The Knitting Journeyman

Gathering Up One Thread At A Time As I Weave This Web Of Mine.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The First Time--Using My Pressure Cooker

            Since it’s Wednesday, I figure, so long as I label everything clearly, I can go in any order I want to go in with these next few posts. 
     This one is about my wonderful new-found skill.  I can make my own boiled peanuts at home.  I grew up in Alabama.  We used to walk to the local little country store and buy a small bag of boiled peanuts.  Sort of like you buy a small bag of roasted peanuts elsewhere.  I have always had this *thing* for boiled peanuts.  Alas, boiled peanuts does seem to be a strictly Southern thing.  We lucked out in MO when we found a local restaurant, Bandanas, serves boiled peanuts as an appetizer.  Usually E will order 2 bowls of boiled peanuts as a meal, sometimes three, and sometimes, sometimes, she will also have a baked potato, on the side, w lots of extra extra extra extra extra sour cream…seriously on the sour cream.

     When I was a kid, I vaguely, and I do mean vaguely, recall my step-mother attempting to make boiled peanuts on the stove at home.  All I know is they didn’t turn out.  I am not real clear on anything else.  I grew up thinking 1 we needed some sort of special brine or salt or something to make them right and 2 it required a pressure cooker.  I never actually took the time or made the effort to do any real research.  I have yet to come across any Southern cookbook, either from a big publishing house or self-published by ye old local church, that has had a recipe for boiled peanuts.  Because in those I did look.  Every time I got my hands on any Southern cookbook.  Any cookbook, actually.  Not being able to find a printed recipe only added to the mystique, to the aura that boiled peanuts were a bear to make at home.

     This week-end, in my search for all things bunny, I found a good solid source for raw peanuts.  Even though I had no clue about what I was going to do w them, I could not pass up a bag of raw peanuts.  I figured for under $10, I could at least experiment.  And w several pounds of peanuts, I could probably screw things up a few times and still have plenty left over.

     So, I go home.  I look up recipes online.  I immediately get ticked.  Do you know what it takes to make boiled peanuts?  Raw peanuts.  Salt.  Water.  And three hours of boiling time.  On your stove top.  Period.  Nothing special.  Nothing amazing.  There are people in my family who have bid on and won canned boiled peanuts on ebay simply to have access to boiled peanuts—because we all thought it was too complicated to make them at home.  So, after dashing off a few emails to pertinent people about the gosh darn ease of making these things, I set about making my own.

     When I found the original recipe, I read through the recipe, and then the comments that were made about said recipe.  One comment told
of using their pressure cooker, for fifteen minutes.  The brain here starting to roll…I have only one other pot that will hold a whole five pounds of raw peanuts—and that is the pot I use to dye things in…not something I want to cook food in…it is all stained and yucky and a bit…unwilling to work w food items, shall we say?  The only other pot in the whole house that could accommodate 5 pounds of peanuts entirely…is my pressure cooker.

     So, a quick gander again at the recipe.  A quick skim of the pressure cooker instruction booklet.  A fast perusal of all the pressure cooker stuff I had previously read…and I was off. 

     I rinsed the peanuts, tried to pick out empty shells, only to find that most of what I thought were empties had nuts on one side but were open on the other.  So I gave up on that pretty quickly.  Dropped all the nuts into the cleaned and washed pressure cooker.  Added a full cup of salt.  Added water to the top of the peanuts.  Set the pot on the heat.  Let it cook, boil.  The pressure regulator started to dance and I set the timer for 15 minutes.

     Now, I am ultra paranoid, after all my pressure cooker research, about the pressure regulator popping off and blowing up and hitting one of the kids or one of the dogs or even going out the window over the sink.  All the regulator does is sit on top the stem.  There is no screwing on, or clicking into place.  It just sits there, unattached and happy.  I read all the precautions.  I watched this silly thing dance.

     I was also seasoning my new cast iron cookware at the same time.  I don’t care if it all came “pre-seasoned”.  I did it anyway.  This is a whole other story.  The neighbor’s dog (a beautiful little blonde German shepherd akita mix) jumped the 8-9 foot privacy fence, again, and we all tried to catch her…while I am talking to a friend on the phone, while listening to the pressure cooker sizzle, while the fumes from the seasoning set off the older smoke detector (there was no smoke, I swear).  To say I was freaky and off my feed is an understatement. 

     Me being me, however, I have to find things out.  The timer went off.  I turned the heat off the pressure cooker.  Then, since there were no glass jars in the cooker to break, and nothing really could get ruined, what, the peanuts would be mushy?  Ok, fine.  I was willing to take that chance.  I covered my hand in a mitt pot holder, grabbed the pressure regulator off, and then covered my ears as the train whistle went off.  I did not even try to get that thing back on.  I simply stepped back.

     Note to self—do not ever do that again.  The pressure regulator stays on, period.  Until the lid comes off.  Always always always.

     It took over five minutes for the train whistle to stop screaming.  That does not mean the steam was not still releasing.  It just means the unbearable noise stopped.  The steam…went on for another 5-10 minutes.  I had fled the kitchen and the noise, and didn’t come back until I had to, until I could start checking to see if all the pressure had released enough to open the lid.  That took awhile.

     The initial inch or so of top peanuts—did not remain in the water.  They floated.  They were not really done.  But when I dipped in and pulled some out from under the water—they were PERFECT.  Me being me, I stirred the peanuts up well, added a half cup more salt, added water to the top of the cooker, not just to the top of the peanuts, and I set everything back up on the stove.  As soon as the pressure regulator started to dance, I turned the heat off.  I did not process everything a second time.  I did not want to overcook the whole batch simply because the ones on top were not done.  I left the peanuts, under that mediocre pressure, for about three hours.  We went shopping.  I am so overjoyed w my huge pressure cooker that I want a smaller every day version to use for meal preparation.  I want to make roast beast, ahem, roast beef in one.  We went to the store, the last remaining rabbit items on the list (a flea comb for working through and removing matts, another little fleece bed—yes, I err on the side of caution where my buns are concerned…) to look for … more canning jars, a smaller pressure cooker…storage items for the bunny food (more on that coming later too).

     Alas, the buns got nothing but their comb—and I think they are lucky they got that. There were no jars or pressure cookers to be seen – and this is the store that had had the small pressure cooker when I went looking for it months ago.  This store is remodeling too—so finding anything was…interesting…to say the least.  Wait til you hear what else we got there…coming in another post…so we don’t dilute this one too much.

     When we got home, the cooker was still hot enough that I wouldn’t set it on the counter without something under it.  It had been sitting in the sink until then…I needed the stove to make dinner after I made the peanuts…and the sink was the only open and not in the way area for a pot that big.  I ran a load of laundry through the washer, tidied up the kitchen, loaded kids and dogs all into the truck.  Then, brought the big pot out.  It was still plenty hot enough then.  I was worried about putting it on the seat, but did it anyway, because that was the only way it was going home to R’s w us.  

     Five pounds of raw peanuts nets you approximately nine and a half quarts of boiled peanuts.  Give or take.  I am not sure if we ate more than a half a quart of peanuts yesterday.  R we have corrupted over the years and he likes them.  E loves them.  N just likes to help cook.  I put the peanuts into the quart jars I was lucky enough to have at R’s from ages ago…we never moved them over to my house after the move.  Which is a good thing, as this is the second time I’ve needed them at his place. 

     The second heating does seem to have taken care of the initial layer of undercooked peanuts.  I have no fear that any that were missed during the whole cooking process, any that may have come out undercooked, will be fine after sitting in the jar of brine w its brothers, waiting til it is time to be eaten. 

     The best compliment I got was from E.  She claims my peanuts are better than the ones at bandanas.  I am flattered.  Not to mention, I agree.  Mine at least taste like what we used to get at the old store back in Troy, AL.  Or, the way I see it, the way boiled peanuts are supposed to taste, consistently.  Don’t get me wrong…I love bandanas, but still…their peanuts do have real consistency issues.

     So, next time we do this, and there will absolutely be a next time, here is the plan:

     Five pounds of raw peanuts-
     A cup to a cup and a half of plain salt-
     Water to fill the pressure cooker-
     Twenty minutes of pressurized cooking.
     No touching the pressure cooker at all until it is time to open the lid.
     Have canning jars on hand and ready to be filled.

And now, to go off and research mailing jars across country.  I have several people already emailing, asking when they get their fair share.  Sheesh.  Maybe we just added a whole new branch to our jerky making facility…boiled peanuts.  I already know there is a market.