Oats

In Tuesday's post I mentioned trading some squash and beets for a bag of oats. I claimed  I got the better end of the deal. From a calorie for calorie perspective there is no doubt I got a lot more than I gave. From a labor to access the food calories stored therein, not so much. Oat groats, rolled oats, and steel cut from the store are all mechanically dehulled. I got a bag of feed oats. In fact, the guy I swapped with said that I'm the first human to consume his oats as far as he knows. Feed oats come with the hulls on, and the hulls probably constitute somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of the weight of the grain. One of my homesteading heroes, Gene Logsdon, says that they are probably the most difficult grain to dehull as their hulls wrap tighter than any other crop seed. His book, Small Scale Grain Raising, gave some pointers about how to go about the process.

I tried a couple of different things to remove the hulls, but the technique that ultimately worked the best was basically as he recommends. If you ever find yourself with a pile of hull-on oats here's how I got them off without buying a specialized machine designed expressly for that purpose.

First, heat the oats in the oven to 180 degrees for at least an hour. I put them in a baking dish a few inches deep and stirred every once in a while. I left them in the oven for closer to three hours because I had such a depth of grains to heat.

Second, put two scoops of the roasted grains into a Cuisinart and run for about 5 minutes. Beating the hulls off my 25 lb share of oats two scoops at a go took a long time. I discovered my food processor has a heat cut out switch that shuts the appliance off when the motor gets too hot from running for too long. Once it cooled down, I moved my set-up onto the porch where it was 10 degrees and windy, and ran it without another hiccup.

Third, take the mix of grains and powdered hulls and stand in front of a leaf blower set on a table. A box fan would probably work too. Place a generous scoop of the mixture into a shallow, broad dish and toss it up and down in front of the breeze. The chaff blows away and the grains fall back into the bowl.

Fourth, sift through the grain and pick out the individual grains that dodged the blades in the food processor and still have their hulls on.

Fifth, cook oatmeal, or send the groats through a grain mill and make flour.

In all honesty I tried to obviate this rigamorale. I ate a bowl of porridge made from oats with the hulls still on, but it was too much. It was like eating oatmeal mixed with chopped straw. Chewing would release the oatmeal and I could swallow that part of the mouthful, but it was really hard to then swallow the remaining chaff. Spitting it out was kind of gross too. It was just a bridge too far, so I doubled down on all the processing I just detailed above.

I have had some oatmeal from step four - mostly cleaned oats, but with the occasional hull still floating by. That works fine because the ratio of edible to not edible is so much more favorable.

At this point I've made oatmeal, a sort of oatmeal shortbread, pancakes, and a sort of oat/applesauce short bread. Both batches of bread were dense. Normandy gave me some pointers on how to increase the odds of getting a little rise, and if I can get it to work I'll post the recipe because the flavor is quite good.

-Edmund

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