Friday, August 27, 2010

Shall We Play Barley Break?


Fa la la, la la, Say dainty nymphs? No, none of those. But I did have some lovely red barley I've been playing with lately. Whole grains. Partly inspired by picking tender grains of barley, rye, oats, wheat, etc. in Finland last week. And discussing these very same in class today.
So why do people say you need wheat to make bread? This is about 80 percent barley, and the rest sourdough wheat starter. Rose nicely, though dense, and quite pungently sour. But this is SUCH luscious bread. Exactly what I was looking for.
And here's the weirdest part. I have no grain mill. Someday I want a rotary hand quern. Anyone know where to get one, has to be stone, please let me know. I never really wanted an electric flour mill - that's the only reason I still don't own one.
So I soaked the barley for a few days and hand ground the grains in my big stone mortar. No big deal. Not gritty in the least. I wonder why people in the past without mills didn't do this. Much easier than dry grains. And of course with corn in MesoAmerica, this is exactly what they did. Why is there no wet milling for bread in the West??? I am perplexed.

5 comments:

Kathryn McGowan said...

This is the closest I've seen to a rotary quern:

http://www.cabelas.com/link-12/product/0083552540173a.shtml

Ken Albala said...

Kathryn, This link doesn't work. What were you looking at there? All I saw were metal crank mills. I need something stone.

Kathryn McGowan said...

Sorry about that Ken. Try this one:

http://www.cabelas.com/prod1/0083552540173a.shtml

It's a Samap Stone Grain Mill

Glenn said...

I'll make a guess about why no wet milling...but remember, it's just a guess. It's also somewhat rambling, because it's barely 7 am, and my brain wants more sleep.

In Europe the peasants growing the grain didn't usually own it, or only owned a percentage of it. The rest was shipped off to their lord (or whomever) to use when he wanted. If you wet-grind this stuff, you have to use it pretty quickly, or you risk giving his Lordship ergot poisoning or whatever. And once baked, well, you have a pretty short shelf life before you can't even use the resulting bread as trenchers. So, dry grinding gave you the best combination of pre-processing/bulk reduction and shelf life and storage. All that said, I bet a lot of peasants DID wet-grind what grains they had for themselves, sometimes, just for their own bread. But they sadly didn't write it down for us, being illiterate (darn them for that!)

I do know that in Byzazntium, the tax laws made it pretty much illegal to grind your own grain--every step in various production processes were taxed separately. For that matter, except in outlying farms, people couldn't even -bake- their own bread (unless you were a baker)--doing so was akin to being a tax-dodger. Sheerest Hell for those who love to dabble in the kitchen, eh?

Nick Trachet said...

Hello,
Greetings from Brussels.
I cam to your blog through Rachel Laudan's. She raised your same question about wet milling.

I suggested it is because the European wet grinded product of choice is called beer (or ale). The ingredients for bread are the same as for beer, both are made with the same yeast and both produce alcohol as a side product (though through baking most of the ethanol in bread evaporates). Here in Belgium we still call a pint of beer a "glass sandwich"