Hello! I purchased a five-quart crockpot (aka slow cooker) several years ago, thinking that it'd come in handy for cooking large batches of spaghetti sauce, apple butter, apple sauce and dried beans (cheaper than buying canned beans). It has worked just fine for these tasks, and has also been great for serving up the occasional meals for crowds.
However, there are many recipes written for smaller crockpots, and these make sense for my family of three. Cooked in my large crockpot, though, these recipes would get dried out along the edges, even at low heat.
Came across this tip awhile back (don't recall the source):
"Rather than buying a small crockpot, put a smaller ovenproof casserole dish in a large crockpot and pour some water in the crockpot between the crockpot and the casserole dish".
So, of course, it was off to the thrift store to buy a suitable dish. It took a little while to find one that would be the right size, but I located this last week:
I would have preferred that it had a lid, but I liked the vintage design. It said "West Bend" on the bottom, so I knew it was a food-safe item. I guessed that its capacity was around eight cups, which should work for those smaller crockpot recipes, so I paid the two dollars and lugged it home. Once there, I discovered that the lid of a small casserole dish I already own fit this pot perfectly.
What was the original purpose of this pot? By perusing eBay, I soon learned that it's generally labeled a "bean pot/crockpot" by the sellers. In its complete form, it comes with a lid, of course, as well as a warming plate. No seller had the exact age as to when the pot had been made; one seller settled for the broader "1950's/1960's", while several others pegged it as a product of the 1950's. Always glad to find a vintage item, and it seems even more fun when it's a rather mundane purchase!
My "beanpot" was in fine shape; just washed it and then set it to work that night with this recipe:
Overnight Cherry-Almond Oatmeal
Combine 4 cups vanilla almond milk, 1 cup steel-cut oats, 1 cup dried cherries, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon in a greased 3-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours. Makes 6 servings (recipe source: Geraldine Saucier, February/March 2013 Taste of Home magazine).
Following the tip above, I set my pot into the crockpot and filled the crockpot with water to about halfway up the pot.
I woke up the next morning to perfectly-cooked oatmeal. There's no way I could have made this recipe in my crockpot as is; it would have ended up a dried-out mess. (if it sounds like I know from experience - I do!)
This recipe alone is worth the two dollars I'd spent on my vintage pot! Steel-cut oats take awhile to soften up if cooked on the stove, so a slow cooker is perfect for this ingredient. The dried cherries plumped up nicely, and the brown sugar added just the right amount of sweetening.
I assume that regular milk or water would work fine in this dish, and of course other dried fruits could be used in place of the cherries.
If you already have a smaller crockpot, just use that as is. But if you are like me and have a large crockpot, you now know a tip for improvising a smaller one!