BACON! It is one of the most exquisite foods in the world, and is enjoyed by kings and peasants alike. Though not known as a staple of soups and stews, it actually works beautifully in them, especially when paired with sausage, and balanced with herbs like dill, and the lighter taste of a potato. In the recipe below, I have baconized a Polish sort of cabbage and sausage recipe and modified it to work well in pressure cookers. The end result was delicious, and was enjoyed by even our fussiest eaters – from 5 to 44! (Scroll down to the bottom to read about Augustine and Bacon)
But first, If you will let me wax poetical for a moment before we get to the actual recipe, I’d like to present an ode to a surprisingly useful kitchen tool. The modern pressure cooker is an amazing thing, and makes amazing food. If you haven’t bought an Instant Pot, or something like it yet, it’s time to really consider it. I love making soups and stews, and you can make excellent soups and stews (and hundreds of other things) in literally half to one third of the cooking time compared with other conventional methods. It is not only quicker and more convenient to cook in a pressure cooker, but it also tastes better! Check out this Serious Eats column for the science of the matter – it helped convince me to invest in an Instant Pot. By the way, after hours of shopping and reading reviews, I came to the conclusion that the Instant Pot was the best and easiest pressure cooker to use – it has excellent reviews, and so far works great. Just be sure to get the right size for your family! A six quart Instant Pot is almost too small for our family of seven – I find myself wishing I had spent the extra money for an 8 quart, so that there would be more yummy leftovers.
Ingredients: (Remember to NOT overfill your Pressure cooker past the fill line!)
- 16 ounces of high quality bacon (If you want to add MORE bacon, then I’m not going to judge you)
- 16 ounces of smoked sausage or Kielbasa
- 2-4 onions (depending on taste)
- 8 ounces of baby carrots
- 3-6 Yukon gold potatoes (others can be used as well)
- 1-2 tomatoes (optional)
- 32 ounces of good quality chicken stock
- 1/4 cup of dill
- 2-3 bay leaves (REMOVE after cooking!)
- 8-12 ounces of cabbage (enough to fill the top of the pot)
- 2.5 teaspoons of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of white or black pepper
- salt to taste
- Begin by setting your pressure cooker to manual, and letting it heat up. You can drizzle a bit of oil to the bottom of the pot to help with clean up later. Using scissors, cut the bacon and sausage into 1/2 to 1 inch strips and add them to the bottom of the pot. Let simmer until the bacon is somewhat browned – at least 7 minutes, maybe up to ten. Make sure the bacon and sausage are cooked! Stir regularly while simmering, but you can also use this time to prep the other ingredients. (Alternative: for crispier bacon, microwave or prepare in a skillet, as normal, and add to the recipe when you add the onions)
- On top of the simmering bacon, add layers of potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes. I did NOT cut up the tomatoes, carrots or potatoes – instead choosing to wait until the stew was done, and then cut them up with the serving spoon. This saved a ton of time, and the vegetables were SO tender upon completion that it was very easy to separate them. If you’d like to cut them up ahead of time, then be my guest. I did separate the onions into quarters, and I used about five onions myself…but I probably like onions a lot more than you do. 😉
- On top of the layers of vegetables, add dill, paprika, pepper, bay leaves and salt, if desired, keeping in mind the sodium content of your chicken stock. Don’t forget to remove ALL bay leaves before serving.
- Layer torn cabbage leaves on top of everything else – right up to the fill line on your pressure cooker.
- Press down all of the vegetables, and add chicken stock until your pot is filled up to the fill line. You will likely be able to add more than you think, as the stock will go into empty spaces around the vegetables. I was able to add all 32 ounces, and still keep the food under my Instant Pot’s fill line.
- Seal your pressure cooker properly – check and recheck this to make sure it is sealed, and your pressure release valve is set properly. Cook on manual (high pressure) for about 20 minutes. Remember that 20 minutes is the cooking time at high pressure – allow a couple of minutes for your cooker to get to high pressure.
- After 20 minutes of cooking, release your pressure valve (read the manual!), and when the pressure is all gone, open the pot and use the edge of your stirring spoon to cut up and separate the tender, large vegetables that you didn’t slice up earlier. They should cut up quite easily. Serve and enjoy!
Serves: 6-10 (depending on appetite) We served 7, and had a fair amount of leftovers
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes. (plus pressurizing) You can be eating less than 40 minutes after starting to cook!
*Honest confession: The picture at the very top is NOT this exact recipe – you might notice the bacon is missing. By the time the stew was ready, the whole family was so hungry and stirred up by the smell, that we ate it before I could take a good picture of it in the bowl. Alas. Please do not report me to the food blogger authorities – I’m just a mere theology writer who aspires to culinary greatness.
BONUS: Augustine was an early church father who lived in the 400s A.D. In the quote below, he is challenging the religious convictions of the Manichaeans, who taught that eating meat, especially bacon, was sinful. Augustine disagreed.
“You say that some foods are unclean, whereas the Apostle says that all things are clean… Why do you maintain that the brightness and sheen of oil bespeak a plentiful admixture of goodness, and seek to purify it by taking it into your throat and stomach, while at the same time you are afraid to let a drop of meat grease touch your lips although it has the same shining quality as oil? Why do you look upon the golden melon as one of God’s treasures and not the fat of bacon or the yolk of an egg?“
Source: Augustine of Hippo, The Catholic and Manichaean Ways of Life, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Donald A. Gallagher and Idella J. Gallagher, vol. 56, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1966), 93.