There once was a pot called a pressure cooker which had a propensity of putting more food on the ceiling than on the plates. In our family, when Mom got out her infamous pressure cooker, all the kids headed for their bedrooms. Better to study American History than to pick shrapnel and lima bean bullets from various parts of your body – in case “she blew.”
But pressure cookers are no longer the instruments of mass food distribution they once were. Today’s pressure cookers are safe, reliable, easy-to-use and are becoming – once again – a staple in every kitchen.
Not only are pressure cookers fast – a whole chicken is completely cooked in 15 minutes – but they can deliver tenderness to what would otherwise be tough cuts of meat.
The secret of pressure cookers is just that. Pressure. If you paid attention during chemistry class, you would recall that water reaches higher boiling points when under pressure. Without pressure, the highest temperature boiled water will attain is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you put a liquid under pressure, it can reach upwards of 250 degrees. This means you can cook at higher temperatures, which not only speeds up the process, but also aids in breaking down the connective tissue that can make a cut of meat tough.
Pressure cookers are amazingly versatile. They can braise, boil, poach, stew and steam, and almost any foods can be prepared in these handy instruments. Pressure cookers save time, save money on energy and can save on grocery bills by using less expensive cuts of meat. But of utmost importance – pressure cookers can deliver some great dishes.
Squirrels, for example.
Squirrels are among my favorite wild game meats. They have a delightful flavor, but they can be tough. Any squirrel over two years will challenge a set of loose dentures, that’s for sure. But cook the squirrels under pressure and they are melt-in-your-mouth tender. Here’s how.
Squirrels Under Pressure
2 squirrels cut into pieces
1 cup water
Salt & pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup House Autry Seasoning for Chicken
3 tablespoons Crisco
First, you have to shoot a squirrel. Make that two. If you’re going to skin and cook one, you might as soon get a couple. If there are leftovers, they won’t go to waste.
Skin the animals and soak overnight in saltwater to remove any blood. Rinse and pat dry when ready to cook. Cut the squirrel into pieces, the front and rear legs. You can toss out the back or cook it and give it to pets if you have any, but there is very little meat on a squirrel’s back.
Salt and pepper the pieces and put in a pressure cooker with 1 cup of water.
Secure the lid and the steam vent on top and turn to medium heat. When the vent begins jiggling, set the timer at 8 minutes. Keep the heat such that the weight is gently rocking.
After 8 minutes turn the heat off and let the pressure cooker cool while still on the stove. Do not remove the vent or open the lid till the cooker has cooled enough to let all the pressure off.
When cool enough to handle, dip the squirrel pieces in an egg and buttermilk wash, roll them in House Autry Seasoning for Chicken and fry in hot Crisco until golden brown. And don’t forget to make a little gravy to go with this simple and delicious recipe.