Okay, so I realize I’m not doing these posts in order of relevance (ie: what are wheat berries, where do you get them, how do you use them, how do you store them, etc.), but I’m just gonna post as I myself learn (which is usually backwards!). So, now that I’ve gone to the mill and made my first purchase of wheat berries I’m at the “how to store them” part. I promise to cover the related topics soon.
Here is one of the 100 lb. sacks of wheat from the mill, and one of the buckets we are using to store the wheat in. We got our buckets from the bakery at the grocery store. Almost every day my husband would go to the bakery and ask them if they had any empty icing buckets. Sometimes they would not have any, sometimes they would, and sometimes they’d try to sell them to us! The stores in our neck of the woods sell them for like $3 each, probably ’cause so many people around here ask for them. But a short drive into town usually scored us some free buckets. We’d take any size, but the 5 and 6-gallon buckets are what we really want. At times we’d get some buckets with no lids, which is a bummer ’cause you kinda need lids, but we’d take them anyways.
When looking for a bucket to store your grains in, you need to make sure that you use a food grade plastic bucket. You can’t just run to Home Depot and buy buckets. On the bottom of a food grade bucket will be an HDPE, with a number two within a triangle of arrows. I’ve read that the colored buckets, even if they have the #2 on them, are not safe. If you wanna be safe, get white buckets.
We also bought Gamma Seal lids to go with our buckets… for two reasons. The first was that we didn’t have lids for all of the 6 gallon buckets, and needed some. The second was that the Gamma Seals are excellent for food storage, as they are airtight and leak proof. Plus, they screw on and off super easy. And the best part about them, in my opinion, is that they are probably the only thing in my home that is actually made in the USA! Imagine that. They are a bit pricey (like $7 each!), but I figure if we’re gonna be storing food long term we’d better do it right.
For those of you who have never seen wheat berries, let me open my sack of wheat to give you a peak:
Go ahead, look a little closer…
Cool, huh? This is what is ground to make flour.
I don’t know if all wheat looks the same, but this is soft white winter wheat. There are other kinds of wheat, like hard red winter wheat. Each is good for a particular kind of baking. The soft white winter wheat is a pastry wheat, good for biscuits, pancakes, quick breads… stuff like that. It isn’t good for baking regular loaves of bread though. I’d really like to get some hard wheat for loaves, but it’s a bit more expensive since it isn’t grown locally. Speaking of which, I love that the wheat I’m buying at the mill is locally grown!
Another thing you’ll need when storing food long term is something to keep the bugs from infesting your stash. We’re using these oxygen absorbers. They come in a vacuumed bag like this. The pink little tablet you can see in the picture tells you that the packs have not been exposed to the air. Once you open that vacuum sealed pack the oxygen absorbers will begin working, and the pill will start turning dark.
The purpose of these little packets is to absorb all of the oxygen from your bucket, making it impossible for any little critters to hatch or survive in your food. You have around 15 – 30 min. to get the packets into your bucket and seal the bucket before they are finished absorbing their capacity and are rendered useless.
The amount of oxygen absorbers you need depends on the size of your buckets. For 6 gallon buckets it is recommended that you use approx. 2000cc’s of oxygen absorbers. Since we bought packs of ten 500cc absorbers, we used 3-4 absorbers per 6 gallon bucket.
I like to put some packs in the bottom of the bucket, and some on top before screwing the lid on. You don’t need to open the packs or anything, just drop them in. But remember to get the buckets sealed pretty quickly!
*TIP: If you have some unused oxygen absorber packets leftover, you can store them in a small mason jar, with a tightly screwed on lid. The packs will absorb a little oxygen, but will still have some absorbing ability as long as you keep them in an airtight container until ready to use.
Here’s my first batch of stored wheat. It took six 6-gallon buckets filled to the rim to store 200 lbs. of wheat berries. I did, however, leave out a little bit to grind into flour, which I’ve never done before. But that, my friends, will have to be another post!
Got any questions or tips? I’d love to hear what you think!