Sunday, June 14, 2009

Whole Wheat 101

Wheat is the foundation of any emergency storage supply. It is relatively inexpensive, nutritious, and easy to store. Approximately 150 lbs will supply an adult for one year. A three-week emergency supply is approximately 5-10 lbs per adult. Children under 8 years old would need half those amounts. Wheat has been separated into several commercial classes based on color, hardness of the kernel, and growing season. The hard wheat classes are produced in areas that have dry-temperate climates. The kernels are usually small, red, and have a hard texture. The white wheat classes are usually produced in areas where winters are relatively mild and there is adequate moisture. White wheat kernels are more plump and larger than red wheat kernels and have a softer texture than hard wheat. Wheat kernels are also known as wheat “berries”. Gluten is a wheat protein that giving flours the ability to retain gases produced by bread yeast to permit dough leavening. The hard red wheat varieties are high in gluten and make the best bread flour. Gluten will degrade during storage and lose half its raising power after several years of storage. Gluten can be purchased and added to poor quality flour in order to produce better quality bread. To maintain optimum gluten content and nutrition, t is important to rotate your wheat! Don't wait for an emergency to start learning to cook with whole wheat.

Quality and Purchase. The most inexpensive way to buy whole wheat is from the LDS cannery, Costco, or at grocery stores when they go on sale. For instance, this week at Macey's grocery store, you can get 45 pounds of hard white, or hard red wheat in a sealed bucket for only $16.99! The regular price at Costco is about $21.00 (for a 45 pound bucket). The cannery is a bit cheaper, but it comes in a regular bag.

Hard red spring, Hard red winter & Hard white spring: 11-15% protein. Best uses are for bread flour (high gluten).

Soft red winter, Soft white winter & Soft white spring: 9-12% protein. Best uses are for pasta, cake, biscuits, crackers, and pastry flours (low gluten).

Packaging. Store wheat in moisture-proof, food-grade packaging, such as Mylar-type bags, polyethylene bags, plastic buckets, or #10 cans. I keep mine in food grade 30 gallon buckets. Be aware that rodents can chew through plastic bags. Wheat stored in ~10 pound bags is easy to manipulate, facilitates rotation, allows easy inspection of the grain, and compartmentalizes the grain so contamination of one lot does not expose large quantities of stored grain to contamination. Several bags can be placed inside a 5-gallon plastic bucket. It is not necessary to store wheat in the absence of oxygen unless insects are present.

Storage Conditions. Storage at 40-60°F is optimal for most home stored grains but is usually impractical in most homes except during winter months. Freezing or sub-zero temperatures do not damage stored grains. Storage at temperatures above 60°F causes a more rapid decline in seed viability (ability to germinate) but only a slightly faster loss in food value. Keep your stored wheat in a dry environement. A moisture level over 12% encourages mold growth and chemical degradation of all grains. Moisture above 15% will allow molds to grow. When the moisture reaches 20% some bacteria can start to grow. The result is spoiled grain unfit for use. Store containers off the floor-- especially off concrete floors. Concrete can wick moisture to stored containers very easily. Inspect grain often for insect activity. Treat for insects (see below) or discard affected lots.

Insecticides: NOT RECOMMENDED, may be toxic if not correctly used

Heating: NOT RECOMMENDED, too difficult to control the correct amount of heat to apply.

Bay leaves, nails or salt: NOT RECOMMENDED, these have absolutely no effect on insects or insect eggs.

Freezing: Freeze 1-15 lb bags of wheat for 2-3 days. Allow to warm for 24 hours. Freezing kills live pests, but not insect eggs. Multiple freezing and warming cycles may be needed to kill all insects and hatching eggs.

Vacuum Sealing: Seal wheat in vacuum bags using follow vacuum sealer instructions. Regular polyethylene bags are not suitable to maintain a vacuum.

Dry Ice: Place 3-4” of grain in the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Use gloves when handling dry ice. Add 2-3 oz. crushed dry ice. Fill the container to the full height. Place the lid on top slightly askew. After 30 minutes, seal the lid air-tight. Dry ice will control most adult and larval insects present, but usually will not destroy eggs or pupae. If properly applied, a single treatment with dry ice is sufficient for long-term storage. Annual dry ice treatments are not necessary unless an infestation is recognized in the stored grain. Treating grain with dry ice does not reduce its ability to sprout or its food value.

Oxygen absorbers: Seal wheat in Mylar-type bags or #10 cans along with appropriate number of oxygen absorber packets to create an oxygen-free atmosphere. This will kill adult insects and prevent larval insects from surviving.

No Treatment: Choose insect-free sources for wheat. Store them in clean and dry containers impermeable to insects.

* Polyethylene bags and 5-gallon plastic buckets will not maintain an oxygen-free environment after dry-ice or oxygen absorber treatment. Over time oxygen will re-enter the container and this may allow larvae to grow to adults and cause an infestation during storage.

Shelf life. Develop a program to utilize stored wheat on a regular basis. A great way to rotate that wheat is to buy a grinder. Use whole wheat flour mixed with white flour in your favorite recipes. Start with just a spoonful of whole wheat flour in every cup of white flour. Continue adding more wheat flour until you are at 100% whole wheat. As stored wheat is used, replace it with containers of new wheat. Identify each container for variety and storage date. A good rule of thumb is to rotate wheat so that no stored product is older than 5 years. However, older stored wheat does make acceptable bread. A B.Y.U. study indicated that, regardless of headspace oxygen level, wheat packaged in No. 10 cans throughout 32 years of storage at ambient or cooler temperatures made bread acceptable to a majority of consumers.

Use from storage. Stored wheat can be ground for flour, popped (like popcorn), steamed, or cracked and cooked. Some like to germinate and sprout wheat for wheat grass.

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