Grain: Wheat, Corn, and Oats
Copyright © October 3, 2013 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
The Different Types of Grain
There are a variety of different types of grain.
Let's briefly look at wheat berries, corn, and oats.
Durum Wheat is used to make pasta. Although you can make pasta from scratch, I prefer to purchase dry pasta noodles from the grocery store.
After a grain of wheat has had its inedible exterior hull removed, and before it is milled into flour, it is called a wheat berry (or wheatberry).
Wheat berries may be cooked like rice, or sprouted and added to salads, or ground into flour.
Wheat berries should be ground into the finest flour that your grain mill will produce in order to yield the smoothest texture in your baked goods. The finer the grind the easier it is to mix two or more different types of wheat berries together so they will yield a more consistent flavor in the final baked good.
One cup of wheat berries will yield approximately 1.5 cups of ground flour because freshly ground flour contains more air and it has not been packed down tight.
Wheat can be classified in all of the following ways:
Based on the above, wheat berries are available in the following combinations:
- The season in which it is planted:
Spring Wheat: It is usually planted in April or May and it is usually harvested in August or September.
Winter Wheat: It is planted in the fall, and it grows a few inches tall before it becomes dormant for the cold weather months of winter. But in the spring it starts growing again and it is usually harvested in June or July.
- Its color:
Red Wheat: It normally has a strong wheat flavor.
White Wheat: It normally has a mild wheat flavor.
- Its texture:
Hard Wheat: It is usually preferred for loaf breads. Hard wheat berries have a chewier texture than soft wheat berries. It is usually grown in the northern states in dry cool climates and this allows the wheat to have a higher protein (gluten) content and a lower moisture content. A higher gluten content is required for yeast breads.
Soft Wheat: It is usually preferred for pastries or for lighter breads. It is usually grown in the southern states and it has a lower protein (gluten) content and a higher moisture content. Therefore it does not produce good yeast breads. However, it does produce excellent biscuits, pastries, cakes, and cookies.
If you can only afford to purchase one type of wheat berry, then you should consider purchasing the hard white wheat berries because they can be ground into the best all-purpose flour. If you can afford to invest in more than one type of wheat berry, then you should also consider the soft white wheat berries because they can be ground into an excellent pastry flour that can be used to make pizza crusts, rolls, cookies, cakes, and pie crusts. If you are not limited in what you can afford, then you should also consider purchasing a small quantity of hard red wheat berries and mixing them into your loaf bread recipes in a ratio of about 1/4 red wheat berries to 3/4 white wheat berries to add a little variety to the flavor of your loaf breads.
- Hard Red Wheat (Spring and Winter):
The berry has a reddish brown color and it has a long thin shape with one rounded end and one pointed end.
It is the most common type of wheat.
It is used to produce a heavier, darker colored bread with a strong wheat flavor.
- Hard White Wheat (Spring and Winter):
The berry has a yellowish brown color with more of a long oval shape with rounder ends.
It creates the best all-purpose wheat.
It can be used to make bread, tortillas, oriental noodles, or cookies.
- Soft White Wheat (Spring and Winter):
The berry has a light yellow color with more of an oval shape with rounder ends.
It has a very mild flavor.
It makes outstanding pie crusts, cakes, cookies, and pastries.
It can also be used to make excellent pizza crusts.
It is preferred for breads that contain herbs, cheese, or meat.
It can be used to make rolls with a milder flavor.
- Soft Red Wheat (Winter):
This is the least popular of all the different types of wheat.
It has a stronger wheat flavor than white wheat and therefore its primary uses are for flatbreads and crackers.
There are three basic types of corn as follows:
The best way to purchase sweet corn is precooked canned corn at a grocery store. Unpopped popcorn, without any extra ingredients, can also be purchased at a grocery store. Although unpopped popcorn can be ground into a gritty cornmeal, the best way to produce high quality cornmeal is by purchasing dent corn and grinding it into fresh cornmeal as you need it.
- Dent Corn or Field Corn (for cornmeal or hominy or corn chips, tortillas, and taco shells): A small depression or dent appears in each kernel of corn on an ear of corn. This is the best type of corn to grind into fresh cornmeal to make cornbread, hush puppies, and similar foods.
- Popcorn or Flint Corn (blue or red corn): When it is heated the steam builds up inside the kernel until it explodes. If unpopped popcorn is ground into cornmeal then it will be grittier than cornmeal made from dent corn.
- Sweet Corn or Table Corn (yellow or white corn): It contains a high sugar level. It is usually eaten as corn on the cob. But it can be removed from the cob and either canned or frozen for future consumption.
Oats contain complex carbohydrates and they contain fiber that is water-soluble. Oats digest more slowly than other foods and they are a good source of B vitamins.
The best way to purchase and store oats is in the form of rolled oats. Rolled oats (also called oatmeal) can be purchased at a grocery store.
- Whole Oats: This is the oat as it is grown and harvested, and it still contains its inedible outer hull.
- Whole Oat Groats: This is the oat kernel with its outer inedible hull removed.
- How to Cook: Add three times as much water, plus a little salt, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot, and simmer for between 45 to 60 minutes, but stir every few minutes as the groats are cooking. Remove from heat and allow the groats to cool (stand) inside the pot for 10 minutes before eating.
- How to Make Oat Flour: Grind the uncooked whole oat groats into flour with a grain mill.
- Rolled Oats: These are oat groats that have been steamed and then pressed down into flat flakes under heavy rollers and then lightly toasted. This stabilizes the desirable oils in the oats and they have a longer shelf life. There are two basic types of rolled oats as follows:
- Old Fashioned or Regular: The cooking time is about 5 minutes.
- Quick or Instant: The cooking time is about 1 minute. These oats are cut into smaller pieces, and then they are pressed down thinner, and sometimes steamed longer, than regular oats. Therefore they absorb water faster and they cook faster.
- Oat Flakes: The tough outer bran is removed before rolling, steaming, and toasting. Oat flakes are usually thicker than rolled oats.
- Oat Flour: You can grind oat groats or oat flakes into an oat flour.
Hand Crank Grain Grinders
For a potential future hard times event I suggest you have a manual hand crank grain grinder that can process wheat berries, dry corn, and dry beans.
Information about bean grinders and grain grinders is on my website here.
Click on www.grandpappy.org for Robert's Home Page.
Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com