TheCrockery

A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

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Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More Non-Instant Food: Porridge in a Pot


If you've ever spent time in the hot cereal section of the grocery store, examining the many flavors of instant oatmeal, you may have noticed a cannister or two of something called "Old Fashioned Oatmeal." If you were curious, you may have picked up the cannister, read the label, and realized that this product is not instant. You cannot make old-fashioned oatmeal just by pouring boiling water over it. It must be cooked.

Unless you are an experienced crockery cooker (in which case my blog is probably laughable to you), you may not have realized that you could prepare old-fashioned oatmeal in your slow cooker. I myself did not realize this until recently, when I first cracked open a copy of Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and asked "Why is there an entire section on porridge?" If you are learning about this capacity for the first time, you too may be asking: why would anyone do that? Why would you want to spend 7-9 hours cooking your breakfast?

That's a good question. The first -and to my mind, the simplest- answer is that the oatmeal can be put into the pot at night, cooked overnight on low, and be ready for you in the morning. Perhaps this does not appeal to you, but it does to me. I tend to eat oatmeal only during the fall and winter. As the temperature drops, it gets harder for me to get out of bed in the morning. A hot bowl of oatmeal is comforting, but as I'm not a morning person, I dislike heating the water, digging through the cupboard for the oatmeal box (somehow it always falls off the shelf onto the cans of green beans below), and measuring out exactly 1/2 a cup of hot water. The idea of waking up to a hot pot of oatmeal which has only to be spooned in to a bowl and sweetened to taste is very, very tempting. For me, if not for you, it even has a bit of nostalgia value. The waiting pot of oatmeal seems to inevitably remind me of breakfast at my dorm cafeteria in college. I often came late, after the "hot breakfast" hours were over, and was thus forced to scrap together a meal out of donuts or leftover turnovers and fruit. There were, however, always pots of hot cereal -oatmeal, farina, cream of wheat, or even grits- waiting out in the lobby area. These grain cereals were plain, not the highly flavored instant variety I had known as a child, so I quickly learned how to sweeten them to taste with brown sugar, cinnamon, and cream. Perhaps because of fond memories of these grain cereals, I was immediately interested in making hot oatmeal overnight. But, as I learned from the aforementioned cookbook, there's another reason to try crockpot oatmeal.

What I, a child of the instant oatmeal generation, didn't realize is that there are some grain products, such as steel cut oats (aka Irish oats or Scotch oats) , which take a long time to cook. If you've had -or heard tell of- McCann's Irish Oatmeal, then you're acquainted with steel cut oats. For these products, I'm told, a slow cooker is a wonderful invention. And these oats supposedly have a much more robust texture and flavor than rolled oats with which we're all familiar. I cannot tell you yet if this is true, but I hope to try Scots oats (note, please, that I have used the correct term, rather than the term which only applies to whiskey, for my Caledonian brethren!) in the near future.

In the meantime, I'm experimenting with different ways of cooking those easy-to-find old fashioned oats. You can mix them with cooked rice, for a multi-grain taste, or season them with apple pie spice, for flavor. Now, if only I can figure out how to program my programmable coffeemaker, I'll be set. Breakfast will be ready while I'm still stumbling over the hungry cats in the hallway. And maybe I'll have an incentive to wake up before lunchtime.

P.S.- If you can't find steel-cut oats at the Big Boxmart nearest you, you can order them online. Amazon.com has some listed under gourmet foods, but there are plenty of natural food stores that ship them.

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