Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wild Rice

We were glad to receive wild rice as a Christmas gift from family in Minnesota again this year.  The recent cold spell had us craving some wild rice soup.

Where wild rice (Zizania aquatica) is found in the United States
Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass that produces seed that matures in August and September with the ripe seed dropping into the sediment, unless harvested by humans or wildlife. Seeds on a single stalk reach maturity over a 10-14 day period, with the highest seeds maturing first.  Wild Rice, Minnesota's State Grain, is regulated and must be harvested in the traditional indian way.  One must first purchase a license, then harvest wild rice during state regulated seasons. The rice must be harvested from a canoe, utilizing only a pole for power and two rice beater sticks as flails to knock the mature seeds into the bottom of the boat.  Wild Rice is harvested green, and placed in long narrow rows about 10 inches in depth in a curing yard. While the wild rice is in the curing rows, the chlorophyll dissipates from the plant. To prevent damage to the seed, the process involves turning constantly, and adding water to closely approximate its natural watery repository. From the curing yard the browned rice kernal with its seed hull intact goes to the parchers where the moisture is dried out. During this process, the starches gelatinize and the characteristic roasted nutty flavor is developed. From the parchers, the rice is hulled, removing the fibrous hull, exposing only the shiny black wild rice seed. The wild rice is then graded to as many as 49 grades and transported immediately to a storage facility.

In the 80s when we first moved to the Midwest from California, this wild rice soup became a favorite soup during the long cold winters.  Byerly's upscale grocery stores became a source of ingredients we'd been able to locate more easily in California stores.  Byerly's restaurant served this creamy soup, but also offered the recipe so we were able to make it at home as well. 

Byerly's Wild Rice Soup

6    T. margarine or butter
1    T. minced onion
1/2 c. flour
3    c. chicken broth
2    c. cooked wild rice (1/2 c. uncooked wild rice=1 1/2 to 2 c. cooked)
1/2 c. finely grated carrots
1/3 c. minced ham
3    c. chopped slivered almonds
1/2 t. salt
1    c. half and half
2    T dry sherry (optional)
         fresh parsley or chives, snipped

In large saucepan, melt margarine; saute onion until tender.  Blend in flour; gradually add broth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir in rice, carrots, ham, almonds and salt; simmer about 5 minutes.  Blend in half and half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with snipped parsley or chives.

Wuollet Bakery in Wayzata offered some wonderful cakes we purchased for special family occasions such as adult's birthdays.  We discovered their wild rice bread was a special treat too!  Since the husband took up baking, we've been enjoying wild rice bread once again.

Wild Rice Bread

1/4   c.     wild rice, raw
2      c.     water
1      pkg. dry yeast
1/3   c.     warm water
2      c.     milk, scalded
2      T.    butter, melted
1/2    c.    honey
2       t.     salt
1/2    c.    rolled oats, uncooked
1/2    c.    rye flour
1 1/2 c.    whole-wheat flour
1/2    c.    bran
3 1/2 c.    unbleached flour, plus 1 cup, as needed
1              egg, beaten
1       T.   water
1/4    c.    hulled sunflower seeds

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice to boiling water and cover. Cook over very low heat until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Stir yeast into 1/3 cup warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Stir together milk, butter, honey, salt and oats. Add cooled wild rice to milk mixture.
Stir together rye flour, whole-wheat flour, bran and 3 1/2 cups of the unbleached flour, using a wooden spoon. Stir in milk and yeast mixture until soft dough forms. Add more of the unbleached flour as needed.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until soft and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl and turn so that the top is greased. Let rise 2 hours. Punch dough and shape into two loaves. Place in 2 greased 9 1/2 by 5 1/2-inch pans. Let rise again, about 1 hour. Bake for 45 minutes. During last 15 minutes of baking, brush loaves with 1 beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

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