How long will your wheat last? What's the best way to store it? How do I keep insects out of it? What do I do when it smells like the can?
Today I was doing a training which involved going over the shelf life of various foods. One woman in attendance incorrectly stated to the entire class that “wheat goes bad easily because it has oil in it, and so it goes rancid if you’re not careful.”
I got to talking to my husband and asked him what other misinformation he may have heard about wheat. Turns out, there sure is a lot of MIS-information out there. So, I decided to help dispel some of the rumors so that you can more confidently store this vital food.
First of all, what IS the shelf-life of wheat?
Wheat does have an oil in it. It’s called vitamin E. It’s what gives the grain some fat content which makes it an even more complete food. (Nice how God is so thorough that way, eh?) In fact, by extracting the oil in wheat, you come up with the expensive oil called Wheat Germ oil. (Very healthy for you, by the way.) However, oil doesn’t go rancid because of its mere existence. It goes rancid when it’s exposed to oxygen, primarily.
Storing wheat for 30+ years is a drop in the bucket—excuse the pun. The key is to store it in its whole grain form. I do the same thing with dent corn. I store dent corn in its whole grain form so that I will have plenty of cornmeal on hand when I need it, otherwise just plain cornmeal would go rancid relatively quickly. In the cornmeal stage all of its oil is fully exposed to oxygen. Oil exposed to oxygen is what makes things go rancid. It’s nice that whole dent corn is easy to store for 30+ years. I’d never get that far with cornmeal. The same goes with groats instead of oats. Groats are the “whole” form of oats. By the way, when you store grains in their whole grain form, you can sprout them—YUMM-MEE.
The ideal temperature for storing wheat for the longest shelf life is 75 degrees or cooler. However, yes, you can store wheat in a warmer environment so long as it’s packaged well. Ideally you’ve got it in a double-bagged packaging. Or in a bag and then in a bucket. Or better yet, in an number 10 can—although more expensive to buy that way (you can always buy it in the bags and then use a canner). Wheat stored in a Mylar bag in a bucket would be another good method, however, it’s also more expensive than the simple bag or bucket method. So long as you keep your wheat off of a heated cement floor, and out of direct sunlight, you’ll have success in storing it long term. Remember though, the cooler, the better and the easier the wheat will be to work with in your recipes too.
Continuing on with the temperature issue… Keep in mind that wheat was found in the pyramids, and Egypt is NOT known for its cool climate. :) I had someone comment to me recently when I told them this: “yeah, but the deep dark corners of the pyramids are rather cool.” First of all…have you been to a pyramid? It’s flippin’ HOT in there. Sure it’s COOL-ER than outside of it. But it’s not a cool 75 degrees. (Although SOME have been found to maintain 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Why can’t I build my home to do that?!) Second of all, such a statement presumes that the wheat came fresh off of the stem before it was put in the pyramid. *heavy sigh* In other words, it's presumed that it was never exposed to any heat prior to being placed in the pyramid tombs. As I’ve shared in a previous article, when I lived in the Philippines, they would frequently “dry” their grains by spreading them out on the road for a couple of days. And yes, it is extremely hot and humid in the Philippines, and yet whole grains are the most vital food source they have. Whole grains are just another one of these neat miracles that God has given us to feed us, if you ask me. They are temperamental foods that the majority of the world can’t store without refrigeration.
A metal can is the ideal way to store wheat simply because varmints can’t chew through it. But to be forthright with you, I have very, very little wheat stored this way. Most of mine is in the big, thick, double 50 pound bags. The wheat of my mother’s that we kids moved around for 18 years was also stored this way. I’m sure many of you have parents and grandparents with their wheat stored the same way. Remember, that if you do get little bugs in your wheat, there’s no need to throw it out. Simply put it in 180 degrees for about 20-30 minutes and Voila! You no longer have bugs. You simply have extra protein. (Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.)
When you open a can of stored wheat it may smell a little “tin-ish.” Don’t worry about that. It’s natural for the ingredients to take on that smell. But the good news is that it’s not permanent. Simply aerate the wheat for a couple of hours outside of the can, and you’ll eliminate that smell just fine.
I don’t mess with buying the more expensive wheat. I almost exclusively store the hard red wheat. It’s more environment- hearty and tolerant to store than the hard white wheat. My bread, pie crusts, and cookies turn out just dandy with the hard red wheat. When selecting your wheat for storage, make sure that it doesn’t have a moisture content higher than 10 percent in order to successfully store it long-term.
Well, I hope this helps answer some of your grainy questions about wheat. (Sorry, I’m in a punny mood today.)
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Actually Bruce, Dent corn sure will pop in the solar oven. It doesn't get as much of the fluffiness as commercial popping corn, but it sure is good! And yes, that's what I make my cornmeal out of.
Dent corn won't pop.
Popcorn has an especially hard exoderm that keeps moisture inside the heated kernels until the steam created causes the kernels to explode.
Dent corn is also what's commonly used to make cornbread.
In light of the 2,000-year-old wheat found in Egypt in the '70s which sprouted, just open yours and see if a small quantity will still sprout. (I'm concerned about the "fumigated" part of your post.)
Either way (sprout or not), just reseal the canister and the wheat should be fine.
You *may* have bugs in the wheat (bugs usually come OUT of the wheat, not make their way INTO it), but they really don't matter.
Go ahead and bake with it. Don't think about them ... they only add protein to the bread/cake/rolls and won't hurt you.
To be frank, I have no idea. I haven't ever run into that one. Even if you did have bugs it wouldn't ruin the wheat--it would simply be unappetizing. My inclination would be to sprout the wheat. If it sprouts it's still really good!
So you are not using mylar bags or oxygen absorbers? One of the most expensive things about storing wheat is the buckets, bags and absorbers. I fit about 350 pounds of wheat in 10 bukets. $50 for hard read at the feed store. Then I buy the storage stuff for upwards of $50.
Mine comes in the nylon feed bags and I would not want to store it in that. They are not even close to air tight.
What is the double bag you refer to?
Thanks for all your information. you do a great job.
I have been using diatomaceous earth for some products including grains. It is easier to use and won't hurt anyone if they eat it. I do rinse it off though.
Thanks for the info on the canned smell--haven't run up against that, and I usually use buckets, but if I were to find that, without knowing that all it needed was a little air, it would have been thrown out.
Hey, when wheat was going through the roof ($26 for 6gal) I bought a bunch...nice timing but they came from Lehi Roller Mills in the 6gal buckets...Hard White, Am I still good? For how long? They don't put in the moisture packets and it is in the basement out of the sun... Will it still be good in 1000 years like the pyramid wheat?
Oh- one other question, some say that you should grind wheat fresh because if not stored properly, it looses some of its nutritional value after 48 to 72. Is that true based on some the things you have in this blog and if so, once you grind it to flour, what is proper storage? We put it in plastic 5gal with gamma lids...
Kelleen - I so enjoy your articles. I learn so much. I'm still trying to get the hubby to buy into the whole food storage concept. Little by little he's starting to see the value. On another note, now we've stored can you give some advice on how to use it for us greenies. Thx. ~Shawna
This was really helpful. I have several bags of the hard white wheat from the LDS cannery that come in the white bags. Hubby got a bunch of thick icing buckets that we cleaned. I just put the 25# bags in these buckets. The lids are these buckets are very tight. Do I need to rebag this wheat or use oxygen absorbers? We're keeping in the house, so temp is not over 80 degrees.
I didn't realize red stored better than white. Hmmmmm. I like the white better but maybe it is in our head.
And are you saying that some people store wheat just in double bags? Does this keep out the weevils?
And I agree we may get over eating bugs if things get really bad. I'm guessing we do now in the over the counter breads, we just never know about it.
What do you recommend for use as a hand grain mill? Any suggestions?
PS If you live near an LDS cannery, they'll let you "check out" a dry canner that you can take to your home; so we often buy long term storage on sale (when it's even cheaper than the cannery sells it), buy the canning materials from the canner (each can ends up being about $1) and then check out a canner over the weekend and do our dry canning at home. It's actually really easy and fast if you just set out a bunch of cans on a table and dump the bag of whatever you're canning into each can, add the o2 packet and seal the can.
I like to keep my wheat in the whole grain form for as long as possible. I usually only grind what I need and then keep any leftovers in a 5 gallon bucket. So long as it's kept in a cool, dry place, it should be fine for a couple of years. As it gets older, if using it for wheat bread, you'll want to add "vital wheat gluten" to is to enhance it's baking potential. Fresh ground wheat is always the most nutritious for you and the best to work with. Yes, it loses some of its nutrition as the flour ages.
1,000 years? you planning on be around that long? If kept in a cool, dry, place, wheat will store for a half a century, easy.
Hard white it good. It's a bit more tempermental than hard red. You're good though. Don't worry.
I do have some in the past on wheat. Just do a search on "wheat" in the search bar on here. If you have something specific that you'd like me to address about working with wheat, feel free to let me know! Thanks, Shawna.
If it's in a bag in a bucket, you should be just fine.
A lot of folks do prefer the white better than the red. It's a little fluffier.
I store the wheat in double bags. I haven't had problems with weevils. But then again, if I did, I would simply just put the wheat in my solar oven for 20-30 mins. at 180 degrees and not fret about it.
Walton Wheat comes double bagged.
Nope, I don't use mylar bags or oxygen absorbers for my wheat. The Egyptians didn't, so why mess with it? :-)
Wheat is magical because it is so versatile. However it is important, as Kellene has warned previously, that we allow our bodies to adjust gradually to eating whole wheat if it is to become a mainstay in our diets. Those who foolishly think they can store wheat and then in a crisis start eating it without detrimental effects may find themselves with terminal diarrhea.
Probably the easiest way to use wheat if you don't have a way to grind it is to throw a handful into a pan of water and bring it to a boil. Simmer until the berries (wheat grains) have plumped up and even split with the white endosperm exposed. At that point, drain the water - which is vitamin rich so don't dump it - and add the cooked wheat to chili, soup, casseroles, or eat the wheat with honey and milk. If you cooked more than you need, refrigerate or freeze until your next cooking experiment.
When mixed in with other ingredients like chili or spaghetti sauce, wheat looks like ground beef and quickly takes on the predominant flavor of the combined food. It always amazes my guests to know that it was wheat and not meat in their meal.
Thanks, Is it OK without oxygen absorbers?
I only mention it because everything I've ever been told about storing wheat says it has to be packed in something air tight. I suppose mostly for bugs but also to keep out pests. So if "bugs" get in it doesn't ruin the wheat?
One of the big mistakes being made these days is storing seeds in cans with oxygen absorbers.
Seeds can live a long time if given air. As you pointed out, if you're old enough to remember the "pyramid craze" of the early '70s, it was started because 2,000-year-old WHEAT was found in an Egyptian pyramid ... and it sprouted. (This caused people to think that the pyramid shape was magical and many started putting razor blades under pyramid shapes so they wouldn't lose their edge, and wearing aluminum foil pyramid hats to prolong the life of their brains...)
Also, normal canned goods from the grocery store will last far longer than their expiration dates state. Twice in our history, foods over 100 years-old have been found ... still edible and nutritious.
Actually Yes. Dent corn is more of a grain than sweet corn is. It's used to feed cattle. And yes, it will pop, but to clarify, it's not "popcorn."
Kellene, what exactly is "dent" corn. Is popcorn "dent corn"?
I loved the tone and wording of this post. You had me laughing.
The only thing I would want to add is that for those of us on the east side of the Mississippi, ordering the wheat in #10 cans from LDS is cheaper than trying to order from some of the wonderful supply stores that you folks have over on the other side of the river. The shipping to get it here is really high. I also have not had any luck finding a feed store that sells wheat in my area yet. There is a "whole foods" type of store, but the wheat berries are well over a dollar a pound, and that is not icluding any storage costs.
Yes it is. In fact, I don't like using oxygen absorbers in any baking type of item. If it's a baking item, then it has its "life" to put into whatever I'm making ie. rising, bubbling, expanding, etc. So I don't like to "suck the oxygen" out of baking items, cause in my opinion, it's like sucking the life out of them. I don't want to use "deydrated wheat" or "dehydrated baking powder" etc.
The Family Grain Mill
It sure does mess with your appetite for the wheat. And it if bugs are cracking your wheat, then they are exposing the oils which may lead to rancidity. So yes, I do package mine to prevent that as much as possible. But double bagging usually does the trick.
Thanks, I needed "permission" not to mess with oxygen absorbers!
Thanks for the helpful information on food storage - specifically wheat. Quick question, my mother has some 50 gal drums of fumigated wheat sealed inside which she purchased in 1978. What are the odds the wheat is still good? If chances are it is still good how could we access portions of the wheat without putting the remainder at risk? We have considered opening it to check it out and if it is in good shape just re-storing it in smaller portions. Your thoughts? Thanks.
Rotation is critical. So yes, I would open it to check it out. You can reseal it in Mylar bags, but why not use it? You need to be incorporating it in your diet anyway, so why not use that and store the newer stuff. And yes, it certainly should still be good if it's been kept in a cold, dry, place all this time.
In my garage, I have soft white wheat berries stored in plastic 6 gal buckets and sealed with screw-on gamma lids. Recently, while getting some wheat to grind, I noticed a powdery substance the same color as the wheat. I filled a large glass measuring cup with the grain to inspect it, but I didn't see any little bugs. Is this normal? Is the wheat ruined?
On an almost related subject, I have a question about damaged #10 cans. My #10 can of pearl barley has a dent around the bottom. It is not a huge hammer dent, but a decent size small dent. Would you keep it long term storage or use it now. I already have plenty of barley for the next few months and I'd rather keep the #10 can in long term storage.
Frankly, I'd use it now. Sorry.
Beth, I just realized something about your powdery substance as I was trying to go to sleep last night. DUH! I'm such an idiot. I should have thought of this before.
A powdery substance is actually created by the insects getting into your wheat. What they do is they bore into the kernel, and just as if you were to bore into a piece of wood with a drill, you would have sawdust, right? Well the powdery substance you have is because of insects boring into the kernels.
This could mean one of two things. One, your cans were kept in a cool, dry, place which caused the maggots to hatch or two you had some rough wheat to begin with. Know that ALL wheat has weevils eggs in it already. The hatch due to a combination of heat and humidity. I would still try sprouting it as I suggested before. It will still be usable for baked goods though.
It's actually HARD to see insects in your wheat unless you have a serious problem!
A few questioins,
1. If I took newly purchased wheat/oats... and froze it for a while would that kill the bugs/eggs?
2. Where is the best to purchase the grains, I notice that our local health store is charging 1.39 per pound. Is it ok to go to a animal feed store and purchase it?
3. If I do purchase at a feed store, is there anything I should watch for?
Thanks for the Blog, I have learned a lot.
1. Nope. Freezing just makes them dormant.
2. Yes, so long as it's food grade.
3. Just be sure that it's food grade and that no pesticides or fat inducers come with it. There are a lot of items I buy at the feed store such as "penicillin" for horses that you can use on humans.
What about baking, I saw where someone above baked the grains. I know that would kill the bugs but wouldn't that also kill the grains?
So is there anyway to prevent the bugs? Maybe the Diatomaceous earth is the answer?
My problem is that for current use I don't think I could talk my wife and daughter into eating bugs :) Wouldn't bother me, I grew up on a farm. So I need some sort of useful solution.
Baking does indeed "kill" the wheat. So yes, I woudl recommend the DE instead.
Bruce is correct. To clarify, the bugs are already "among" your wheat. However, they DO have to bore their way into the kernel, thus making the powdery substance. The weevil don't "crawl" in through containers. But they DO get into your kernels.
NO wheat is exempt from having weevil eggs in it. It's a given. The way you store it will determine whether or not you promote the eggs to maturation.
I was once told by someone tending an LDS cannery that rancid wheat can be placed in an old pillow case and hung in a tree. The rancid smell goes away in a few days. What do you know about this solution to rancidity?
A stale smell and being spoiled are two different things. Yes, if your wheat has a staleness to it, or it's taken on the smell of the can it's been stored in, aeration will be just fine for it--without the tree or the pillow case. But if it's rancid, then it's not just bad smelling, it's bad and perhaps even poisonous for your body.
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