The Slow Cooker Season
The seasons are a changing, folks. I can feel it — in the morning air, crisp and cool; in the way the sun throws a golden cast over the farm when it sets in a sherbet colored southern sky, but mostly in the way I just want to hunker down and get ready for a long winter.
A few years ago our days were full of a day job, school, sports, sheep and other farm chores. It was a busy time for us but I still wanted to put a heart-warming home-cooked meal on the table when we got home. It was the time of year when I’d reach for my slow cooker. A time when time itself was scarce, but a good meal wasn’t. All I needed was a stocked pantry, a little imagination and a plan. As we went about our busy day a batch of chili, stew, tagine or soup was simmering away, and when we walked through the door the whole house smelled of warm seasonings and fresh food.
To bring slow cooker success into your busy life try these simple tips and in no time you’ll be setting a hearty meal on your table without standing in front of the stove for hours on end.
1. Be budget-friendly: Inexpensive cuts of meat, beans and grains bought in bulk let you use what you need or experiment with a variety of ingredients to find new favorites.
2. Layer: Foods at the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster. Place thicker, denser vegetables and large pieces of meat or those with bones on the bottom.
3. Fill level: A slow cooker should not be filled more than 2/3’s full to ensure food cooks evenly and the liquid doesn’t overflow (remember liquid doesn’t evaporate).
4. Go fat free: Trimming the fat will produce a more flavorful texture and reduce the amount of skimming after cooking.
5. Plan ahead: Keeping portioned containers of chopped vegetables and meats in the freeze are ready to toss in the slow cooker in the morning speeding up the preparation process. When you come home dinner is done!
Slow Cooker Sunday’s
Around our homestead Sunday is the day that takes us outside the kitchen or off the farm, but we still want to end our day with a flavorful meal. The long, slow, hands-off cooking means we can turn cuts of meat like brisket, chuck roast or pork shoulder into a feast. Check out some of our favorites:
- Pulled Pork. Low and slow is the name of the game, and the trick to cooking a pork shoulder into a flavorful sandwich topped with barbecue sauce and served with slaw.
- Beef Stew with Greens. Cook chunks of beef and root vegetables in the slow cooker, then stir in chopped kale or collard greens minutes before it’s ready to serve.
- Pot Roast. Trim chuck roast before slow cooking with parsnips, butternut squash, or potatoes and plenty of onions, carrots and garlic plus tomato paste for rich flavor sauce.
Add these comforting, fuss-free meals to your collection of slow-cooker favorites:
Slow Cooker Pork and Cider Stew
4 onions, thinly sliced
2 pounds pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 apples, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup hard cider or non-alcoholic apple cider
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 can (15 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained
Layer leeks, pork, apples and garlic in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in cider and vinegar. Cover and cook on low until pork is very tender, about 8 hours. Uncover cooker, stir in beans, and cook on high until heated through, about 30 minutes.
Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs
4 pounds short ribs
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon canola oil
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons apricot fruit spread
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely diced peeled fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Trim off and discard any large bits of fat from ribs. Sprinkle ribs with salt. Place in slow-cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, fruit spread, tomato paste, vinegar, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder and 2 tablespoons water. Pour mixture over ribs. Cover and cook on low until ribs are very tender, about 8 hours.
Transfer ribs to a platter. Pour liquid in bottom of slow cooker into a glass measuring cup and let stand until fat rises to the top, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon off fat and pour liquid over ribs or use as a dipping sauce. Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds and serve.
NOW – Ring the Dinner Bell and Come And Get It!!
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