If a busy lady asked me for one tip to be able to provide more home-cooked meals for her family, I’d say get a crockpot. They are amazing, and everything cooked in them is delicious. I went for years not using one, and now I use it every week! In fact, I have three: two for cooking, and one for making soap (a story for another day).
Get a programmable one that will automatically switch to “warm” after cooking the required amount of time and you won’t have to worry about the food burning or over-cooking. Throw something in the pot in the morning, and dinner will be ready when you get home. Cook enough soup or chili or roast on Sunday to eat all week. My husband works third shift now, so last night I put ribs in the crockpot when I went to bed and when he arrived home, they were ready and delicious!
Really strapped for time? Buy some crockpot liners and you can cut down on the cleaning time.
Crockpots also have a place in canning. In fact, it can be an excellent way to can when you don’t have a lot of time. Let the crockpot do the dirty work, and all you will need to do is ladle into clean, hot jars and process.
Homemade apple butter is a great example of this. This is how to make it: Core the apples. You can pick up an apple corer for about six bucks, and you can have the apples done in no time. Cook the apples in a large pot until they are soft. Then, put them in a blender or food processor in small batches to make apple puree.
If you want to make applesauce, you’re done. Add a little cinnamon to the apples, put in jars, and process (ie boil in a huge canning pot) for about fifteen minutes. It’s the best applesauce ever.
Or, you can keep going and make apple butter. Transfer the puree to the crockpot and add sugar. Leave it alone and let it cook down all night.
Get up in the morning and transfer the apple butter to clean, hot jars and process. These make excellent gifts.
Here are more detailed steps on how to make apple butter. This is a GREAT website with directions on how to preserve most produce.
Apple Butter in the crockpot
In sealed jars, these six pints will last over a year. They make great gifts, too!
Another favorite canning project is pulled pork with or without barbecue sauce. Food Lion often has pork shoulder for 99 cents a lb. I buy it, bring it home, and dump it in the crockpot and FORGET about it until the morning. The next day (or the next afternoon, if I have to work) I shred the pork with a fork (takes two seconds) clean some jars, ladle the pulled pork into the jars, and process in the pressure canner, 75 minutes for pints, 90 for quarts. While the pressure canner is processing, I do dishes, laundry, cook dinner, start another canning project, etc. Sometimes I grade papers!
You can do this project with or without sauce. I’ve done both, and prefer without. It makes it more versatile when you use it. The pulled pork is DELICIOUS, and makes great sandwiches or carnitas. It can also go in soups of burritos. You’ve spent very little hands-on time, and can have enough meat on hand for seven or eight meals. No defrosting, no advanced prep.
Pulled pork barbecue ready to go. This is seven pints, and each pint will make about five sandwiches.
Soups and chili are another great way to use your crockpot to help you can. One of the problems I had when making a big batch of food for just DH and I was that we were sick of eating it by the end of the week. Now, we eat it for a meal, maybe two, and the rest goes into jars to eat later. Chili today, soup tomorrow, pork sammies the next day, and I didn’t have to cook anything!