Food for Thought: The Simmering History of Slow Cookers

Let’s be real – making a home-cooked meal can be stressful! It’s hard to blame anyone for choosing takeout over spending hours monitoring pots and pans on a hot stove and cleaning the inevitable stack of dishes and utensils afterward.

That’s why the slow cooker is such a magical kitchen tool – it removes practically all of the stress and thought out of cooking. 

For most recipes, you simply throw the ingredients in its main pot, set it to high or low, and then move on about your day while the device slowly cooks the food inside. Clean-up is as simple as washing the interior and calling it a day. 

Not only are they easy to use,  you can also whip up an entire recipe book’s worth of meals in slow cookers – from pot roast, to pasta, to hot chocolate!

So, who do we have to thank for this versatile and game changing kitchen gadget? That would be Mr. Irving Nochumsohn, a Chicago inventor and the first Jewish electrical engineer for Western Electric. 

According to a 2019 article in Smithsonian Magazine, Nachumsohn was an avid inventor – beyond the slow cooker, he also developed early versions of the lava lamp and electric frying pan. 

So the story goes, Nachumsohn got the idea for the slow cooker after hearing about how his relatives in 19th century Lithuania prepared a traditional Jewish stew called Cholent for the Sabbath. 

They’d fire up the town’s bakery ovens and place pots of uncooked Cholent inside. They’d then turn the ovens off and seal the pots inside, where the dissipating heat slowly cooked the stew over the course of 24 hours. 

Nachumsohn’s device consisted of a ceramic pot insert surrounded by an electric heater that, like the bakery ovens, would heat the food inside low and slow. He filed a patent for the first slow cooker in 1936, which he called the Naxon Beanery, and began selling it through his small business, Naxon Utilities. 

Things really started to heat up for the slow cooker in 1970, when Nachumsohn retired and sold Naxon Utilities, which included the Beanery, to Rival Manufacturing in Kansas City. 

Rival changed the name of the Naxon Beanery to the Crockpot, and debuted the rebranded device at the National Housewares Show in Chicago in 1971. 

By 1975, the Crockpot had amassed $93 million in sales, quickly becoming a time-saving tool among 2 income households across the country. Today, the humble Crockpot remains a favorite device among serious chefs and lazy home cooks, who purchased 12.7 million units in 2018.

Looking for a new recipe to try out in your slow cooker? The chicken and white bean chili below is creamy, cheesy, comfort food perfect for a cozy fall weather family dinner. Pair it with a just as simple salsa verde for those who prefer a little kick, and you’ve got a new weeknight staple that can satiate any crowd! 

Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili with Fresh Salsa Verde

Ingredients

For the chili:

1 large white onion 

1 poblano pepper 

2 cups chicken broth

2 chicken breasts

½ cup frozen or canned corn

1 can cannellini beans

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon pepper

½ cup sour cream

1 cup shredded white cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese 

For the salsa:

1 bunch of cilantro

1 large lime 

1 thumb-size piece of feta cheese

¼ cup olive oil

1 serrano pepper

Pinch of salt

Directions

For the chili:

 1. Peel and chop the onion. Remove the stem, core, and seeds from the poblano pepper, and chop. 

 2. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add chopped onion and pepper, along with corn, beans, spices, and chicken broth.

 3. Place the lid on the slow cooker. Set the chili to cook on low for 7 hours, or high for 4 hours. 

 4. Once cooked, remove and finely shred the chicken breasts.

 5. Add shredded chicken back to the cooker, along with sour cream and shredded cheese.

 6. Stir, then allow the chili to cook on low for 15 minutes. 

 7. Serve in a bowl with an optional swirl of fresh salsa verde. Enjoy!  

For the salsa:

 1. Prep: chop the bottom portion of the stems from the cilantro. Zest lime. Core, deseed, then roughly chop serrano pepper. 

 2. Add cilantro, zest and juice from the lime, feta, chopped serrano pepper, oil, and salt to a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. If mixture is too chunky, add a bit of extra oil or water until smooth. 

 3. Serve on chili, chips, or whatever you like. 

Want to skip a night of cooking? Order everything you need to throw together this chili delivered through Shipt.

Category: Food & Drink

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