Saturday, February 21

soaking, fermenting and culturing...

...that's what I've been up to. I keep thinking I'll blog soon, but then there is something else to do. I have been busy for sure, but I have been spending lots of time in the kitchen. I have been reading Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation. They have been influencing a lot of what I am doing in the kitchen and what I am thinking about food.

So what are all those things I have been doing? I'll start with soaking. Whole grains are good for us. We've all heard that and know it to be true. We are all trying to consume more whole grains, too. Our family has been away from refined flours for quite a while. I started baking mostly all of our breads last winter. It's still an area that I am working through, trying to get a whole grain bread that we really love. I also mill our whole grain flours. When we buy whole wheat flour, there's really no standard that determines what is in that whole wheat flour. In fact, any flour made from wheat can be called "whole wheat flour", even all purpose four. Products made from those products can also be labeled that. Like twinkies that say they contain whole wheat flour. They are being literal and saying that they contain wheat flour and not rice flour or oat flour. Commercial whole wheat flours are really just refined flour (made from wheat) that has enough wheat bran and wheat germ added back to make it look healthier. (This info comes from Flour Power.)

That information really forms my belief that milling my own flour at home is worth the few minutes that it takes me. Buying whole wheat flour at the store just isn't getting what you think you are. Add into that the fact that as soon as the outer coating of that wheat berry is broken, the vitamins and minerals begin to break down. Have you ever smelled wheat flour that smelled a little off? It was probably rancid. The natural oils that are in the germ will "turn" depending on how the flour was initially milled and how it was stored. Even at home if I don't use all the flour I have milled, I will store it in the freezer to help preserve its nutrients.

So where does the soaking come into play? All grains (including oats) have phytic acid in their outer layer or their bran. This is really hard for us to digest. In our era of quick breads and quick cook oats, we have lost much of the time that our ancestors put into cooking their foods. By soaking flour or grains overnight (like with sourdough) we can neutralize some of that phytic acid by soaking in a slightly acidic liquid like kefir, yogurt or water with a little lemon juice or whey added. Not only is it easier to digest, but things also have a different texture. I make pancakes for the kids with whole wheat flour that I have soaked overnight in a mixture of milk and yogurt and they are super light and fluffy. If I made the pancakes without soaking first, the kids would definitely feel that they were eating something whole grainy, but after soaking, the pancakes aren't that much different that a refined flour product.

I do the same thing with oatmeal. The oats in the morning are much creamier. I never thought I would get them to eat anything other than flavored instant oatmeal packets. Not only are they full of extra ingredients, but they get expensive with 6 kids and many of them eating at least 2 packs of oatmeal at a time. Now I can buy inexpensive bulk oatmeal and soak it and add some chopped apple or something and everyone is happy.

Phytic acid also makes it harder for us to absorb some of the great nutrients in those grains. By neutralizing some of that acid, breaking it down, we can get more nutrition from what we are eating. Soaking also helps to break down some of the gluten in grains like wheat, oats, rye and barley. By consuming lots of these grains full of gluten we stress our digestive systems, resulting in the prevalence of a myriad of things like allergies, candida overgrowth and even celiac disease. Think about how our grocery stores are selling mostly refined flour products. In that refined flour, the germ and the bran have been removed, leaving a disproportionate amount of gluten in the flour and the products made from them. It's no wonder that there has been an uprising of celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. That is all we have consumed for a few decades. By using whole grains and soaking them, that gluten is more proportionate in what we are eating and also starting to be broken down for our bodies, helping our digestion.

I feel like I am all over the place with this. It is a pretty big topic to try to cover in one little blog post. I'm sure I'll have more to add later. And I'll tell you about culturing and fermenting later too.


Anonymous said...

This is all valuable information, and I'm glad you're sharing it here.

We began soaking our grains a couple of years ago, but only forayed into the world of sprouting them and grinding our own flour last summer.

After a couple of years of doing it, laziness has kicked in.

Now, we just don't eat grain all that often. At first, I thought this would be a really hard adjustment, but it turns out it isn't! I'm still amazed by the people who go totally grain free, but just cutting back on the grains has caused me to lose the last 10 lbs of pregnancy fat I was holding on to.

(So, it's worth a shot if you have any extra baggage you want to lose!)

Kathy said...

Who knew I was being so smart when I soaked my oats overnight? I just thought I was being lazy cause they cook faster! You are such an inspiration!