Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cooking beets in a pressure cooker - Part 2

What have I learned about cooking beets and other root vegetables in a pressure cooker?

Steam rises from beets, a carrot and a potato cooked in a pressure cooker
For the beginning of this post, see Cooking beets in a pressure cooker - Part 1

First: The lid cannot blow off. 

Second: The way the steam emerges, it bursts out in four directions rather than in one, so the steam is dissipated in a less dangerous and more effective manner that it was in the monster from the deep. 

Third: There is a steam-controlled metal stop that prevents the lid being opened before the pressure inside has reduced to a predetermined safe level.

Fourth: One is advised against cooking chick peas and such legumes in a pressure cooker. However, it can be done safely if certain precautions are taken. There is no danger of blowing up the kitchen.

Fifth: The modern pressure cooker is not the dangerous contraption that the old ones were and (yahoo!) there is no longer a pressure gauge.

This latest addition to my kitchen arsenal is rather larger than it ought to be for the cooking I undertake. It should really be only 3 - 5 quarts in size for my needs. This one holds more like 8 - 10 quarts. In the shop, it didn't look so large but, now that it is home in my postage-stamp-sized kitchen, it looks huge.

Cooking beets and root vegetables in the pressure cooker is safe and easy if the instructions for safe handling are followed.

Following is the process I used to cook beets, a potato and a carrot for later use in making borscht.

1. Wash the vegetables. Place them in the pressure cooker. Add water just sufficient to cover the vegetables. In this case, that was 6 cups of water.

2. Following the user manual, attach the lid and turn it to lock it in position.

3. Place the pressure cooker on the stove and turn the heat element or burner control to 'High.' Leave it on 'High' for 8 - 10 minutes, during which time the water inside will have reached boiling point and steam will have begun to be emitted from the pressure release valve. This is when a steam vent cap is placed upon the pressure release valve. Through this vent cap, steam is emitted in four directions rather than one, as was the case long ago.

4. Reduce the heat to 'Medium' for 6 - 8 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat. Remove the pressure cooker to an unheated element. Leave to sit until the steam-controlled metal stop is heard to drop down with a metallic 'thunk' sound. 

6. Remove the lid. Remove the vegetables to a heat-proof container. Decant the liquid to another heat-proof container. In this case, there were 4¼ cups of liquid remaining in the pressure cooker at the end of cooking.

And that's that. Finished. Caput. Finito.

Lessons learned

The pot was left scarred by the vegetables that were cooked in it.

I'm guessing this is avoidable if a steamer basket is used. In addition, I am not keen on boiled food, preferring it steamed instead. So next time I fire up the pressure cooker, I plan to try using a steamer basket insider.

This is a wee steamer basket found years ago on Spadina (Toronto) in a shop owned and patronized by mainly Chinese customers.

The steamer basket fits perfectly inside the pot.

I will use 4 cups of water in the pressure cooker rather than 6 cups, and the basket should shield the vegetables from the water, yielding steamed rather than boiled vegetables.


Laurel said...

Great instructions, who knew using a pressure cooker was so easy?

June said...

Laurel, it was surprisingly easy. I certainly didn't expect it to be such any easy and fear-free experiment. I would recommend it if for no other reason than the savings afforded by the shortened cooking time. The pressure cooker cost $40. Another retailer sold the same brand last weekend for $30. If I'd only known, I'd have waited for the bargain price. Still, it's mine now and will probably last until I get shoved into the oven