Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pressure Cooker Chicken Broth The Paleo Review Style

As you know, I am a fan of making my own broth.  I've also become obsessed with getting my broth to gel.  Its a badge of broth success.  I've made broth on the stove top and in the slow cooker with gelled success, but not with the pressure cooker.  I tried two times to make Nomnompaleo.com's pressure cooker beef broth without success with respect to taste or getting it to gel.  She recently posted/bragged about her pressure cooker success and well, I couldn't stand it any longer, I knew I had to try again.  

OK, perhaps she wasn't bragging, but it sure felt like it given my failure.  After seeing her recently post a picture of her ready to go gallon size plastic bags of broth bones, I saw her secret.  CHICKEN FEET!  Chicken feet=Guaranteed Gel!

Before I dug my pressure cooker out of my storage closet, I did some internet searching about pressure cooker broth making and found that some had success with pressure cooking the broth for up to 2 hours.  NomNomPaleo's recipe calls for a maximum of 50 minutes.

I decided to not follow her recipe but rather just assemble the ingredients that I would for my slow cooker chicken broth and cook it for 2 hours.  

Here is what went into my 8 quart pressure cooker: 

     Roughly 3 lbs frozen chicken backs 
     4 chicken feet (I cut the talons/nails off, but you don't have to.)
     1 Onion, quartered (Yellow or White-I don't think it makes a difference.)
     3 Carrots, unpeeled, washed and cut in half (stem ends cut off too.)
     1 handful fresh parsley, washed (I used flat leaf because I had it around.)
     3 celery stalks, washed, cut in thirds
     8 whole pepper corns
     1 tbs apple cider vinegar (My usual slow cooker recipe uses 2 but this seemed like a 
        smaller batch, so I used less.)

Pretty colors!

I after loading up the pot with chicken and vegetables,  I stirred everything a bit, and I filled the pot to the 2/3 fill line with filtered water.  If you don't have an on the sink water filter, I so recommend it.  It's been one of my favorite home improvements so far especially since my refrigerator doesn't have a water dispenser/filter.  

Make sure you follow the instructions for your pressure cooker as to its maximum fill amounts!  Seriously, no one wants a messy kitchen disaster from a overfilled pressure cooker.  

I then locked my lid on, put the pot on high heat, and waited for the regulator weight to rock steady.  If you are lucky enough to have a pressure cooker with a pressure indicator, you don't have to deal with the question of whether or not the regulator weight is "rocking steady" or not.

After 30 minutes, my regulator weight was rocking.  I played around with the temperature and either the rocking was at this rate or it wasn't rocking, so I'll assume this is what "rocking steady" looks like for my pressure cooker.  

Once your regulator weight starts rocking steady, turn down the heat to the lowest temperature that will maintain that steady rocking motion.  For me, that was medium.  I set my timer for 2 hours.  I was a bit nervous about having the stock under pressure for that long.  I was worried that the liquid would completely evaporate and I'd be left with burnt chicken backs.  I wish there was a way to peer into the cooker without losing pressure, but alas, there is not.  

At the two hour mark, I turned off the burner and let the pot cool for about 10 minutes and then used a towel to protect my hands to tilt the regulator weight to quickly release the steam in bursts.  If I tilted the weight to long, I'd get foam and water coming out of the vent.  You could just wait until the pot cools enough for the pressure to lower on its own or put it under cold water, but I was not that patient.  What I did is probably dangerous.  

When I opened the pot, here is what I had.  Its not pretty, but no unstrained broth is.  

I don't know if you can see the 2/3 full mark (I can because I know its there), but it looks like I only lost  about 1 inch of volume during the 2 hours under pressure.  I don't know how much of this is water loss and how much is from the chicken and vegetables breaking down.  

I strained  my broth through a food only cotton handkerchief and fine metal sieve into a large plastic storage container.  Using cotton handkerchiefs are most cost effective than using cheesecloth as you can easily wash them over and over without them falling apart.  I want to say I got a package of 10 from Walmart for about $5.00, certainly not more than $10.  It really makes a difference in the clarity of the finished broth as well.   

If you're curious, here is a picture of what was left of my meat and vegetables after I strained the broth.  The bones were as broken down, if not more, than I've found my slow cooker batches to be after 24 hours of cooking.

I wanted to try a cup immediately, so I poured  some of the broth into my fat separator measuring cup so that I could have a non-greasy cup.  I prefer my broths with the fat removed especially for sipping.  

What a pretty rich color!

I filled a plastic storage bag with ice, placed it in the broth to help it chill quicker, put the lid on the container and put it in the refrigerator.  I could not wait to see if the broth would gel.  

Accessibility and Cost of Ingredients: If you save your chicken bones from cooking, this is a pretty inexpensive endeavor ingredient wise.  I got my chicken backs from whole foods.  They were from pastured chickens which were $4.99/pound.  Until I looked at my receipt just now, I thought they were cheaper.  Goodness, that hurts a little.  I need to do a better job of freezing bones.  My big box grocery store does not have chicken bones of any kind or chicken feet.  I head to my local Asian grocery for the chicken feet.   The vegetables are all inexpensive and easy to find at any grocery store.

Preparation/Cook Time: 5-10 minutes to cut up the vegetables, prep the chicken feet, and fill the pressure cooker with water.  It took my pressure cooker just under 30 minutes to come to pressure.  From what I've seen this amount of time varies quite a bit given different pressure cooker sizes, models, and stove tops.  I cooked the broth under pressure for 2 hours. It took about 15 minutes for the pressure to lower enough to open the lid (10 minutes nature + 5 minutes tilting the weight).  It took me about 10 minutes to strain the broth and get it in the fridge.

I'll spend more time this evening to freeze the broth into silicone ice cube trays and/muffin trays for easy use in the future.  This is well worth the effort to have easily measured and thawed homemade broth on hand.

Even though I had to stay home for the 2 hours during the cooking process, I didn't feel like my little kitchen was being held hostage to broth making as I do when I get my slow cookers out to make batches.  I hope one day I'll feel comfortable to leave the room with the pressure cooker going in the kitchen, but yesterday, it gave me an excuse to hang out with the paleo kitties on the couch.

Clean up:  Everything except my pressure cooker went into the dish washer.  Make sure to follow your pressure cooker's instructions regarding cleaning and rubber gasket maintenance.

The Paleo Review:  Thumps Up!   Less than 24 hours later, here is what I had.  

Beautiful, gelled chicken broth.  Amazing.  Look, it giggles!

Happiness!  Joy!  Success!  There was very little solidified fat to remove from the broth.  I can't wait to check the broth again this evening to see if the gel has firmed up more.  

This batch of broth had a full chicken flavor and beautiful golden color.  I dare say it is as good as my slow cooker batches.  What a 180 degree difference from my pressure cooker beef broth experiences.  The lesson learned here is to keep trying and tinkering.

I don't make beef broth that often anymore by any method as recipes seem to call for chicken broth more.  Also, beef broth seems more temperamental to get to gel for me.  Yes, I could add the beef feet, but for some reason I'm more comfortable using the chicken feet for my gelatin source.  I wonder how beef broth tastes with chicken feet.  I don't know if I wonder enough yet to risk wasting more beef bones to find out.  Of course, if anyone were to request that I give it a try, I'd certainly do it!

As for the yield of this batch, I got about the same amount of finished broth from this batch as I do in my 6 quart slow cooker.  You'll note I adjusted the amount of vinegar I used because I thought this batch was smaller than my slow cooker batches.  I was wrong about the volume, but the flavor, taste and gel was great, so I'll keep it at 1 tablespoon the next time I make broth this way.  

For now, I believe I have my new favorite chicken broth making method.  If you have a pressure cooker, it's time to make some broth!

Post Script:  The Paleo Review's Facebook page is a mere 8 page likes from 100.

When it hits 100, I'll will be giving away a copy of Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed.    

Update 12/21/12:  Here is a picture of my frozen broth and the silicone ice Cube tray I use.  I measured and each cube holds just under 4 ounces (100ml).  The batch I made in the pressure cooker, minus 2 cups, filled 3 full trays and part of a forth.