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Grainy Goodness

Posted by kevinwolz on August 13, 2010

Grains have been a staple agricultural crop for a very long time. Wheat dominates U.S. culture, but there are countless grain crops grown around the world (my favorite is quinoa, originally from Peru). Grains are annuals and, consequently, the sustainability of their production is questionable from a Permaculture perspective. Nevertheless, they’re here now, and they can be part of a transitional system in the mean time. Not to mention, they’re tasty! In my recent grain endeavors, I’ve explored bread, pasta, and granola, crossing yet another three things off my list for the summer.

Bread

A while back, I spent an afternoon with the lovely Sheril for a Bread 101 session. I had never baked bread before and didn’t really know much about the process. Starting with freshly ground local flour, Sheril took me through everything: dealing with the yeast, how to knead, how long to let it rise, alternative ingredients, and, of course, the all too fun slapping of the dough. We made several regular loaves, some braided loaves (my favorite for easy ripping apart), and a batch of rolls. Now that I have the basic know-how down, I can experiment in the future with different ingredients and modifications. I will also be heading back to school with about 10 pounds each of fresh milled whole wheat flour and fresh rolled oats to tide me over for the next few months. Thanks Sheril!

Pasta

As a stereotypical distance runner, I love pasta. With all the great local flour now in my hands, it seemed pretty obvious that I should learn how to make pasta for myself. Lucky for me, one of my awesome neighbors was nice enough to give me her legit, Italian-made, old-time pasta maker! It’s really such a simple technology, but it’s so cool! Making pasta is really quite easy. The only essential ingredients are flour, eggs, and salt. (Yes, this means that all those unpronounceable ingredients on the back of your pasta box don’t really need to be there.) You beat the eggs with the salt and then add the flour to make pretty thick dough. Let it rise for a half hour or so, roll it thin, and then slice into noodles. Once you have the noodles cut (using either a machine or just a knife), you can either leave out the noodles to dry for future use or boil them for 5 minutes right away for dinner (what I did…duh!). I may fall under the runner-pasta stereotype, but I bet making my own distorts that a bit. Can’t wait to use this awesome new tool for pasta parties to come! Thanks Sarah!

Granola

Getting away from wheat now, oats are another really versatile grain. My favorite use of oats, though, is undoubtedly granola! Granola is also really easy to make. First, you mix a bunch of rolled oats with oil, honey (local and raw, of course) and whatever other flavorings you want. Then you lay it all out on a baking sheet and bake it for a half hour or so, turning the granola every ten minutes. Once again, now that I have the basic method down, I can experiment with variations and alternative ingredients. Now, paired up with my prior experience in making yogurt, I’m a true hippie. Thanks Kerry!

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3 Responses to “Grainy Goodness”

  1. Roger said

    More then a few years ago, I made granola all the time. My recipe came from a Mother Earth News magazine. The page became marked with oil and honey stains. I think I will dig that out and make some granola soon. If I can unstick the pages. Rog

    • kwolz said

      Haha nice Roger…I recently bought the last 25 years of Mother Earth on CD, so I’ll have to keep my eyes open for that as I journey through.

  2. Victoria Johnson said

    HI, Kevin: Thru all your expeiences and experiments this summer, you can always become a farmer, a pasta maker, etc — you have a wide choice of careers open to you , (if your original vocation plans change.) I greatly admire ALL that you have done, ALL that you are doing now, and ALL that you WILL do in the future!!

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