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Real food in a slow cooker

My slow cooker has become one the most useful tools in my kitchen for producing real food that is also tasty and cheap.  I use the slow cooker most often for four different dishes:


Making Stock
I used to think making stock was too hard.  And when I read Nourishing Traditions it sounded ever more difficult because the recommendation was to cook the stock for 12-24 hours, rather than just 2-3 hours I had read before.  I couldn't figure out how to make stock for that long.  Then I saw on a blog somewhere that I could use my slow cooker (sorry I can't link back, I forget where now, but this is another good example).  I felt so stupid that I didn't think of this myself!!  It is so easy and you don't have to worry about burning the house down.  I keep bones and vege scraps in a bag in the freezer and when I start to run low on stock (or if we cook a roast chicken), I'll load up the slow cooker with everything from the freezer, add a carrot, onion, anything excess from the garden, lots of herbs, pepper corns and some apple cider vinegar to release all the minerals.  Fill up the slow cooker with water and leave for up to 24 hours.  Then I just strain out the liquid into a large pot or container and let it cool in the fridge and then into smaller containers (usually old butter containers) and into the freezer.


Casserole
We originally bought the slow cooker after we had a steer killed and the meat was rather tough.  The slow cooker is very useful for cooking cheaper cuts of meat until they are tender.  I use it to cook cuts like round, chuck, even rump and y-bone.  I also cook any of the older hens or roosters when we cull them.  The young ones are nice as roast meat, but the older ones are better as casserole.  My basic recipe is to brown the meat in a separate pan and put the cooked meat in the slow cooker.  Then I will fry onions and garlic and maybe sliced carrot, celery, or any other vege that we have in excess.  When they are wilted, I add stock and wine, bring to the boil and tip that into the slow cooker.  Then I add a few herbs, usually thyme, oregano and rosemary.  That will cook for 6-8 hours and be lovely and tender.  Before serving, I stir in some flour mixed in water to thicken the sauce, and any green leafy veges and some chopped parsley.  This is a good way to use up leftovers and scraps of veges as well as cheaper cuts of meat.  I will usually start a casserole in the morning before work (sometimes chop things up the night before, so its just a matter of throwing it all in the pan and then into the slow cooker), and its ready for dinner when we get home.

If you need a proper recipe, there's a good one here.


Summer Pot Roast
In summer, when its 30degC in the house, turning on the oven is not an attractive idea, so I tend to cook a roast in the slow cooker or the Webber BBQ.  The slow cooker is great for "pot roasts", especially rolled rib roast, but any cut of roast can be cooked like this.  I just use pretty much the same method as for the casserole, except I fish out the roast before thickening the sauce.

I didn't have a photo of soup, so here's "rendering fat" instead!

Soup
I like to make soup, but I don't like to be stuck at home minding it while it cooks.  If I make the soup in the slow cooker, I know it won't stick to the bottom, and I can leave the house without worrying about leaving the soup on the gas burner.  The soup generally doesn't need as long to cook as the casserole or roast, so I don't leave it while we're at work, but I do leave it for a few hours while doing other chores.

Do you use a slow cooker?  Any tips?

Comments

  1. Love our slow cooker, especially in winter. Can plug it into the timer and when I get home from work our dinner is waiting for us.
    Also used it recently to cook beef cheeks... so fantastic for utilising those cuts that need the time (and you don't have to keep an eye on it)

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  2. Hi Liz. It looks like a great tool for the kitchen. Do you know how much electricity it uses? I would love to know before I start looking for one.

    Gav x

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    Replies
    1. Good question Gav. Slow cookers are typically 180-250W, so depending how long you cook for, they could use similar to an oven or a stove element. See more here . It really depends if you've got the oven on anyway, and whether you would normally use the oven or an element. Personally I would be cooking the cheap cuts of meat for a long time, whether in the slow cooker or element or oven, so even though the oven does cycle due to the thermostat, it still uses just as much if you run it for the same hours. Also we usually cook up a huge batch in one go and eat it through the week, so then we don't need to use as much energy cooking dinner on subsequent nights. I didn't notice a huge increase on our energy meter, so I think it is minimal. I will take more notice next time and let you know!

      Delete
  3. I love my slow cooker. Great for lentils and beans and pulled pork. And so nice to come home to after a day at work or out in the mountains. Thanks Liz for sharing your tips.

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  4. I may be drooling a little over your rendering fat photos. I have just found your blog today and would like to invite you to join the Garden Share Collective, its a group of bloggers showing their vegetable patches once a month. Its a support network for us to keep motivated in growing clean food. http://www.strayedtable.com/grow/garden-share/. I would love to have another Queenslander on board who doesn't live in the city.

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  5. I love my slow cooker... maybe too much! haha. I typically use it 2-3 times a week (when it's really hot, more). During apple season, I'll have all 3 of mine going with apple butter/sauce at the same time for quite a few days.

    Today it will have BBQ chicken and vegetables in it and when I come home from my oldest son's day long pediatric chiropractor appt. then evening choring, supper will be ready. Can't beat that for not being home all day.

    I recently saw a cookbook advertised for making freezer meals to go into the crockpot. I keep checking to see if the library has it because it is definitely up my alley (love to freezer cook too). Until then, I look at a recipe and think about how to triple it, freeze, and then crockpot it.

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  6. Wow, great to see that everyone is using their slow cookers!!

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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