Thursday, 10 January 2013

a steamy love affair

A now welcome fixture on our stove
Five years ago, my parents-in-law bought us a pressure cooker for our boat. We had heard great things about pressure cookers. Their practicality on a sailboat seemed undeniable: The speed at which dried beans could be cooked and stews concocted while using very little propane was a great feature. We stowed it aboard with grand ideas. And then, we forgot all about it. Sort of.

Our pressure cooker lurked, unused, in the bottom of our locker for years. I would pretend not to see it when I’d dig out a nice, safe piece of conventional cookware like my frying pan. It would loom nearby, quietly taunting me; I would feel my heart race a little at the thought of using it. How temperamental would it be, if I finally set it down on my stove to use it? Would it avenge its years of neglect by exploding in my face? I admit it, I was a little afraid of it.

Once, nearly a year ago, a cruising friend tried to get us together, the pressure cooker and I. It felt like an awkward, chaperoned first date. Stephanie, gentle and reassuring, tried to make us comfortable with each other as we cooked a lentil curry. But I can’t say I called on my pressure cooker anytime soon after that. And I felt guilty. It wasn’t the pressure cooker’s fault…

That is until a month ago. It began with a guide: Pressure Cookers for Dummies. I have our friend John to thank for that. (I’m not sure what he was trying to say… Then again, I felt pretty dumb about the whole thing, so it wasn’t an inappropriate choice.)  The book was glanced at and then set aside. On New Year’s Eve, John had us over for soup and rum. We loved the spicy soup, and he described how easy it had been to make, using a pressure cooker, of course. (I think it was all part of a plot.) That evening, I repeatedly said we should really use ours.

Finally, John announced he was coming over for a pressure cooked meal the next day. I knew there was no getting around it. So I rallied, and even though I got a little nervous when steam screamed out of the pot before it reached pressure – I was alone after all – I stuck it out. I waited, obsessively reading the instructions over and over while peering at the pot from a distance. I waited, but not for long.

The guys could smell the beef stew I’d made all the way from John’s boat. They’d wisely chosen to steer clear of my first solo date with the pressure cooker. Soon, they were drawn over, with a fresh loaf of bread in tow. We’d made it through, the pressure cooker and I – a delicious stew was the result. That's when I knew I was smitten.

I guess the pressure cooker forgave me. It has delivered many stews and soups that we’ve enjoyed since that evening. I ask myself: Why did I wait so long to take the leap? It was right in front of me for 5 years. We suffered through conventional cooking in the heat of a summer in the Sea, when we could have had quick and easy meals ready in minutes… Like my mother-in-law would say: It’s always 20/20 in hindsight. Yup, I'm head-over-heals for my pressure cooker, and with reason.

As a cruiser, I am now a strong advocate for the use of a pressure cooker aboard. Here’s why:
  • It saves time. A pressure cooker cooks food quickly, therefore retaining more nutrients
  • It’s economical: You can make great meals using cheap dry beans, tougher cuts of meat, etc
  • It uses less propane
  • You can use it for all kinds of recipes: Breads, cakes, stews, chicken, seafood, etc
  • It creates less heat in the galley, (a bonus in the tropics!)
  • It uses less water
  • It’s safer for preparing meals underweigh – the lid locks, no chance of spilling hot or boiling liquids on yourself while cooking
  • You can use it for canning (I only have done that once, but I know other boaters who preserve fish that way.)
  • On passages, you can keep it on the stove, bring it to pressure at meal time, and let it sit there the rest of the time – even if there’s meat in the recipe, it's safe to eat once it's brought back to pressure.
I have great plans for my pressure cooker and I. This is the beginning of a wonderful relationship. And if you’re a cruiser, I really think you should consider getting one, no pressure though.


  1. OMG! I so can relate! We have a pressure cooker onboard as well and I try to avoid its gaze. We used it for canning back when we had a big house but only did so under the supervision of a profesional canner. Maybe I should give it a closer look...

  2. YES, ditto ditto ditto! I thought Pressure Cookers were for grandmothers... but after a couple months of having one I would *never* look back! My favs are soups (who doesn't like a complete meal in 5 minutes??) and desserts (because Creme Brulee or Chocolate Cheesecake from a pressure cooker are pretty darn good crowd-impress-ers ;)
    A great recipe website is hippressurecooking(dot)com
    Leah (s/v Brio)

    1. Did you say crème brûlée?? Is it on that website? That has to be my all time favourite dessert... :) Thanks for the link - will definitely check it out.

  3. Hooray! When will we sample your stews and soups?

    1. As soon as you join us in the anchorage! ;)

  4. I LOVE my pressure cooker! Lulu got me a 6 qt. stainless steel Presto for my birthday back when we still lived on land. I always use it when making beans, which I actually do quite a bit. But it's really good at making tough meat (so ubiquitous in Mexico) tender enough to eat. I have a pot roast recipe that is GREAT (I didn't invent the recipe so I guess I can brag on it w/o seeming too full o' myself). I can e-mail you a copy if you're interested. Totally agree about the hippressurecooking website. They even have a sort of tutorial on pressure cooking teaching lots of methods which you get to eat when you're done. You like a spicy stew? Go to my blog and search for "caldo de res". I think I posted the recipe twice, that's how much we like it. Again, it's someone else's recipe so I feel free to brag it up. Anyway, glad you got over your trepidation and have joined the ranks.

    sssst-ssssst-ssssst-ssssst (only about 3 minutes to go now that we're up to pressure).


    1. Hey Steve,please, send that recipe, and I'll look up your spicy stew - it sounds great!(Having checked out your blog, I know you guys are true foodies.) I have been browsing hippressurecooking - it's a good site - got some answers to my newbie questions there. Cheers, and happy cooking!

    2. The pot roast recipe is on its way. Rest assured that no pot was harmed during the execution of this recipe. ¡Buen provecho!

  5. Haha, gracias Steve! It looks delicious!

  6. Yes!
    Loved this post- maybe we can swap some recipes when I see you next! Good luck with your prep and we'll see ya out there!
    Suki from sv Pura Vida...



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