Why You Should Cook Your Oatmeal the Old-Fashioned Way

We think Laura Ingalls Wilder would approve.

Overnight Maple-Raisin Oatmeal
Photo: Jennifer Causey

We all seem to be in a rush these days. You can purchase just about any dish in an instant version – from cakes, breads, and puddings to mashed potatoes, soups, and grits. With busy weekdays and an even busier pace of life, we don't necessarily have time to cook breakfast the way that the American pioneers – like Laura Ingalls Wilder – would have prepared it. But, as we hear from the Kitchn, slow-cooking oatmeal is the one dish we should make an exception for.

Back in the day, folks would use steel-cut oats and plenty of water over low heat to let their oatmeal simmer slowly. According to the original source for this silky porridge tip, food historian Anne Mendelson, this process allows the oats' starch and fiber to fully dissolve into the water. The ratio of oats to water seems a bit shocking for those of us used to preparing quick oats, but the amount that Mendelson recommends is 2 tablespoons of steel-cut oats to 2 cups of water. That's it!

With a longer cook time, the oats can as much as double in size with the absorbed water, creating a rich, silky porridge-like oatmeal for breakfast. And, using steel-cut oats is crucial to this recipe. Other varieties, like rolled oats, won't absorb the water correctly and you'll end up with a watery, chunky breakfast mess. And, be sure to keep an eye on your oats as they're cooking. If you see them sticking to the pot, add a little more water so that each grain can live up to its fullest potential. Needless to say, this recipe is certainly not for the instant folks.

Just as we'd imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder stirring a pot of these slow-cooked oats on her stove on the prairie, this recipe takes time and care – as any great Southern recipe does. It may not be a recipe that you're prepared to break out before school starts on a Wednesday morning, but it is certainly a recipe we'd like to bookmark when the chilly winter Saturdays roll around and we've got all of our loved ones around the brunch table.

It's well-worth taking the time to sample what we know would have been Laura's favorite dish. Add a little butter or salt, break out your (real!) maple syrup, and serve this thick, hearty oatmeal recipe up to hungry bellies for rave reviews.

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