Harvesting Storing and Using Wheat
When to Harvest: Wheat is one of the slower grains to mature; it takes winter wheat 40-50 days from heading to harvest. The wheat is close to harvest time when it has grown tall, has headed out with a big "bushy" top full of those wonderful grain seeds, and has started looking dry and turning yellow all over (some varieties turn a brownish red).
How to Harvest: To harvest by hand, do it at this time, when the straw is just turning yellow and the grain can be dented but not mashed (seed at 20-35 percent moisture). If combining, wait 7-10 days more, until the whole grain head is brittle and the grain of wheat is so hard you can't dent it with your thumbnail (14 percent moisture), for the grain must be completely dry when combined. Wait even for the dew to go off and for a sunny day. If it rains, you have to wait until the grain gets completely dry again. But if you leave the wheat too long, the heads will shatter and spill the grain onto the ground. To harvest by hand, cut, bundle, and shock to cure. Then thresh, winnow, and store. Grind as needed. Wheat straw is useful as nesting, bedding, and litter material for animals; mulch for the garden; and green manure for the field. storing: Wheat will keep indefinitely as long as the moisture content is under 10 percent and the storage location relatively cool. A reader named Hazel wrote me, "Dear Carla: A little experiment finished last year was interesting. We opened a 50-lb. can of hard winter wheat that had been stored for 25 years in a cabin which had no heat during subfreezing periods of the year. The summer heat probably seldom went above 76°F. The can was airtight and was produced to store food for human consumption. After being stored with no preservatives for so long and under less than optimal conditions, 98 percent of the wheat sprouted!" Nevertheless, it's wise to use your oldest storage wheat first, and then replace it with fresher stuff. Eating Wheat
For a cookbook written for freshly ground whole grain flour (it's different from store flour), get The Amazing Wheat Book by LeArta Moulton: 801-374-1858; LM Publications; 509 E. 2100 N., Provo, UT 84604.
Tudy Kile wrote me in 1983, "Greetings from Rwanda ... a little republic in the center of Africa. We live in a beautiful spot on the shores of Lake Kivu on an old coffee plantation (abandoned by the previous owner in 1960 . . .), which became a haven for us and many other missionary families from the Congo (now Zaire) during the Independence evacuations and the wars there of 1964 and 1967, when we lost all of our earthly possessions but praised the Lord for 10 minutes allowed in which to flee. We've done that so many times during our 35 years of missionary service. Now it is T; my husband was killed by accidental electrocution in March. After having worked so many years to get the hydro-electric plant operational for our large village of Bible School students and vocational school for 150 boys, I must confess I did sneak in a little 'Why, Lord?' but not for long because I know the Lord does not make mistakes."
Tudy asked me about wheat: "I can find nothing in your book about roasting. Is wheat to be roasted or is it not? I roast the kernels (after washing, debugging, and de-stoning—the local stores add rocks, etc., to make the wheat weigh more—and drying) in my electric fry pan (which can be used only in 'off-hours' when there's not too heavy a load on the system). I find 400°F the best for wheat. I rewind the kitchen timer to remind me every 5 minutes to take a look at it. Right now, the wheat is finished and we are roasting coffee—something that you don't have to do."
My answer to that question would be ... It depends. Here in the United States, wheat doesn't usually need to be washed, debugged, or destoned—or roasted either—before grinding. But if you have your reasons (or if it feels right), do it!
Eating Unground Wheat
& WHEAT GRASS Start out by sprouting the regular way until the sprouts are as long as the seed. Then uncover and water once in a while. If you have them on something like a sponge that will hold the dampness well, the sprouts should keep growing until they look like grass; it takes about 7 days. The best time to eat them is when they're 1-2 inches long. You eat the entire seed and grass blade. Full of vitamins! If you put wheat grass in your juicer, you'll have a nourishing drink. Or use wheat grass in salads or sandwiches. Wheat grass will enrich unleavened or leavened breads and taste good baked into them. Ground wheat sprouts are good added to butter for a special spread.
COOKED UNGROUND WHEAT I just love it And so does Greta Forbish, Portland, OR, who lives in what is "now termed a 'depressed area' though in my youth it was a respectable lower middle-class district and quite safe for a lone teenager to walk 8 blocks to the library after dark, or for a group of giggling girls to attend the local movie theater and thrill to Hoot Gibson or Clara Bow and come back without being molested. (Local movie theater is now showing X-rated films—'Girls on Parade,' 'Maisie's Bedroom,' The Men in Her Life,' etc. And here I am still dreaming of john Gilbert and Norma Shearer.)
"During my early years, mother cooked whole wheat Papa bought this in 5-lb. sacks from a local hay, grain, and feed store. Mother sorted it over each night and removed the spears and other residue and soaked it to skim off the chaff. After we got our gas range, she cooked it overnight in a double boiler with plenty of salted water, and by morning it had swelled to double its bulk and could be eaten with enthusiasm and sugar and cream, although I always preferred a dollop of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar. I used this with my older children (now 42 and 40) and they loved it"
FRUMENTY "Frumenty" is whole wheat cooked for cereal. Seems like everybody has their own favorite way of cooking it Process 30 minutes in a pressure cooker. Or on top of the stove in a double boiler (simmer 4-6 hours). Or soak 24 hours in water enough to cover; then put the wet wheat in a covered oven dish, cover with water, and let cook in a slow oven for 12 hours. Or presoak the whole wheat in water (22Ac. water per I 'A c. wheat berries) for 8 to 10 hours; then bring wheat and soaking water to a boil with I t. salt Boil gently until tender and the kernels break open. Serve like Greta's mother did, with cream or butter or sweetening added at the table. For fruity frumenty, mix your cooked wheat with milk and dried fruit before serving it Stir up, cook together a few moments, and then set out to eat
To make vegan frumenty, reader Ruth from Bonaire suggests, "Serve with chopped dried fruit stirred in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Enjoy without the milk. Or use soy milk diluted with 2 parts water. Grain cooked in apple juice is wonderful with applesauce, or plain."
WHOLE WHEAT CASSEROLE Bring 3 c. tomato juice, canned tomatoes, or I Ai c. tomato sauce (plus I A2 c. water) to a boil. Add I c. wheat Simmer on the stove top or bake in a 250"F oven until the wheat is tender. Add more liquid as needed while it's cooking. Once the wheat is cooked, add I chopped onion, I lb. browned, ground meat 2 minced garlic cloves (or I t garlic salt), Ai c. chopped green peppers, I c. corn, A t salt and a bay leaf Basil or oregano is good too! Let simmer more until the flavors are soaked in. Now cover with I c. grated cheese and bake in the oven, uncovered, 15 minutes more, until the cheese is bubbly. Optional: leave out the meat Another option: make it with water rather than tomato juice.
Of Cracked Wheat, Bulgur, and Couscous:
Bulgur, cracked wheat, and couscous are all more or less interchangeable in recipes.
Couscous. I didn't know about couscous until Cindy Roundy from Ludlow, VT, wrote me, "When visiting Algeria in October 1974 I picked up one of the ultimate treats of the world. 'Couscous' is coarsely ground wheat, usually accompanied by a bowl of lamb or chicken stew." Here's Cindy's recipe.
<»> COUSCOUS Spread 2 c. couscous on a baking sheet Sprinkle with water and lightly mix to moisten all grains. Place couscous in a colander lined with something or use a special couscous cooker. Cover and steam 20 minutes. Stir couscous. Steam 20 minutes more. Stir in a little butter and place on platter. Meanwhile, place I c. chopped carrots and I c. chopped turnip in pan under colander. Cook until almost tender. Drain. Add salt and pour 3 c. homemade vegetable broth all over. Add I c. peas, 2 c. cooked garbanzo beans, and I c. cooked chicken. Heat until boiling. Pour stew over couscous on platter.
<i> COUSCOUS FROM A BOX Food writer Lane Morgan says, "Our couscous from a box cooks a lot faster and easier. Boil 2 minutes, stirring, in stock or water. Let sit off heat for 10-15 minutes. That's it It's great—light and fluffy and soaks up pan juices." (It's quick 'cause it's precooked.) Bulgur. Bulgur is wheat that has been boiled, then dried, then cracked. You can use bulgur in any recipe that calls for cracked wheat, and vice versa; note that bulgur cooks faster because it has been precooked and dried. You can substitute bulgur for rice or mashed potatoes in any recipe.
W> COOKING COMMERCIAL BULGUR One cup dry bulgur makes 2Ai cups cooked. Measure out equal parts of bulgur and boiling water and combine. Add a pinch of salt Cover and wait 20 minutes to an hour. Stir and taste. Not all bul-gurs are the same. If it's still tough, add cup more of boiling water, cover, and steam some more.
<i> MAKING BULGUR Start with a kettle large enough that you can fit a small pan into it The kettle must have a tight-fitting lid and a steamer rack on the bottom of it Pour water into the large kettle up to the rack level. Put I c. water, I c. cracked wheat and A t salt into the pan. Set it on the rack inside the large one. Don't cover the pan, but cover the kettle tightly Heat on high for 15 minutes, and then steam at a lower temperature until the wheat has absorbed all the water in the pan. Store in fridge, covered. It won't keep more than a couple weeks.
<i> BULGUR BREAKFAST Heat bulgur. Serve with milk and sweetening. If you like, add raisins.
BELL PEPPERS STUFFED WITH BULGUR Combine 2 A c. bulgur, Ai lb. ground meat I c. water, and your favorite herbs and seasonings. Let that mixture wait while you cut 3 peppers (green or red) into lengthwise halves (cut out and discard all inside parts). Now fill your pepper "bowls" with the bulgur mix. Lay in a baking dish. Pour tomato puree over them. Bake at 375°F for about an hour.
TABOULI For recipes for this popular bulgur salad, see "Mint" and "Parsley" in Chapter 5.
<i> HOMEMADE BULGUR "POSTUM" Parch bulgur under broiler or in oven until dark brown. (Don't burn it!) Grind to a fine consistency. To make your drink, put c. powder into 2-4 c. hot water (depending on how strong you prefer it!). Add honey (or brown sugar), I T. vanilla, a dash of nutmeg, and a pour (or much more!) of milk. Served with whipped cream on top, this is a gourmet drink!
<i> RUTH'S BULGUR "SAUSAGE" From Ruth of Bonaire: "Soak I Ai c. bulgur (cracked wheat) in I Ai c. boiling hot water till fluffy (30 minutes) and drain. To bulgur, add 3 T. finely minced sweet pepper, 3 T. minced onion, 5 crushed garlic cloves, 4 T. whole wheat flour, 2 T. paprika, !4 c. tamari, I Ai T. sage, and 3 T. nutritional yeast Mix well with hands. Form into patties or rolls. Fry (without oil) until browned (3 minutes per side)."
Cracked Wheat. If you grind wheat very coarsely, you have "cracked wheat."
<i> CRACKED WHEAT CEREAL Simmer A c. cracked wheat in 2Aic. water until tender. (Instead of cracked wheat you can use wheat grits that you have sifted out of your wheat flour after grinding it) It will be done in 1-3 hours, depending on the size of your chunks. Add salt to taste while cooking. Serve hot with a slosh of rich, thick cream and some fresh blackberries or whatever you like with your cereal.
<i> FRIED WHEAT MUSH Pour leftover cracked wheat breakfast cereal or graham porridge into a bread pan to get cold and set then slice and fry it to make a hot mush. Serve with butter and syrup.
<i> CRACKED WHEAT BREAD From Pat Brunton, Maple Valley, WA: Bring to a boil and simmer until tender: I c. cracked wheat I T. salt 4 T. shortening, and 2 c. water. Dissolve 3 T. yeast in I c. warm water. Put all that in a large bowl, add 8 T. molasses, I can (13 oz.) evaporated milk, and 5 c. flour, and mix. Add another 5 c. (more or less) flour. Flour your hands. Knead dough (sort of push it together!) till dough sticks in a ball. Grease ball and let rise till doubled in bulk. Knead again; put in 6 loaf pans and let rise. Bake at 350°F about 40 minutes. Pat advises, "While it is baking, have a nap—the smell of home-baked bread eliminates the need for dusting, scrubbing, and all those stupid things."
<i> "POPPED" WHEAT In your heavy iron frying pan or Dutch oven (no lid needed), heat I T. oil to very hot (or pop it in a dry pan). Now add about A2 c. whole wheat As soon as it starts to get hot begin to agitate the pan over the heat The wheat will pop just a little, like parched corn, but the kernels will be easy to chew. Serve plain, or buttered and salted like popcorn. Or serve with milk and a sweetening for a breakfast cereal. Or grind to make a raw or cooked breakfast cereal.
Graham Wheat Recipes: "Graham" is an old-time word for home-ground flour or flour that is a trifle on the coarse side.
<i> RAW GROUND WHEAT CEREAL Grind your wheat fine enough to chew without cooking. Pour milk and sweetener over a small bowl of it and eat it like a dry cereal.
<»> GRAHAM MUSH This is the quickest wheat cereal you can make. Grind your wheat as fine as baking flour. For every I c. flour, add I c. cold water and 'A t salt. Mix into a smooth paste. Then stir the mixture into 4 c. boiling water in the top of a double boiler. Cook until it tastes done and is of a nice cereal consistency. It will take maybe 20 minutes. Good with any dried fruit cooked in with it and served with milk or butter and sweetening. Or cook in all or part milk. Or cook in applesauce or any other fruit sauce, or a few cups of blackberries that have been stewed and put through a sieve to get out the seeds.
TRAVELER'S BREAD Geraldine Strusek of Carmel Valley, CA, wrote me a beautiful letter about her Minnesota childhood. 'There in that big old kitchen was love, food, and a secure kind of feeling that comes over you as you enter its warm kingdom." My mother's kitchen was like that too! Geraldine said to grind 2 cups of northern wheat. Then add dried fruit (figs, dates, raisins, prunes) and nuts crushed fine. Stir with cold water as briskly as you can (to get air bubbles in it) until quite stiff. If you got it too sticky, add more wheat flour until you can cut it in cakes from a roll 'A inch thick Bake. bran: If you are grinding hard wheat into flour, you can sift out bran; what's left is a relatively light flour for piecrusts or light muffins.
Before I get on to the wonderful world of wheat breads, here's . . .
Continue reading here: Unleavened Egg and Acid Base Leavened Breads
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