term research project– what type of wheat to store

In an effort to be more self-reliant, maybe you’ve considered buying and storing wheat. After all, it’s one of the basic foods for most Western people.

But what kind is best?

When you go wheat shopping, you’re likely to run into a few confusing terms. Hard, white, red, soft, winter, spring . . . what does it all mean, and does it matter?

In the olden days, which by this the Damsel means twenty-plus years ago, pretty much the only kind of wheat people bought for storage was called “hard red wheat,”  sometimes called “red winter wheat” or even “turkey red wheat.” No one will tell the Damsel why the turkey thing.

Ever notice what a weird word turkey is? Turkey turkey turkey. Say it a few times and pretty soon you’re laughing for no reason.

The hard red kind is great because it stores like, forever. People love to tell the story about a guy finding some of it in a pyramid that was 2,000 years old and it still sprouted. Also, it has a high protein content so that’s good.

Other types, such as soft white wheat, are used by bakeries who don’t care about being able to store wheat for 2,000 years, and yield a–you guessed it–softer, whiter product.

So, people have stored the hard red kind, and try to make bread from it in an effort to become self-sufficient and to rotate the blasted stuff. But the Damsel admits she has seen, on more than one sad occasion, grown women break down and cry in the attempt.

It’s not impossible. But it ain’t easy, especially since the folks who eat it are accustomed to fluffy white bread rather than rough peasant loaves.

Then, in 1986, a farmer in Montana cross-bred the two types of wheat and came up with a new wheat that had both the storability and protein content of the hard red wheat and the lighter flavor and “fluffiness” of the soft white type. It’s come to be called “hard white wheat” and has gained huge popularity among wheat storage enthusiasts.

Yes, there is such a thing as a “wheat storage enthusiast.”

The hard white wheat is a lot easier to make bread with. Those same sad women who cried over their door-stop loaves of red wheat bread, cried tears of joy when they tried again with hard white wheat. It was as if their femininity was affirmed. Crikey!

Now, to be sure, some people prefer the nuttier, “darker” taste of red wheat. But if you’re a wheat buying novice, the Damsel will bet 99 turkeys that you’d like this newer “hard white” wheat. And–now that it has become more widely known and grown, the price has come way down. You used to have to pay a premium for its light fluffy goodness. No longer.

As for the “spring” and “winter” designations, there is a small protein content difference, but the Damsel advises not getting worked up about it.

So unless you are a red wheat lover, the Damsel says go thou, and buy thyself Hard White Wheat.

grinding flour

Old stuff done a new way. Our first lesson: Grinding wheat with an electric mill. Grandma would have loved one of these babies:

Grandma used a contraption that rubbed two flat millstones together. And it’s true, we should learn how to grind wheat without electricity, just in case. But that’s another day.

So here we go. This is how we grind the wheat, said the little red hen. Not every electric mill is just like this, but most have certain things in common. First you assemble it. This plastic cup snaps on to the base. The mill will grind without it, but it helps keep the flour from blowing everywhere. The Damsel really hates that.

Assemble the mill, and now we’ll put in the grain. Here the Damsel is using Hard White Winter Wheat. Types of wheat is a whole ‘nother can of weevils. We’ll talk about that later. Much later.

The Damsel loves sticking her fingers in the grain. Well, it’s better than sticking her fingers in the light socket.

Fill the hopper with grain and turn it on. Why is it called a hopper? No idea. It has nothing to do with hopping. The Damsel fills the hopper three times when she makes whole wheat bread. The mill pan can hold that much without dumping it, and it’s just about the right amount of flour for a batch of five loaves.

Now the Damsel presses her hands over her ears because it sounds like an airplane is taking off in her kitchen. Thankfully it doesn’t take long.

Take the thing apart again. The flour in that plastic cup is perfectly good to use…it’s best to take it off each time and dump the flour out.

The flour is nice and warm right now, so if you make bread with it immediately, it will raise faster. And someone told the Damsel that fresh ground flour has more B vitamins. (Freezing the flour at this point will retain the vitamins for later, if you’re not in the mood to bake bread Just This Minute.)

So there you have it. That took about ten minutes, and although the Damsel is now deaf she likes how quickly Grain becomes Flour.

Any questions for the teacher?