Rye is one of the hardiest, highly nutritious, and widely used grains. Scientifically identified as Secale cereale, it is actually a type of grass, which is widely grown as a cereal grain and forage crop. It belongs to the wheat family and is closely related to other food grains like wheat, barley, and oats. It looks a lot like wheat, but a tad longer and more slender. The color too may vary from yellowish brown to grayish green. Rye has a characteristic deep, earthy, and mildly bitter taste, which contributes to the unique flavors of the dishes made using rye recipes.
Since rye is one of the most winter and draught hardy grains, it has been traditionally used as the alternate food grain of choice during poor wheat seasons. Hence, even though, wheat is the most widely consumed cereal, this hardy grain enjoys a good patronage in the food markets. Recipe for preparing pumpernickel bread is probably the most popular rye recipe.
History of Rye and Culinary Significance of Rye Recipe
Rye, according to archeological evidences, originated as a wild weed growing among wheat and barley in the central and eastern regions of Turkey. These wild strains of the grain, many historians believe, were carried over to Europe as a minor admixture in wheat. Though, there are several evidences of wild rye being used during the Roman Empire, the grain was domesticated and cultivated for human consumption occurred only during 400B.C.
Owing to the course texture and earthy flavor of the grain, it has long been considered as poor man’s food or rather a food grain used to avert starvation in most parts of the world. Yet in some food-cultures, including Eastern Europe and Scandinavia rye recipes play an important role. In fact, it is one of the main bread cereals in regions bordering north Hungary, east France, and Germany.
Culinary Uses of Rye
Rye is widely used as an alternate food grain in many part of the world especially during poor wheat seasons. Unlike wheat, it is almost impossible to separate germ and bran from the endosperm of the grain, as a result, rye flour has a courser texture, and its gluten is less elastic than that of wheat. The bread made using these grains are hence, denser and more compact.
Recipe for preparing pumpernickel bread is the most popular rye recipe from Germany. The grain is also used for preparing other breads like German sourdough bread, crisp bread, etc. Due to its potential health benefits, rye is being widely used in several health foods. Rye recipes for preparing crackers, breakfast cereals, cookies, etc. are quite popular among weight watchers. This grain is also used in preparing whiskey and other distilled alcohols.
Rye Recipe from across the Globe
Rye, as mentioned earlier, is considered as an East European food grain and most of the traditional rye recipes come from this region. However, many other cuisines have slowly opened up to this earthy flavored grain and it is not uncommon to see breads prepared using a rye recipe adorning the shelves of supermarkets in UK and US. Some popular dishes that include rye in one form or the other from around the world are given below.
German: Other than Pumpernickel – the most popular rye recipe from this region, this grain is also used in preparing several other breads like Dark German break and German Sourdough bread, and other dishes like Schwarzbrot, Reubens, and Kuchen.
East European: Here, this grain is popularly used in preparing dishes like Bohemian Bread, Swedish Black Bread, Pretzels, Waffles from Staphorst, Flattbrod, etc.
American: Piaf, breakfast cereal, bagels, crepes, croutons, crackers, etc. are some popular dishes that use rye.
Common Methods of Preparing Rye Recipes
Rye can be used whole, or as broken grains, flakes and flour. While cooking them whole, it is preferable to wash them and soak the grains overnight. The grain may then be boiled in double the amount of water unlit soft. Grain thus prepared may be further cooked according to the rye recipe being used. Broken grains and flakes may be in a similar manner. These products require much lesser time to cook.
Breads are usually prepared using rye flour. Addition of additives such as dough softeners and artificial leavening agents to the recipe can enhance the quality of breads made using this grain.
Nutritive Value of Foods Prepared Using Rye Recipe
Rye is an excellent source of dietary fibers, a good source of antioxidant nutrients like selenium and beta carotene, and phyto-nutrients. It is also provides considerable amounts of proteins.
Since, the germ and bran cannot be removed from the endosperm of this grain; food prepared using rye recipe includes almost all the nutrient value of the actual grain. The nutritive losses that occur in the processing of other grains are almost negligible in case of rye.
Tips for Buying and Storing Rye
Rye is available in several forms, including whole berries, flakes, broken grains, flour, etc. in the market all year round. In US, it is usually sold prepackaged; however, bulk containers are also available. When purchasing always ensure fresh that the products are fresh and free from fungal growth. Moisture promotes the growth of a lethal fungus called ergot in Rye grains; hence, pay keen attention to any evidence of moisture in the packages.
If properly stored, in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place, these grains can keep for several months.
Rye : Trivia
Some Scientists believe that Ergotism – caused by consuming fungal infested rye might have been the reason behind the Salem Witch Trials.