I’ve been cooking in the crockpot a lot lately. As in, I’ve made three things in it this month, which is about as much as I use it in a year. It’s nice to make a big pot o’ stuff and then divvy it up for multiple future meals. Cheaper too, in the long run. Also makes the house smell real good for a while.
The first thing I made was split pea soup. Strangely, it came out rather sweet, even though I used a pound of salt pork. Maybe ’cause I sauteed the onions a while so they got good and caramelized. I actually had to add salt to make it more split pea soup-ey. It turned out well, though, and I still have a couple of servings left.
Next I made a fish and veg soup, so I’d have something nice to eat for Fridays during Lent. It’s a Mom thing. I moved in with her in 2006 and though neither of us had gone to church in ages, she still honored the “no meat on Fridays” during Lent. Honestly, it wasn’t a big inconvenience, since we both cooked, and made some nice alternatives. And it’s said you should eat less red meat and more fish anyway, so it was all good. Now that Mom’s gone, it’s a nice way to remember her.
The soup? Well, it’s really more of a veg soup. I found some catfish and scallops in the freezer, and threw them in just to use them. I used a box of veg broth and a box of seafood broth, and various veggies (potatoes, onions, carrots, celery). A bit of fish sauce too (basically it’s Asian Worcestershire sauce). Various spices. To be honest, it came out rather blah. Sometimes I’m afraid to overseason, and I err too much on the side of caution. But you can always add extra salt later, since it’s much harder to reduce saltiness afterwards. Which I did with this soup, and it did taste much better. With the amount I made, it should definitely last through Lent, and maybe beyond.
Most recently I used the crockpot to make baked beans. Success: so-so. I think the mistake was using a big can of diced tomatoes. I found a recipe that recommended the addition, but it made the results rather watery, even though I cooked it extra long to reduce the liquid. Which concentrated the seasonings to make them taste not as good as I’d like. Not exactly burnt, but the liquid smoke I added probably is stronger because I cooked it so long. It’s still edible, but it’s more baked bean soup. I’ll know for whenever I make them again. Which I think may be in the next few weeks, since I have a yen to make good homemade baked beans for some unknown reason.
Trick that Mom taught me. If you don’t feel like dividing up the contents right away, turn the lid upside-down and put it in the fridge. I guess that depends on the shelf spacing in your fridge, but the crockpot fits nicely on the bottom shelf with the lid inverted. It also helps if the contents are low enough so that none of the lid is immersed in it. Not a big deal if you can’t manage that, but it makes it less messy when you get around to portioning out what’s in it later.
The next crockpot use, though, will be corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. It was something Mom made every year. She passed on March 14 of 2010, and I made it right after. I had bought two briskets the year before because they were on sale, so there was still one on hand. The following year, I just didn’t feel like making it. Maybe because I knew we were going to be laid off the following month. Instead, I went to a local Irish Pub for St. Patrick’s Day. It was OK, but the corned beef was kind of fatty. This year, now that I’m gainfully employed again, and in a cooking mood, I’ll be doing it again. This time, though, I think I’ll be tweaking the recipe a bit and add some beer. I’ve been watching cooking shows where beer is being added in recipes, and thought that it would be a good idea for corned beef and cabbage. I looked around and found some recipes that use it, so I had the right idea. I’m thinking a bottle of Guinness or some other stout would work well, something dark and rich. I’ll tell y’all how it turns out in a couple of weeks, after I’ve tasted the results.
By the way, in my search for recipes, I ran across what may be the ultimate site of it’s kind. It’s a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking, which has 365 crockpot recipes. If you’re thinking of using your crockpot, it’s a great place to start.