Oatmeal for Writers

Last summer a friend I will call Nancy of Busy Acres introduced me to real oatmeal, meaning: made with steel-cut oats.

Unlike rolled oats, which are flat and cook up fairly quickly, steel-cut oats look like chopped grain and take a good 40 minutes to cook on the stove. (They’re also pricey if you purchase the fancy white tins at an upscale store. However, I found them at a natural foods co-op for $1.99 a pound, same as organic rice.)

The trouble is, I don’t have 40 minutes to spend hovering over the stove in the morning; I want that time to write Morning Pages. I’ve heard that one of my grandmothers used to put a pot of oatmeal over the pilot light on a gas stove at night, and it would be ready in the morning. Alas, we don’t have a gas stove, and even if we did, always-on pilot lights are a thing of the past.

But what I do have is a slow cooker, and after extensive online research, I’ve come up with a method for cooking steel-cut oatmeal overnight in my old Crockpot. In the interests of better-nourished writers everywhere, here’s the procedure that works for me.

This recipe calls for 2 cups of steel-cut oats, a slow-cooker of at least 3 quart capacity, water and/or apple juice, one of those timers you plug lamps in to fool potential burglars, and a box of slow-cooker liners. [Yes, the liners are plastic. I’m willing to be light-green on this, because I don’t have room in the kitchen to soak a slow-cooker insert for days to get rid of baked-on oatmeal crust if I happen to oversleep. Most of the larger grocery stores carry slow-cooker liners on shelves near the oven bags.]

1. Line the slow cooker.

2. Add 2 cups steel-cut oats and 9 cups of liquid. I use 7 cups of water and 2 cups of apple juice, but plain water is fine. So is substituting milk for some of the liquid.

3. Set the slow cooker to Low. Plug it into the timer.

4. Set the timer to the time of day it is right NOW. Double-check to make sure you have the AM/PM setting correct. This is the voice of experience speaking; I goofed up on this just last week.

5. Set the ON time for 6 hours before you want the oatmeal to be ready to eat. For me, that’s ON at 1:30 AM, OFF at 7:20 AM. Double-check this, too.  And do NOT give in to the temptation to take a short cut and cook it on High. Unless you stir it every 15 minutes or so, it will scorch on High, or at least get very, very brown and hard on the sides.

6. Plug the timer into the wall.

7. Put the lid on the slow cooker.

8. Rinse and drain 1 to 2 cups of raisins but do not add them until the morning!

9. When you get up in the morning, or if you get  up in the middle of the night, stir the oatmeal first thing. Sometimes the part closest to the heating element will crust if the liquid’s on the light side. The crust doesn’t taste burned, just deep, but kids might not like it.

10. In the morning, stir in the raisins. Serve with brown sugar and chopped toasted walnuts, pecans, or sunflower seeds. Easily serves 8 to 10.

Options:  Add finely chopped, peeled apples at Step 2.  Or, instead of raisins, add chopped dried apricots, mangoes, and cashews for a tropical variation I learned from Resident Alien.

For storing the left-overs, either put the covered slow-cooker insert in the refrigerator as is, or decant (after it cools, which takes several hours) into quart containers. Oatmeal solidifies as it cools, so before serving you might want to stir in milk, water, or juice to a consistency you like before microwaving in individual bowls.

Let me know how it works for you!

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10 Responses to Oatmeal for Writers

  1. Z says:

    We eat steel-cut raw—add dried fruit, cinnamon, dice and apple, toss on a banana or strawberries and pour on the millk (or spoon on yougurt) et voila! You have good ol’ meusli (German style)….

    Z

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    • Anne Bingham says:

      Um….maybe there’s more than one kind of steel-cut oats. I’ve had Swiss-style meusli before, and I make a “summer oatmeal” with raw quick oats and yogurt, but I don’t think I have the right kind of digestion to eat steel-cut oats straight out of the bin!

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  2. Anna says:

    I had no idea there was more than one kind of oatmeal. This all sounds a bit ambitious (I’m SO inept when it comes to cooking) but if I get brave enough to try it, I’ll be sure to report back!

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  3. MaryWitzl says:

    Wow — thank you for the plug!

    I used to have an aga, a stove that is on 24/7. At night, I’d put steel cut oats into a heavy-bottomed pan with a ton of liquid (apple juice is great), fruit (apples or pears, generally, though I tried it once with leftover peaches), then set the whole thing on the hot-to-the-touch part of the aga, slap a lid on it, and in the morning I could cook it on low heat for 10-15 minutes and it was good to go. I think soaking the oats helps a little, and also, adding much more fluid than you would normally use to cut the risk of scorching. Jaggery works in place of brown sugar too.

    (And Anna, you can do it! I’m the sloppiest, most slapdash cook in the world.)

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    • Anne Bingham says:

      So that’s what an Aga is! People in British novels are forever using them, and from context I gathered it was a stove, but I never quite understood what the deal was (and never thought to check it out on Wikipedia). {off to google “jaggery” now….)

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  4. I love steel-cut oatmeal, but you’re right about it taking a long time to cook. A while back I went to the expensive white tin’s website and found several different ways to cook this oatmeal. (If I remember correctly, a slow cooker was one of the ways.) I copied the others down, but do you think I could find it now? 🙂

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    • Anne Bingham says:

      Wow! Expensive White Tin’s website does have a lot of ways to cook it! Thanks for the tip, Andrea. There’s no slow cooker way, but I did see directions for making it in a rice cooker.

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  5. What a delicious recipe! I’m always looking for good easy recipes because I never seem to have enough time!

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  6. Anne Bingham says:

    But, um, don’t leave the raisins out overnight if anything small gray and furry has stirred around your house in the past year or so.

    I lifted up the burner panel on the stove last night to retrieve something that had fallen in and discovered stashes of raisins stored in two corners, along with Unmistakeable Evidence, if you get my drift, of the identity of the culprits.

    We really have to get a cat one of these days…

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