It’s the age-old kitchen appliance that won’t go away. The slow cooker may often get relegated to your basement junk room or the far reaches of a dusty kitchen cupboard, but every few years cookbook authors decree it’s time to take another look at a somewhat underused device. I have been slow cooking for the past week or so and presented my results on this week’s edition of Food Matters.
The slow cooker actually hit North American kitchens in 1971. That was the year a company called Rival bought out another company called the Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago. It had been making a device called the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker. Not a very sexy name. Rival redesigned that device and launched it with a new name, The Crockpot, and that’s what many people still say when they are referring to anything that is a slow cooker. The basic idea of any slow cooker, of course, is to cook a quantity of food in a ceramic container over low, slow electric heat for hours until it is done.
I got my slow cooker (the Breville pictured at the top of this column) the last time slow cookers were ‘in’ again, which was about six years ago. And sure enough I used it for a while then, and then away it went into the pantry because I just wasn’t using it. But a couple of reasons made me get it out again and kind of ‘install’ it on the side bench of my kitchen….one thing was this miserable weather! With a slow cooker you can put something in the cooker in the morning, and then return home when it is dark and rainy and not have to cook dinner, instead you are met with the wonderful aroma of whatever you’ve had on the go for the last eight hours and maybe all you have to do is make a salad and dinner is ready.
The other reason was that I met two of the wonderful Best of Bridge Ladies from Alberta. These women, who had been playing bridge together for ten years, got together for a getaway one weekend in 1975. This is where the decided that since food had always been a highlight of their card-playing nights they should put together a cookbook, and they’ve been publishing ever since then. The latest cookbook is called, simply enough, The Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook. It’s a topic made for the Bridge Ladies, but they hadn’t they done one up until now because they were actually starting to wind down the business. Three women of the original group have passed away, and the others were kind of losing the energy to do all the recipe testing and development needed for a new book. But their fans kicked up such a fuss they got Robert Rose Publishing to pick up the reprint rights, and then they invited professional chef and food stylist Sally Vaughan-Johnston to join the group, and she has injected some new life into the franchise, including this slow cooker book.
Sally wasn’t an experienced ‘slow cooker’, Robert Rose came up with the idea, and then Sally took a lot of the best recipes from other Bridge cookbooks and adapted them for slow cookers…and went beyond that. She did a chapter called Slow Cooker 101, where she explains what to look for in a slow cooker and some tips you need to know that are a little bit different from other oven or stove-top braising recipes. She also developed some brand-new recipes for dishes you don’t usually think of using the slow cooker for, including puddings and cakes, cheesy dips, she says you can even use it as a fondue pot.
On All Points West I brought in a pulled pork taco filling made in the slow cooker.
Then a sweet potato raisin bread. And finally an upside-down chocolate fudge pudding.
To listen to what Jo-Ann thought of the dishes you can check out our conversation here.
Now available: The audio of my conversation with the Best of Bridge Ladies. Click here to listen. I guarantee you’ll be entertained. To revisit what I reported on Slow Cookers six years ago, visit my blog entry from then.