Last week I had the pleasure of visiting friends on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. They live a very different life than I do, and I love that. I know next to nothing about eating healthily, and even less about ground-up cooking. Luckily, that’s what friends are for! These friends introduced me to women who, because they live in a remote area, choose to do many things themselves; things like sprouting and milling their own spelt berries.
Yup, you heard me right: sprouting, milling, and spelt berries were three (well, four) words I knew nothing about before meeting these amazing women.
It seems I’m a little late to the party, but that’s okay. It means there are a ton of resources online that one can use to get even better explanations of this stuff than I can provide.
But, since I now have a cursory overview of what it means to sprout and mill one’s own spelt flour, I couldn’t help but put all that information to use.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to it!
1. Key Terms
Spelt: Basically one of the oldest, most nutritious forms of wheat available today. It has a long, exciting history that I’m sure you would all find exuberayting, but for the sake of time, let’s just say that it is hearty, healthy, and just the type of sustaining grain to keep thousands of people groups alive across many, many centuries.
Spelt/Wheat Berries: It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out that the thing I needed to buy was called “spelt berries.” I kept asking google to tell me how to “sprout spelt” and that just wasn’t enough information. So, when you are trying to buy your own batch of grains to sprout, make sure you tell the internet what kind of grain you would like and that you would like it in berry form.
Sprouting: Sprouting is the purposeful hydration of various grain berries (spelt berries in our case) until they sprout, which is exactly why this process is called “sprouting,” and why products made from sprouted grains are called “sprouted breads,” “sprouted cookies,” etc. It’s a very specific stage in the life of this little grain, and the reason people sprout in the first place is because it activates and enhances the nutritional attributes of the berry itself. You’ll have to google the specifics if you want all that good sciency information. Remember: I’m the Taylor of all Trades, which also means that I am the master of none. Plant DNA falls under the master-level category of information as far as I’m concerned, so don’t feel bad if you want to look elsewhere for the specific nutritional information regarding sprouted grains.
Milling: This just means grinding the grains (once they are fully dried) into a powdery substance, also known as sprouted flour. Because it’s all I have, I used my Magic Bullet for this step in the process, but, as I’ll explain later, I don’t think that’s sustainable. I may have to invest in a more legitimate option if I want to preserve my Magic Bullet.
So there’s our foundation. Now when I use these terms, if you didn’t already know what they were, you will be able to follow along like the brilliant, astute person you are!
One disclaimer: to try and make this easy on everyone, I’ll do my very, very best to keep the following instructions to the fewest words possible. My husband says I’m an over-explainer, and I totally know that I am. So, for the sake of being helpful, the next portion of this post will be comprised of short, to-the-point directions.
2. Sprouting Spelt (or, as I like to call it, Spelting)
Purchase Spelt Berries
I bought Bob’s Red Mill Organic Spelt Berries from Amazon and the box contains (4) individually sealed (24) ounce bags.
Rinse Spelt Berries
There are many ways to do this. The easiest, I think, is to put your spelt berries in a bowl, submerge them in cold water, and run your fingers through them until you think the batch has had a good cleaning. Super fun to let the kids help with this part!
Next, drain the old water – without draining your spelt berries, you want to lose as few as possible – and repeat the rinsing process as many times as it takes for your water to remain clear when you sift the spelt berries with your fingers. Again, because my bag was pretty clean, this only took me one rinse. It may take you 2, 3, or even 5 times. Don’t worry, keep at it!
Soak Spelt Berries
After you rinse your spelt berries thoroughly, you will need to soak them. Fully submerge them in water in a bowl, jar, or container that will allow them to plump to double/ triple their original size. I used a large glass bowl. Let your spelt berries soak for at least eight, but no more than twelve hours. If you let them soak too long they will begin to ferment (are you makin’ beer or flour, there, ya lush?).
Once they’ve soaked for at least eight hours, drain the leftover water from your bowl completely. You’ll notice that they’ve plumped up and might give off a faint “yeast” smell (like when you are baking fresh bread). That’s okay, but if the smell is VERY strong, you will not want to continue this process. If they have a strong, sour smell, they’ve fermented and are no longer on the path to becoming flour. Beer, maybe, but not flour.
Let Them Sprout
After you’ve soaked your berries, what follows is a day-long (or more) waiting game. Sprouting occurs best in dark, warm places. The temperature in your house may slow down or speed up the sprouting process, depending on how cold/hot it is. To sprout your spelt berries:
Wrap them in a damp cloth, place them in a bowl, and let them sit in a warm, dark place for at least twenty-four hours. The images below show the progress of my sprouting spelt berries at ten, fifteen, twenty-four, and thirty-six hours.
You can sprout your spelt berries as long as you would like. Eventually they will become wheat grass, which I know a lot of people consume regularly. But since I’m not one of those people, stopping at thirty-six hours of sprouting worked perfectly for me.
No, really, taste them! They are super yummy! Kind of sweet, kind of earthy, a tad chewy, and a tiny bit reminiscent of Honey Smacks (without the honey, of course).
3. Eating/Preserving Sprouted Spelt Berries
So, once you’ve waited forever and a day (okay, okay, maybe just twelve hours and a day) for your spelt berries to sprout, you have a few options as to what you can do with them:
Eat Them Just the Way They Are
Sprouted grains are a great source of nutrients and are super hearty. If you want, you can keep them around just for snacking on throughout the day. But be sure to refrigerate them if you don’t want them turning into a wheat field in your kitchen. That is, they’ll keep sprouting if you don’t take steps to slow/stop the sprouting process.
Make a Sprouted Salad or Use Them as a Garnish with Other Dishes
Fresh, sprouted salads are super yummy. You can add just about anything you want, and, because sprouted grains are so dense, a little goes a long way. I recently shared a recipe for a Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad, using herbs from my garden and mozzarella that I made in my own kitchen. It is to die for!
But if you don’t want the sprouted spelt to be the main attraction, you can always just use them as a garnish atop other dishes. It’s a win-win situation!
If you don’t want to use your sprouted spelt berries right away, you can put them in a labeled ziplock bag (excess air squeezed out, of course), and store them that way for months. You can also store milled spelt berries (a.k.a. sprouted flour) in the freezer. It’s a great way to continue reaping the rewards of all your hard work months into the future!
This process is simple-ish, but I took a lot of pictures just to be safe. Again, I’ll be keeping my directions short to save time and reduce the amount of rambling that normally accompanies my explanations:
Preheat your oven to it’s lowest temperature settings (usually around 150 F) and transfer your sprouted spelt berries to cookie sheets so that you can dry/dehydrate them (a dehydrator will work too, or sun drying).
Dry/dehydrate your sprouted spelt berries in the oven for 3-8 hours with a spoon in the door so that moisture can escape, and shake/rotate the trays every hour or so to keep the berries from roasting. (If your spelt berries roast, they will no longer be useful for baking.) The time it takes to fully dry your berries will depend on their water content, the climate in your area, and whether or not the temperature gauge on your oven is true.
You can check whether or not your sprouted spelt berries have dried sufficiently by tasting them. Dried berries are dense, dry, and earthy. If you don’t dry them out completely, they will jam up whatever appliance you use to mill them and burn out its motor (no bueno!)
Once your berries are dry you can begin to mill them in a grain mill, a coffee grinder, a food processor, or a blender. I used my Magic Bullet. Be sure to only mill a small amount of sprouted spelt berries at a time. If you try to mill too many at once, they will jam up your grinder’s motor because the milled flour gets sifted toward the bottom of the grinder where the blades are. I smelled the motor of my Magic Bullet overworking itself a few times, so I think I will invest either in a coffee grinder to use specifically for milling sprouted spelt, or an actual grain mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. But they are fairly expensive, so I may have to save up before I buy one.
Just in case you were wondering: milling produces the same amount of flour as the amount of sprouted grains you started with. So (24) ounces of spelt berries will become (24) ounces (or three cups) of sprouted flour.
Once you’ve milled your sprouted spelt berries, they can be used to make cakes, cookies, breads, and many other baked goods. I used them to make Sprouted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and they were delicious! They added an earthy depth of flavor to the cookies that was truly delightful.
So, have fun figuring out new ways to use your sprouted spelt berries and the flour you mill from them. The sky’s the limit when it comes to this historic, nutritious grain!
Until next time, my friends!
S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades