In 1948 when my Mother got married, women automatically stopped working, and her employer, Good Housekeeping Magazine, gave her a pressure cooker as a leaving present. At that time, pressure cookers were a new appliance and my Mother relished the opportunity to get to grips with one. It transformed the way she cooked family meals and she made blackberry and apple jam with it.
One of my childhood memories was being alarmed by the noise the pressure cooker made as it came up to pressure. Today, pressure cookers are very different, and I have a Tower cooker I use on a gas hob and an electric Instant Pot which is very easy to use and control. Both of these have become my go to pieces of equipment for softening fruit before finishing them into jams, jellies and marmalades.
Pressure cookers save time, energy and produce true fruit flavoured sweet preserves. During the next twelve months, I’ll be posting recipes for marmalades, jams and jellies using a pressure cooker. By the end of the year, my intention is for the readers of my recipes to be inspired to start preserving with a pressure cooker.
What is Pressure Cooking?
Ingredients are enclosed in a cooking pot, sealed with a gasket under a tight fitting lid. As the pot heats up, steam is trapped inside and raises the temperature above boiling point to around 122C. The cooking time is shorter than conventional cooking. Modern pressure cookers are safe and my electric one allows me to switch it on and walk away from it while it responds to a timed “steaming” function with high pressure. Once the cooking cycle is complete, the cooker switches automatically to a “keep warm” setting for up to eight hours. This means I don’t have to be around it to wait for the cooking to finish. With my Tower cooker, I turn the gas up to its highest setting, wait for the indicator on the top of the lid to come up, then I turn the heat down to the lowest setting and set my timer for either 20 minutes( marmalade) or 4-8minutes ( jam and jellies ).
Which preserves are worth pressure cooking?
Marmalades can be time consuming if made exclusively in a preserving pan. Once the fruit has been prepared and left for an overnight soak, the initial cooking stage can take around two hours, to soften the fruit and extract the pectin.
For Marmalade my pressure cookers take around twenty minutes to come up to pressure, twenty minutes to cook and twenty minutes to cool down before opening the pan safely and saving an hour. The cooked mixture is then transferred to a preserving pan, the contents of the muslin bag squeezed for the liquid pectin to go back into the pan, the sugar is added and the mixture is boiled to a set.
Pressure cookers soften the fruit and extract the pectin of Jams and Jellies. Most need no more than 4-5 minutes cooking. For jams, the cooked fruit is transferred to a preserving pan, the sugar is added and the mixture is boiled to a set. For jellies, the cook fruit is mashed then poured through a jelly suspended over a bowl, the liquid is measured, to calculate the weight of sugar for the jelly. The juice is transferred to a preserving pan, the sugar is added and the mixture is boiled to a set.
Pressure cookers are the unsung heroes of preserving. Whenever I give a talk about marmalade, I always ask the audience if any of them use a pressure cooker to make marmalade or any other preserve. I have yet to find anyone who does, so the aim of the series of posts will be to inspire readers to start to love pressure cookers as much as I do.