Friday, March 1, 2013

Emergency Preparedness Month- Wheat Berries

Isn't there something we can do without having to grind or crack our wheat berries?

There is!  You can cook them and eat them plain.  They have a nice chewy texture, they just require some planning ahead.

There are many ways to cook wheat berries, but generally you want to soak them over night, then cook them in 2.5 times the water.  Note that 1 c of berries will expand to about double after soaking. So 1 c berries dry = 2 c soaked, gets cooked in 2.5 c water.

The Stovetop method:
I soaked 1 c wheat berries overnight.
I drained and then brought 2.5 c water to boil in a small saucepan, added the soaked berries and let them simmer for 1 hour.

The Crockpot method:
I soaked 1 c wheat berries overnight.
I drained and then put them in my crockpot with
2 1/2 cups water
2 t bouillon (optional)
I cooked them on low for 8 hours (though the seemed done after 7)
Note: you could soak these in the morning and then cook overnight and have hot wheat berries when you wake up!

The Pressure Cooker method: (always reference you pressure cooker manual before cooking anything new for the first time)
This is the fastest method, for sure.

Rinse and soak 1 c wheat berries in cold water overnight.
Drain and rinse again.
Put 2 C water and soaked berries in your pressure cooker.
Put on the lid and turn your stove to high.
Once the little thingy on top starts wiggling (you know what I mean...), turn down your stove (I put mine on a 3) to maintain a gentle flow of steam and a gentle rocking.  You may have to experiment with your stove to figure out what setting achieves this.
Set the timer for 20 minutes.

The Rice Cooker method:

Rinse and soak 1 c wheat berries in cold water over night.
Drain and rinse again.
Put in rice cooker with 2 1/2 c water (if you want bouillon or herbs or spices, now is the time to add them.)
It took my dinky rice cooker about  30-40 minutes. (not sure exactly because I don't keep tabs on it when it's doing its magic.  Isn't that the whole point of a rice cooker?)

Note: When I did this, it seemed to really sputter and foam up a lot.  It might be a good idea to add a bit of oil or butter to cut down on this happening.

The Microwave method:

Rinse and soak 1 c wheat berries in cold water over night.
Drain and rinse again.

Put in a container much larger than your berries (because it will foam up) with 2 c water.  Microwave for 25 minutes and test.  I ended up adding microwaving mine for 40 minutes.

The Sprouting method:

Put your berries in a large mason jar with cheesecloth covering the top and secured with a rubber band.
Rinse and drain them (get as much water out as you can) about every 8 hours.  I usually just set it by my kitchen sink and I do it after breakfast and dinner dishes, while I'm there.
You should start seeing sprouts after a day or two.
You can use them right away, or keep letting them grow, depending on when you need them.
Sprouts have a really pleasant subtle, sweetness about them!

The Lazy Sprouting method:
I may, or may not have discovered this method accidentally...  This method with less rinsing does tend to give them a slightly bitter taste, compared to how sweet they are with the first sprouting method.

Soak wheat berries over night.
Put soaked berries in the fridge in tupperware.
Pull them out a week later and they've sprouted!

The Cute method:
Well, I think they're cute...
Just lay out a bunch of wheat berries in some soil and lightly water them so that they stay damp.  If they get dried out, it's ok, but it will just take longer for them to grow.  They should be in a window that gets some sun.  After 1-2 weeks, depending on your watering diligence (don't drown them though!) You will have a cute pot of wheat grass!  I always grow a pot for Easter every year.  You can cut and eat the grass and keep watering it and it will just keep on growing!  Once the grass comes out, you will be amazed at how fast it grows, seriously.

Ok.  I've got my prepared wheat berries... now what?

Ground meat extender:
I tried adding them to our spaghetti sauce, like a fake ground beef.
not the most appetizing picture... sorry
It definitely didn't fool anyone into thinking it was ground beef, but it neither added nor took away from the meal. I could see myself cooking up a batch at the beginning of the week and adding it to actual ground beef to make the beef go further.  Let's face it- meat is the most expensive thing I buy for my family to eat!  If you buy a good cut of meat, it would for sure be cheaper to get a Hot 'n Ready at Little Caesar's instead...

I would like to try throwing them in with tacos and meatloaf/hamburgers and see what happens.

Rice extender/replacement
Throw it in with your stir-fry.  Blends in much better with brown rice than white.  I subbed it for the rice in this stuffed bell pepper recipe and nobody in my family even noticed!  (but I didn't cook it how they tell you to cook the rice... obviously)

Soups and Stews
Use it the same way you might throw barley, rice, or something similar into a soup, stew or chili (It should be cooked  first though).  I've also read when blended it adds more body to a pureed soup.

Yep!  You can bake bread with cooked or sprouted wheat berries if you like a bit more heartiness to your bread.  I'm curious about this recipe that uses only sprouted wheat- no flour.  I'd like to experiment more with this and see if you can just swap out some of the flour for berries...

Here is a recipe from Everyday Food Storage, with apples and cashews that sounds good.

And another from the foodnetwork with celery, walnuts and dried cherries.

Here's another one from The Meal Makeover Moms (whose recipes I have tried over and over again with great results) that I also haven't tried, but looks so fresh and springy!

I'd probably only put sprouts or wheat grass on a sandwich, but if you wanna make up some wheat berry/mayo concoction, do your worst!  (and then tell me about it!)

What can't you hide in a smoothie?  Honestly...

You can eat wheat berries straight up with some honey and raisins, or yogurt, maple syrup and pecans... whatever you'd normally do with oatmeal and have a hearty breakfast.
Also, my neighbor says she cuts up sprouts onto her kids cold cereal in the morning.  Suuuuure. I suppose if you start them young enough, they won't even bat an eyelash.

Why are we doing this again?
Because wheat berries last a really, really, really, really long time (30+ years) when stored properly, so it's the kind of thing if you see a sale, you can buy a lot and not worry about it going bad.  However, what's the point in storing wheat berries if you have no idea what to do with them?  They're also super healthy in their whole form and full of fiber.

aaaaaand it's fun, right?

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