When I first started prepping, I was befuddled about wheat. I just simply did not understand why the heck anyone would want to store wheat for survival purposes. After all, you don’t eat it in its raw form? Or do you? And what about cooking with it? Being a bit naïve at the time, I assumed that the only thing you could do with wheat is turn the wheat berries into flour and then the flour in to baked goods. It sure sounded like a lot of work to me and hardly worth the effort.
Luckily, I was sent a copy of How to Live on Wheat by John Hill and I woke up to both the long term storage and nutritional benefits of wheat. I learned that storing wheat and using wheat was not a burden at all. All I needed was the proper mindset to learn to cook with wheat (and other grains) and I was off and running. Sprouted, wheat, popped wheat, cooked wheat cereals and of course breads and pizzas – all of these things and more can be prepared from stored wheat.
Now I have to admit something to you. In spite of my good intentions, I have not learned to actually grind wheat into flour. Not yet, that is, and truth be told, I feel a bit guilty about it. What kind of prepper am I if I do not grind my own wheat?
So, as I do from time to time, I was chatting with my online pal Ron Brown and telling him I needed to get going with my wheat grinding initiative. I was thinking I would get myself an old fashioned grinder with a hank crank and give this wheat-ground-into-flour business a try.
And again, as he frequently does, he said he could offer up some tips.
How to Grow, Grind and Cook Wheat
You asked about grinding wheat on home scale. Please know that grinding is the middle of a three-stage process. First of all, you must grow the wheat . . . or otherwise obtain it. Then you grind it into flour. And, lastly, you convert the flour into something edible.
Growing wheat is a low-tech process. But that’s not the same as NO tech. A hammer is pretty low-tech. But you still have to know which end is the handle.
If you set out to grow your own wheat, best you know the “fly date” in your region for the Hessian fly. Else, after many hours of toil, you will harvest nothing.
So some homework is in order. Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon is the best book out there.
Then comes storage. Insect eggs are already on or in the grain when you put it in storage. Untreated, your carefully tinned wheat will spoil from the inside out. Heat, dry ice, and diatomaceous earth are all preventatives as well as opportunities for more homework.
At this point you may ask, “Why bother? I live in town. I’m not going to grow my own wheat. I’m going to buy it at the health food store. Or, better yet, why can’t I just buy already-ground flour and store that?”
The answer is shelf life. You may be able to store flour for a few months or even a few years. But sooner or later it will turn rancid. And in all likelihood it will “get wormy,” as my farm-bred mother phrased it.
In contrast, unground wheat berries (given the right moisture content, protected from insects, etc.) will potentially last for decades if not centuries.
So much for the wheat berries. The next step is grinding. How best to do that?
Grinders and Grinding
If you have electricity, a ten-speed blender offers the biggest bang for the buck. The procedure is to blend a cup of wheat, sift it, re-blend the tailings, sift them, repeat, repeat. You can either invest in a good blender or buy an armload of cheapies at yard sales. (Tip: Blenders are most often located between the National Geographic’s and the faded plastic children’s tractors.)
If you plan to ignore electricity and go green, please know that you are joining a fairly elite club. I remember years ago, back in my homesteading days, when the minister and his wife stopped by the house for something or other. The good reverend surprised me in the garage where I was cranking away.
“Wadda ya doing?” he boomed in his best hale-fellow-well-met voice.
“Grinding flour from wheat,” I answered.
“Outta sight!” he proclaimed. Then spun on his heel and joined the ladies in the kitchen. (Ministers are not exactly renowned for getting dirt under their fingernails.)
Simple hand-crank wheat-grinders can be had for about $30 on eBay. They clamp to the counter top and resemble meat grinders. There’s certainly nothing wrong with have one tucked away.
But don’t believe the claims. You will not grind flour in one step (i.e. one trip through the grinder). You will not get a cup of flour for one-and-a-half minutes of grinding. Including set-up at the start and clean-up at the end, an hour of hand-grinding will provide enough flour for two loaves of bread. But, hey! It’s eco-friendly, right?
My one word of advice is to stay away from stone grinding wheels. The stone will not be a natural stone anyway. It will be a man-made carborundum wheel, just like the grinding wheel on the knife sharpener out in the workshop.
I can predict with 99% certainty that the wheat you attempt to grind will be too moist and your stone wheels will be glazed over and useless within minutes.
Stone-ground flour evokes images of the candlelight era of the 1800’s. It’s more romantic-sounding than flour ground on “steel burrs.” But when it comes to a choice of being artsy-fartsy versus actually eating supper tonight, forget the stone. This is the voice of experience talking.
Using Your Home-Ground Wheat Flour
Now that you have some wheat flour, what do you do with it? It will be noticeably coarser than store-bought brown flour. If you use your hand-ground flour in your bread machine, please expect abysmal results; it will NOT be a family favorite.
One suggestion I’ll make is to try roti, a simple Indian bread. In large areas of India, roti served with mung bean soup is the dietary mainstay, eaten daily. I was introduced to roti by Indian friends in Canada. They came from modest backgrounds but were quite well to do by the time I met them . . . as in, he gave his wife a Mercedes for her birthday . . . that kind of well to do . . .
Roti is a no-yeast, whole-wheat bread, simple to the point of primitive.
DIRECTIONS: Mix 2 cups brown flour, 4 teaspoons cooking oil, 3/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Take a gob of dough the size of a golf ball and roll it out THIN. Fry it in a non-stick pan (no oil). When it starts to bubble, take it out of the pan (with tongs) and toast it directly on the stove burner (i.e. the flame of a gas stove). It will puff up like a balloon. (You’ll find other techniques on YouTube.) Paint your roti’s with clarified butter using a basting brush. Done.
No need to get super-scientific about clarified butter. Melt some butter, pour off the clear liquid, and leave behind the residue in the bottom.
Serve your fresh, hot roti’s with split pea soup. It WILL be a family favorite. Not to mention it will for sure impress your Indian friends.
Some Facts About Wheat Used for Baking
There are two types of wheat commonly used for long term storage: hard red and hard white.
In the simplest of terms, red wheat, when used in baking bread, will result in a dark, dense, whole wheat loaf whereas white wheat will be more delicate in both taste and color. Both types are fairly equal nutrition-wise with the exception that red wheat has slightly more protein.
To get a bit more technical, the terms red and white are used to identify the color of the kernel and not of the flour that is eventually milled from those kernels. Most people do not know this but hard white wheat was actually developed from hard red wheat by eliminating the genes for bran color while preserving other desirable characteristics of the red wheat.
A major difference between the two types of wheat is flavor. For some, red wheat has bitter taste that does not exist is white wheat. For that reason many people prefer white wheat because reduced bitterness requires less additional sweeteners in the final product.
So what does all of this mean? At the end of the day, the type of wheat you choose for baking (and for long term storage) is really a matter of preference.
An Action Plan for Wheat
Coming up with an action plan for adding wheat to your long term food storage is easy. Get some, store some and use some with the emphasis on the USE SOME. As with anything else, having some #10 tins or 5 gallon buckets of wheat will not do you a whole lot of good if you wait until a crisis or TSHTF to learn how to use it. When that happens, you will have too many other problems to deal with to even think about learning to cook or bake with wheat.
On the other hand, with time on your side, you can learn to make pan bread or Ron’s Roti (but please use a cast iron skillet instead of a non-stick pan) as well as your own sourdough starter, sprouted wheat berry salad and more. As you become more experienced, try your home ground flour in artisan breads and pizza crusts (which, by the way, are fabulous when made in a cast iron skillet).
If you still have doubts, read Why Store Wheat – Wheat 101 for Newbies and you will be motivated if not hooked on grains.
The Final Word
Some of the best prices around for hard wheat (red or white) are LDS Cannery stores or even the LDS online store. In addition, you can purchase 40 pounds of Thrive hard white winter wheat for $37.29 through my Shelf Reliance Online Party. (This is less than the Costco price.) Of course there are plenty of other sources as well – just be sure to shop around since prices do vary considerably.
The other thing to keep in mind is that while an electric grinder is nice to have (albeit expensive), it will not do you a lot of good in a grid down situation. For that reason, you may want both a hand grinder as well as some buckets of pre-ground flour put away for long term storage purposes.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy at Backdoor Survival