I’ve known about, and occasionally used, a variety of retained heat cooking methods for 10-12 years now, but only recently acquired the tools and knowledge to take complete advantage of this wonderful money saving nutrition improving cooking method.
Today might be a typical example.
I spent less than 30 minutes in the kitchen – prep time as well as cooking but we enjoyed hot, whole grain cereal (3 whole grains in fact – wheat berries, quinoa, and buckwheat groats) with fruit for breakfast, a hot lunch of leftover beef stew from last night, and a hot dinner of made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup with vegetables plus freshly baked sweet potatoes, with plenty of cereal and soup left over for use tomorrow.
If you have ever cooked whole wheat berries before, you know they take 45-60 minutes to cook (60 minutes at my altitude), by conventional methods. That’s a whole lot of fuel being used in addition to lots of time standing over the stove making sure your wheat berries don’t accidentally scorch.
Enter a good quality retained heat cooking method. In the past, I’ve used a vacuum thermos to cook small quantities of wheat berries overnight. It works well enough – for relatively small quantities, as in 2 or maybe 3 servings.
Using the new system I acquired a couple of months ago, I now spend less than 5 minutes cooking the wheat berries, as with the vacuum thermos, but I can fix enough for easily 6-8 large servings, maybe more. All I have to do is measure the whole grains, water, and seasonings (dried fruit can also be added, like I did this morning) into the pan and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Yes, that’s correct, 2 minutes. Not 45-60 minutes, just 2 minutes. The boiling pot of grains and water is then placed in the insulated container, covered, sealed, and allowed to cook using the retained heat. No scorching is possible. (For me, that’s a HUGE bonus!)
An hour (or up to 8 hours) later, the grains and fruit are perfectly cooked, hot, and ready to eat. Other than highly processed, expensive cereals, what could be easier?
After pulling out the pan of cereal, I can then put all of the dinner fixings in another pan, boil it for a few minutes (exact time depends on what I’m fixing), put it into the retained heat cooker, cover, and ignore until dinner time. The soup I fixed for this evening’s dinner took me roughly 5 minutes to chop the vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, and cabbage) to be dropped into the pot of boiling water with the chicken already in it. The chicken had 5 minutes to boil already while I was chopping the vegetables. I brought it back to a boil and boiled it for another 10 minutes, then put the pot of boiling soup into the retained heat cooker. While the soup was boiling for 10 minutes, I prepped the sweet potatoes so they were ready to pop into the oven an hour before dinner because my sweetheart hasn’t yet been brave enough to let me try cooking them in the retained heat cooker. Total time prepping and heating, just under 20 minutes.
The house smelled wonderful all day from that short cooking time, but I didn’t have to keep watching the pot and adding water as it simmered away all day. Love the savings of my time, fuel for cooking ($), and nutrients retained in the food.
Over the years, I’ve used the vacuum thermos retained cooking, also several varieties of haybox/wonderbox cookers. None have worked nearly as well as this new system. The one I have now is a foam insulated cooker with stainless steel pots – no aluminum.
I first heard about this particular brand a couple of years ago, but dismissed it as probably not being much better than what I’ve used in the past. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
This past summer, I had the opportunity to see this system in use at a camping event, and sample some of the food cooked in it. The lady doing the cooking has long been known to me as an excellent cook, so I wasn’t surprised by how good the food was. What did surprise me was the amount and varieties of foods she was able to cook all at once. I have nowhere near her proficiency yet with this system!
She was teaching classes on retained heat cooking and made enough food for everyone in the class to have a small serving (about 12-15 people on average) of each of the several foods she prepared in the same cooker. I was amazed! This was completely different from my experiences with this type of cooker.
As I spoke with her later, I learned that she had seen this system at a preparedness fair, but figured she could save money by going to Amazon. Sure enough. She found a copycat system on Amazon for a fraction of the price, bought it, and found it to be a complete fail. It did not hold the heat for more than a couple of hours – in the summer. She said to me, “You get what you pay for!”
I decided to learn from her experience and not risk wasting my money on a cheap version, so I now own and love my Saratoga Jack’s retained heat cookers. I’m on a journey of learning to cook with them as well as my friend Linda, who manages to do not only the kinds of things I’ve talked about, but cooks desserts and breads along with main dishes in her Saratoga Jack’s cookers.
One of these days Linda… one of these days, I’ll catch up with you.
Of course, by then, you’ll be way ahead of me in something new!
Friends can be amazing sources of new information and inspiration!!!!
See them here: http://saratogajacks.com/
And no, I do NOT receive any kind of compensation for this recommendation.