The Instant Pot pressure cooker has gained a cult following among people who love to eat home-cooked meals but can't (or won't) always make the time to bake, simmer, braise or roast. If you've used this all-in-one cooker to make every recipe from pasta sauce to carnitas, then you know just how versatile it can be. But we bet you didn't know that the Instant Pot can make wine, cheese and... maggots? Read on for a list of food and drinks you can make in your Instant Pot that are surprising, curious and, at times, truly horrifying.
1. Cough Syrup
Buying bags of cough drops every time you have a cold means less money for your favorite things like avocado toast or a Netflix subscription. To save up, you can make your own soothing cough syrup at home. Laura Prater, the woman behind the blog Awe-Filled Homemaker, shared her recipe for homemade cough syrup using ingredients that ease pain and fight inflammation like honey, lemon, cayenne, thyme and ginger. To make this serum yourself, all you need to do is infuse thyme and ginger into water using an Instant Pot, then simply mix the water in with honey, cayenne pepper and lemon. The last step? Finding a cute bottle to store it in, of course.
Up next: A food blogger figured out how to turn grape juice into something with a little more kick.
You don't need to own a winery to make a great(ish) bottle of wine. All you need is an Instant Pot, according to food blogger David Murphy. By cooking a 64-ounce bottle of Welch's Grape Juice, a cup of sugar and a packet of Lalvin Red Wine Yeast using his Instant Pot's "yogurt" function, Murphy created a wine that he compares to a soft merlot. According to Meghan Buchert, Ph.D., food scientist and creator of Jardin Floral Infused Mixers, combining yeast and sugar creates alcohol, which ferments and gets stronger over time. Cooking the mixture at a low temperature helps it to ferment more quickly, but doing so on the stove can cause the alcohol to flash-off and disappear (goodbye, grape goodness). Because the Instant Pot yogurt setting provides low and steady heat, it provides the perfect environment to speed up the winemaking process. Once your vino is done cooking, Murphy recommends letting it rest for at least 10 days.
Up next: Make this Italian lemon liqueur in your Instant Pot and drink it all summer.
Temporarily satisfy your dream of driving across the Italian countryside by making some delicious homemade limoncello. California-based blogger and recipe developer Jenny Dewey Rohrich found a way to make the lemon liqueur by adding lemon peels and vodka to canning jars, sealing them, then leaving them in the pressure cooker for just 30 minutes, which serves to quickly infuse the alcohol with lemon flavor. According to food scientist Dr. Buchert, heating the jar also pasteurizes its contents, killing bacteria and allowing the limoncello to keep longer. So if you're planning to make lemonade this summer, why not keep the peels and check out Rohrich's full recipe here.
Up next: In need of this baking staple? Make it in your Instant Pot.
4. Vanilla Extract
Homemade vanilla extract is typically made by letting vanilla beans sit in alcohol for a month (or more) to infuse the flavor, but with an Instant Pot, you can make extract that's ready to use in just 24 hours. To start, add halved Grade B vanilla beans (cheaper than Grade A and better for vanilla extract, according to Kitchn) and some vodka to canning jars. Then, as you would with limoncello, you seal the jars, add water to the pressure cooker and cook for an hour. Keep in mind that you won't be able to use your new concoction right away because it takes more than an hour to release the pressure and requires a 24-hour resting period. But after a day or so, you'll have more vanilla extract than what you see in all those tiny bottles on the store shelves combined.
Up next: Your favorite cheese can be made in an Instant Pot.
You don't need an Instant Pot to make ricotta cheese at home, but having one can save you a lot of stirring and stress. According to this recipe from Hip Cooking, you can make fresh ricotta by adding whole milk to your Instant Pot and using the "yogurt" function. Once it's done, simply add lemon juice. Dr. Buchert says that the acid from the lemon juice denatures (or breaks down) the proteins in the milk, causing the curds and whey to separate. Once that happens, you can strain the mixture for five to 15 minutes until only the curds remain. After adding salt to taste, form your ricotta into a small loaf using a spatula, and store it in your fridge for up to five days. Move over, plain buttered toast, because breakfast is about to get a major upgrade.
6. Dog Food
We're not going to say that dogs are replacing children for millennials, but the number of unmarried or childless dog owners has jumped in recent years, according to a report from one market research company. And if you treat your furry companions as if they're a part of your immediate family, you probably don't relish feeding them store-bought chow. The solution? Whip out your Instant Pot, because you're going to love this homemade dog food recipe from Mary Hone, author of the blog Tales From the Back Road. Taking into account the ideal macronutrient ratios and nutrition needed for a dog, Hone developed a recipe using sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, brown rice, chicken and ground eggshells for calcium. In less than half an hour, you can have enough food to feed your pup for a few days. Just don't forget to remove the chicken bones.
Read more: 8 Ways a Dog Will Change Your Life
7. Lotion Bars
Author of the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods" and lead teacher at the Traditional Cooking School, Wardee Harmon avoided making beauty products at home because of her hatred for double boilers (we don't blame her). Then Harmon found she could easily make lotion bars by melting grated beeswax and cocoa butter using the "keep warm" function on her Instant Pot instead. Check out her lotion bar recipe here if you want to give it a try. Now that you know this secret, the real challenge will be holding yourself back from making more lotion bars than you and friends can use in a lifetime.
Up next: Not cleaning this part of your Instant Pot could leave you with hidden critters.
Of course, no one would ever intentionally want to make maggots, but that's what you can end up with if you're lax about cleaning one particular part of your Instant Pot. Writer and recipe developer Darcy Lenz recently shared the story of how her friend found maggots growing in her Instant Pot's condensation collector. The what? The condensation collector is a small plastic cup that catches the excess water in your Instant Pot. Lenz's friend would use her Instant Pot about once a month, leaving the condensation collector uncleaned and unused for weeks at a time. According to Dr. Buchert, doing so provides the perfect dirty, wet environment for a fly to lay its eggs. Instant Pot's website recommends that you remove and wash the condensation collector "periodically," but if you aren't using your Instant Pot regularly, you might want to rinse it out and let it dry completely after every use.
What Do YOU Think?
What's your favorite Instant Pot recipe? Will you be making any of the things on our list (aside from maggots, of course)? Let us know in the comments, then check out some of our faavorite LIVESTRONG.COM Instant Pot recipes!
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