Through her work as an Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety agent, Janice Hall has noted two food trends in recent years.

One is a slight uptick in hunting — at least, partly driven by a desire to reduce food costs; the other is a keen interest among many over-worked, over-stressed consumers to reduce the time invested in food preparation.

Drawing on these insights, Hall is re-acquainting consumers with pressure cooking, a technique that, while not exactly going the way of the dinosaurs in this age of ready-to-eat, microwavable foods, has undergone a sharp decline.

At workshops throughout the state, Hall is issuing a forthright call for consumers to dust off those pressure cookers and to enlist them once again as an integral component of home cooking.

Pressure cooking works by creating steam, which, in turn, builds pressure.  A small amount of water or other liquid is placed in the bottom of the cooker and heated to boiling. The steam produced from this boiling, which is mostly trapped under a tightly sealed lid, raises the pressure and temperature to exceptionally high levels, cooking the food in considerably shorter time.

As Hall has discovered through her own experience, pressure cooking is an ideal way not only to reduce the toughness commonly associated with game meat, but also to enhance its taste.

“Pressure cooking effectively gelatinizes — breaks down — the connective tissue associated with tough meat, particularly game meats,” Hall says, “but the process also infuses meat with whatever ingredients you choose to add while preserving the natural flavor.”