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Food Storage Essentials: Why store wheat? What about a grain mill? (+ video)

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Why go to the trouble of storing wheat?

Leslie Probert

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Many think storing wheat is a hassle and bypass it altogether in their food storage. Here are some reasons to reconsider including wheat in food storage.

Wheat has a long shelf life. Wheat is extremely easy to store. It can be left in containers and used when you feel like it because it stores for 30-plus years. Storing it in an oxygen-deprived environment ensures insects in all stages are killed. Remember that wheat cannot be stored in a hot garage or shed, as extreme heat destroys gluten-forming properties essential to bread rising.

Whole wheat is filling. Who wants to be hungry, especially in a time of difficulty? Extra activity and stress can cause an increase in appetite. If meals in an emergency feel a little light or someone needs a snack, whole wheat bread or other whole wheat foods will fill hungry tummies. Many freeze-dried gourmet meals are light in calories and meal plans often provide two entrees a day, leaving families to plan something for lunch. What will they serve — soup all the time? Sandwiches are a great option.

Wheat is healthy. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Doctrine and Covenants, a book regarded as revelation for our day, states in section 89, known as the Word of Wisdom, that wheat is made for man. It also states that meat should be eaten sparingly, a recommendation made by health authorities today. Many experts, including doctors at the Mayo Clinic, recommend eating whole grain foods, which are high in fiber and take longer to digest, for weight loss. Such foods help people to feel full longer. Many of us eat too much meat, which is filling, but cutting back on it can leave people hungry. Adding whole grain foods like whole wheat bread, muffins or biscuits to meals is a healthy way to help people feel satisfied.

Bread is a comfort food. There is just nothing to compare with the amazing smell of homemade bread. It’s fun to make whole wheat bread and other baked foods whenever you feel like it, because there is a store of whole wheat on hand. Think of how comforting these foods will be for family members in a time of hardship.

Wheat is inexpensive. Wheat is a very inexpensive way to expand food storage and have a larger supply of food on hand. It is also space-efficient to store.

What about a grain mill?

Most of us are in a hurry these days, and the fastest way to use whole wheat is to first grind it into flour. But getting a grain mill seems to be the biggest obstacle for people when considering storing wheat.

Good grain mills range from $210 to $270. In my experience, most people can find a way to buy a grain mill if it is a priority. I’ve known people on a budget to hold a yard sale to buy one. Others have asked for money to go toward buying one for birthdays or Christmas. Eating less expensive cooked cereals, toast, homemade muffins or pancakes in place of expensive boxed cereals saves money that can go toward purchasing a wheat grinder.

What to look for

For an electric mill, consider size, where to store it in your kitchen, the noise level and the size of the storage bin that holds flour after it is ground. When I have whole wheat flour on hand, it is easy to use in everyday cooking. In this case, a large bin is an advantage. If I have to get the mill out every time I need whole wheat flour, I will rarely use it.

For a hand mill, consider the coarseness of the flour it makes. Less expensive hand mills generally produce medium-fine flour, which produces heavier, grainy baked foods. A significant amount of extra water may be required in recipes. For light and delicious baked foods like those we are used to, stone burrs are needed to produce fine flour. These make a mill stiffer to operate. One mill provides a double clamp to hold it in place while grinding, which is a big plus. In an emergency without power, I plan to have everyone at my house spend a few minutes each day grinding flour. I like the philosophy of the little Red Hen, who would not let anyone eat her bread unless they helped make it.

Great nutrition in everyday cooking

With a mill and some wheat, it is fun to discover how simple it is to cook with whole wheat. Good recipes make moist and mouth-watering baked whole wheat foods. The significant health benefits make it worth incorporating whole wheat into everyday cooking. I was pleasantly surprised how easy that is. For example, in any cookie recipe calling for shortening or oil, all of the white flour can be replaced with whole wheat flour with the same great results. Using flour made from white wheat, you can’t see a difference.

There are many advantages to storing whole wheat and getting a grain mill. Consider making it a priority to get a mill for a family gift at Christmas, if you don’t have one. There is hardly a more useful and beneficial gift for discovering the fun of cooking with whole wheat and being prepared for a long-term emergency.

Here are some favorite whole wheat recipes to try.

Don't know how to make bread? Click here or see embeded video for a YouTube demonstration on making the following recipe by hand.

EASIEST WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

Makes: 4 loaves

Lemon juice acts as a dough enhancer, giving bread a fine, light texture and preserving moistness. A good quality brand stores about three years if stored in a cool, dark place.

Gluten flour, derived from high-protein hard wheat, provides elasticity, keeps bread moist, reduces crumbling and extends the shelf life of bread. If you do not store gluten flour, substitute whole wheat flour in its place.

7 cups whole wheat flour

⅔ cup gluten flour

2½ tablespoons instant yeast

5 cups steaming hot tap water (120-130º F)

2 tablespoons salt

⅔ cup oil

⅔ cups honey or 1 cup sugar

2½ tablespoons bottled lemon juice

5 cups whole wheat flour

Combine first three ingredients in mixer with a dough hook. Add water all at once; mix for 1 minute. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Add salt, oil, honey or sugar, and lemon juice; beat for 1 minute. Add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, beating between each cup. Beat for about 5 minutes until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. This makes a very soft dough.

Pre-heat oven for 1 minute to lukewarm; turn off. Turn dough onto oiled countertop; divide, shape into loaves and place in oiled bread pans. Let rise in warm oven for 10-20 minutes until dough reaches top of pan. Keep bread in oven; turn on oven to 350º F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on racks.

For kneading by hand: Kneading by hand requires a little more flour to handle this moist dough. Gradually add an additional 1/2 cup of flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to counter. Knead 10 minutes before shaping dough into loaves.

Adapted recipe from Jamie Rasmussen;"Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition," by Leslie Probert and Lisa Harkness, published in 2011

COCONUT MUFFINS

1½ cup whole wheat flour

1½ cup white flour

⅔ cup sugar

3½ teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon dried whole egg, sifted (push through small sieve) OR

substitute 1 fresh egg and reduce milk to 1½ cup plus 2 tablespoons

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded coconut

1¾ cup reconstituted dry milk

1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

½ cup oil

In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in coconut. Stir together milk and extract. Pour into dry ingredients with oil; stir just until combined (15 strokes). Spoon into greased muffin pans. Bake at 400º F for 20 minutes. Makes 12 cupcake-sized muffins.

"Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition," by Leslie Probert and Lisa Harkness, published in 2011

PUMPKIN SQUARES

1¾ cup canned pumpkin or 1 (15-ounce) can

1⅔ cup sugar

¼ cup dried whole egg, sifted (push through small sieve) OR

substitute 2 fresh eggs and reduce water below to ¼ cup

½ cup water

1 cup oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix together first five ingredients. Mix dry ingredients together and blend into pumpkin mixture. Pour into ungreased large jelly roll pan. Bake at 350º F for 25-30 minutes. Frost, when completely cool, with icing below.

— Julie Beckstrand

LIGHT AND FLUFFY ICING

4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup shortening

3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together 1 cup powdered sugar with shortening, 2 tablespoons water and vanilla for 1 minute. Add rest of powdered sugar and water and beat for further minute.

–Laurel Rapp, "Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition," by Leslie Probert and Lisa Harkness, published in 2011

Leslie Probert, a graduate in home economics from Brigham Young University, has been a popular speaker and is co-author of "Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition" with over 400 fast, creative recipes. Email: foodstoragechick@gmail.com

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