of the “pressure”? Let me help you begin to use one of my most favorite kitchen gadgets ever. Please read your appliance manual before you begin. Each appliance is a little different, so please remember it is OK to experiment. If something needs to cook longer, you can always pressure it up again.

    If you don’t know me, I am Terry Schaaf and I am a Food Safety Master Advisor for Colorado State University (CSU). I love to cook, but I am a super busy mom, a rancher’s wife and full-time employee, so I often get home from work and need a hot meal on the table in about an hour. However, I’m not a great meal planner, so usually I haven’t thawed out anything. I don’t stress; I just get my electric pressure cooker out. 

    One of my favorite food items to cook in the pressure cooker is pinto beans. Pinto beans without the pressure cooker can take hours or even days to cook here, but in the pressure cooker, they take less than an hour. You want to make sure that you keep fresh beans on hand. These are beans that are less than two years old at most. Their age is determined from when they were harvested. If they are much older than that, they will have dried out too much in our dry climate and may not cook correctly. 

    When using the pressure cooker, it is important to make sure you have enough water to make the steam. Beans take a lot of water to rehydrate and cook. So, put 1 cup of beans to 3 cups of water in your pot. Add salt before you cook. I have found that adding the salt before cooking will require less salt overall. I add a ham hock or bacon at this time, too. Make sure that you are still below the max fill line in your pot. 

    Check to make sure the seal on your lid is on correctly. Place the lid and the weight on at this time and make sure your weight is set to pressure. Set your pot to pressure for 45 minutes. I have found that pots with a bean setting don’t go up to 45 minutes, so I use the manual settings. You are welcome to try the bean setting on your pot first. Like I said before, each pot is different. If they are not done when the timer goes off, you can always pressure them up and cook them a little longer. 

    You will want to keep an eye on the pot to ensure that it seals correctly when it pressures up. After the timer goes off, let the pot do a natural release for at least 10 minutes. Then you can do a quick release; please read your manual on how to do this safely. There will be lots of steam that comes out, so your pot needs to be placed somewhere where the steam won’t damage anything above it, like your cabinets. Don’t put anything over the pot like a towel; this may cause your pot to warp. 

    After the pressure has been removed, it is safe to remove the lid. Always open the lid so the steam is directed away from you. Check your beans to see if they are done; if they aren’t quite done, just cook them a little more. I suggest first rinsing your lid with cool water to ensure that no food particles have made their way under your seal or in the vents. Check to make sure that there is still plenty of water; if not, add more and place the lid and weight back on the pot and set the manual timer for how much more time you think you may need; I suggest 5-10 minutes. This second pressure up will take a lot less time than the first.

    I use my pressure cooker many times each week. I not only cook beans, I make mashed potatoes in less than 10 minutes or cook a frozen roast and have it on the table in less than two hours. I also have discovered how to hard cook eggs so they peel perfectly. Check back next week for how I hard cook eggs in my electric pressure cooker. If you would like more help with your pressure cooker or have questions about high-altitude cooking, please give us a call.

    4-H’ers collecting
    pet supplies

    During the month of February, Colorado Kids and Shady Pine 4-H Club members are teaming up to gather supplies for the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs and Rugby’s Rescue. Drop off new or gently used cat or dog items to Tractor Supply or Chow Down. Items can include but are not limited to: food or water dishes, leashes, toys, beds, old blankets and sheets, kennels, crates, brushes, grooming supplies and cleaning supplies.

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    CPR and first aid classes

    CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office, generally on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at 246-5931 to register.