High Altitude Adjustments

Living at a high altitude, roughly 5,000 feet has given us a brand new excuse.  When something doesn’t turn out right we say “Oh, it must be the altitude.”  We even use this excuse for things far outside the kitchen, toddler won’t sleep, the tomatoes got blossom end rot, grasshopper infestations, you name it.  It’s quite handy.

Our favorite place to use the excuse is in the kitchen.  Here are some of my disasters.  Once I made muffins that sank so low in the middle I had to turn them into cupcakes and frost them to hide the sink holes.  Several times I have made brown rice in the rice cooker and it has turned out crunchy, probably because I didn’t let it sit long enough but still it fell into the altitude category.  Several of our home canned goods have lost their seal and we are fairly certain this is due to a combination of the high altitude (they weren’t processed here) and the heat where they were being stored.  So now when we are canning and something doesn’t seal we blame it on the altitude.  A cake mix from a box was sunken in the middle and doughy.  How can I screw up a cake mix from a box?  That was a first.

We have learned some mighty helpful tips from the Cook’s Illustrated baking handbook.  I always thought that bread would be affected the most but this isn’t true.  It’s actually baked goods that have sugar and leavening agents.  This include cookies, quick breads and cakes.  Their book provides remedies for these problems but it’s still tricky.  When I ask locals how they change recipes they look at me like I am crazy.  How can I be the only one with this baking problem?  Well, I am not.  After some prying I have learned that many natives, have been natives for quite some time which means that all their family recipes are tailored for this altitude.  They don’t need to make any adjustments.

Another area where we have been affected by the altitude is in canning.  We have to add 10 minutes to all processing times.  This is kind of a bummer because that often doubles the processing time of most things.  There is no affect on the product but it does make the process that much longer and hotter.  Which is why we have become fans of drying.  And as Robert has mentioned we are planning on building a New Mexico style dryer.  The weather is perfect for drying here.  My clothes dry on the line in roughly the same amount of time as they would in the dryer.

When my sister was visiting from California she mentioned that her morning jog was a bit more challenging than it is at home.  Once I am able to work out again, I look forward to using this excuse.  The sun is also more intense here because we are up so high.  Think of the intense sun at the top of a mountain when you are skiing.  It’s bright and hot, while in the shade it’s cool and comfortable.

We are really enjoying living at a high elevation,  especially the new excuse we’ve gained.

Thanks,  Courtney


2 responses to “High Altitude Adjustments

  1. Wow, 5,000 ft is really up there…especially when it comes to cooking. Some of the mountain lakes we hike to are just above that in the 6-7,000 ft range and I can attest to how much longer it takes for everything to cook or simply boil at those altitudes.

  2. We live at 6,500 ft. in N. Colorado and my wife has found a few cookbooks to be helpful for her baking. “Pie in the Sky” by Susan Purdy is great and can be found in the library as well as “Baking at High Altitude” by Randi Lee Levin. These are great resources and can be found in local libraries.

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