8 New Uses for Your Slow Cooker
Through family expansion and moves, I have collected 3 slow cookers in assorted sizes. What is even more shocking is that, occasionally, they are all in use! They are not just for stew and chili. Here are just a few additional uses. (I have personally tried them all except for those I’ve starred.)
Yogurt. We eat tons of yogurt at our house and this really helps keep the costs down. You will need to start out with milk and a plain, live culture yogurt (I recommend Crystal). I use about 1 cup of yogurt per 1 gallon of milk—scale accordingly. Pour your milk into your cooker and turn it to high. Bring the milk to 180F and turn off the heat. When the temperature drops to 115F, stir in the yogurt thoroughly and then thickly wrap the cooker in three or more large bath towels and let sit overnight. In the morning, it should be well-set and smell and taste like yogurt. Set some aside to start your next batch and refrigerate. (For additional instructions and troubleshooting, click here. )
Pudding/custard. My kids’ eyes light up every time I bring out the big cooker because of this one. Dump all your ingredients into the cooker and mix until there are no lumps. An immersion blender is perfect for this, but a handmixer works ok if you don’t run into the sides and a whisk will do in a pinch. Turn the cooker on high and come back and mix it smooth again about every hour. One of these hours (4-6) you will come back and it will be getting thick—around 190F or so with my recipe. Turn it off when it reaches your desired consistency, stir in post-cook ingredients (vanilla, coconut, bananas, etc) and if you don’t want a skin to form, place saran wrap or waxed paper on the surface while it’s cooling.
Beans. Beans used to be cheap food, but at $1.29/can… my family can go through eight cans of beans in a sitting! Return beans to cheap food status by cooking from dry. One pound of dry beans ($1/lb or less if you buy bulk) will cook up to 5-6 cups of beans ready for your favorite recipe and they are EASY. The morning before you want to use them, rinse, pick through and set to soak. That evening, change the water (completely cover plus at least 1” and do not add anything salty or acidic yet) and start them cooking on low. Cook overnight and check in the morning. They will be done or nearly so!
Potatoes. Scrub and pierce potatoes. Rub with olive oil or butter and salt if desired. Wrap in foil if you wish—it is not necessary. Pour ½ cup water into slow cooker and add potatoes. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6, until soft.
Frozen Roasts. I love this one. Unwrap your 3-4 lb frozen roast and place it in your cooker with 1 cup warm water. Cook on low 8-10 hours or 5-6 hours on high, until meat is tender and a safe internal temperature is reached. I have done this with a much larger piece of meat (a ham) and it was great, it just took a little longer. For instructions on browning and a recipe, see: http://www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-cook-a-frozen-roast-without-thawing/
Fruit butters. Great for bumper crops and low- no-sugar fruit preserves. 1)Wash, core/pit and trim fruit. 2)Puree. Hard fruits will need precooking (such as apples—I just use applesauce), but soft fruits can simply be run through a food strainer, food processor or high-powered blender. I typically don’t even peel. 3)Pour into slow cooker and cook until reduced by half. Leave the lid off so the liquid will evaporate. A splatter guard will help keep insects and toddlers out. 4)Taste and season. Good fruit will give you good butter that won’t need much, maybe a dash of salt and some vanilla. Tart plums are great with a little bit of sugar or honey, some allspice and cinnamon. I’ve made apple, pear, plum, peach, apricot, cherry, grape and pumpkin butters this way.
Corn on the cob.* Shuck the corn, wrap in foil, cover and cook on high for 2 hours. From: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/05/crockpot-corn-on-cob-recipe.html
Bread.* I keep meaning to try this one, but this was not the month… Directions on this vary a bit, but generally it seems like you’ll want to put the bread in after the first rise. Place a free-form loaf or boule on a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the cooker or place in a greased loaf pan inside the cooker and cook on high for 45 minutes to one hour. I like to cook my bread to 195F internal temperature. The bottom crust will have browned in the cooker. The top crust can be browned by putting it under your oven broiler for about 5 minutes. Further directions, recipes and a link to a gluten-free slow cooker loaf at: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2012/05/29/crock-pot-bread-baking-fast-bread-in-a-slow-cooker