Saturday, August 20, 2011

Long Term Food Storage - Baking with 25 Year Old Wheat

There are a lot of methods for the long term storage of wheat touted in survival guides and on the internet but, most people, being fairly new to preparedness, have never had the opportunity to test the validity of any long term storage techniques.  Although Sir Knight and I have been storing food for 15 years, we regularly use and rotate our supply, ensuring that our stored foods are never more than about 5 years old.

A month or so ago, my best friend from high school helped her mother prepare to sell their family home.  They sorted through years of family memories and accumulations, kept a few precious memento's and prepared the rest for a huge estate sale.  As they sifted, they came upon the remnants of their stored foods.  Deciding they couldn't sell 25 to 35 year old stored foods, they forwarded them to us.

The foods that we inherited consisted of a number of 5 gallon buckets full of hard red wheat, about 20 quart jars of honey (harvest from their own bees!) and 25 pounds of pinto beans.  What a treasure trove!

Knowing that wheat was recovered from a Pharaoh's tomb, and, after 2000 years was sown and successfully germinated, we thought we would we would attempt breadmaking with our very young 25 (to 35) year old wheat.  The wheat was stored very simply.  It was poured into 5 gallon buckets, a piece of dry ice thrown on top, and stored in an non-temperature controlled shop (having grown up in that area, I know that temperatures in the winter can get as low at 40 below zero and as high at 95 in the summer).

This wheat hasn't seen the light
of day in over 25 years!
After opening a rather dusty bucket, I dug my hands into perfectly beautiful, plump wheat berries.  Absolutely no bugs, eaten wheat or husks.  Nothing but perfect wheat.  Now for the real test - making bread.  I ground the wheat, put on a Sheepherders bread sponge, added the fresh flour and commenced kneading.  The dough looked perfect - elastic and supple.  After allowing the dough to rise twice, I formed two loaves, a few rolls and a small loaf of cinnamon bread and let everything rise one more time.  The bread rose and baked wonderfully (other than I got the two loaves a little dark).  The finished product was out of this world!  My "old" wheat had stood the test of time.

In the grinder
Freshly ground flour
Bread sponge
Adding flour
Dough in a bowl, lightly oiled
In a warm place, rising
After first rising
Everything ready to go into the oven
(after final rising)
Two wheat loaves and a small
cinnamon loaf
Rolls for dinner
Cinnamon loaf to go with tea
Long term food storage is not just a theory, but a practical reality.  With nothing more than high quality food, a little knowledge and proper storage containers, your food storage could provide sustenance for you and your family for years to come.

Ready for tea -
Toasted Cinnamon bread slathered in butter
with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled
on top!


  1. Oh, my dear, I am so thrilled to see this post!!! I have been toying with the idea of putting some buckets of wheat aside and getting some means to grind it but I have been hesitating - mainly because this part of prepping is new to me. Now I will put some of my precious $$ into action and head for the LDS Cannery (30 minutes from here) and see what they have for buckets of wheat, etc. I've never been there before so I don't know what to expect. We have rice and pasta and flour aplenty for ourselves and silly un-prepped family members but I really wanted the means to be able to make our daily bread 5 years from now. When the 'dark' days come and you need to keep body and soul together, if will be wonderful to be able to bake some bread to accompany a small bowl of soup. Having been to the middle east a few times, I know there are many ways to bake bread without what we think of as an 'oven', so that will be handy as well.

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

  2. Nice to know the wheat stood up to the test of time.Will you try to grow any of this wheat?Also I really liked the tea cosy in the picture.Did you make it?If so do you have a pattern or instructions that you would be willing to share?

  3. The staves of Life, wheat, beans and rice.

    What a wonderful blessing to receive those buckets
    of staples.

    Enola, I so appreciate you sharing your recipes with us. I have several that have become favorites in our home, from your sharing on this site. thank you!

    I raise my tea cup to you.

    L'Chaim, Shalom.


  4. Your breads look so great! Did you just use the hard red wheat ground for your flour in these recipes? I am just learning to use wheat ground into flour for my baking. I have been baking for over 30 years with store flour. Switching to fresh ground is a like more challenging then I thought it would be. Any suggestions and tips would be GREATLY appreciated. Thank you.

  5. Stuck in CA;
    Yes, I used only freshly ground whole wheat flour in my bread. Like you, it took me awhile to figure whole wheat out. When I was growing up, we always used half wheat and half white flour in our wheat bread. It wasn't until I started grinding my own wheat that I figured out I could use all whole wheat. Freshly ground wheat has a superior consistency to store bought wheat flour. The crumb on bread made with fresh flour is tight and moist, whereas mass produced wheat flour produces a crumbly, slightly bitter crumb. One thing I found was essential to a good loaf of whole wheat bread is the quality of your wheat. Low protein content wheat (skinny berries) produces terrible bread. It doesn't rise well or stay together at all. Low protein wheat can be (somewhat) fixed by adding gluten. High protein wheat (fat berries) has a protein content of 15% or better. This wheat produces beautiful loaves of bread. When looking at a wheat berry you can really see the difference in a skinny, sickly looking berry versus a nice, plump healthy looking berry.

    Keep baking! You will be rewarded with wonderful, unparalleled bread.


  6. Enola,

    You sure do bring a smile often. I've been a prepper for a long time and still have buckets of wheat reaching 30 years old now. Grinds and bakes just fine as you've demonstrated.

    When you get to those beans, however, look out. I have found that beans that old simply will NOT soften no matter the cooking time. What worked for me though was one hour in the pressure cooker made beans soft enough to make refritos.

    Enjoy! And thanks.

    Winston Bearkiller

    1. I love to bottle everything including dry beans. You need a canning pressure cooker (as in canning green beans, meats, and low acid vegtables) then follow the instructions for canning dry beans and they come out soft and delicious. Easy fix dinners! A regular pressure cooker does not do the same thing. Lorna Ivie UT

  7. I love your recipes and the photographs you provide are outstanding. Thank you so much! I have some hard red wheat stored away and am glad to see that it really can keep well if sealed up properly. Gonna get some more now.

    I would love to attend a yard sale like your friend put on. I bet there were some great things at that sale.

    NoCal Gal

  8. Absoluely awesome!! I just found a bucket of hard white wheat that had missed many rotations and realized that it is from 1999. I ground some flour the other day and made bread. Yayy! It is still good. Kudos to you for using all your resources!!

  9. Thank you for your post on the wheat. I, too have used old wheat for bread and it does well. I didn't know about the skinny vs fat wheat berries, though. Having been the recipient of old beans before, I have started sprouting them before cooking them. They soften well that way,too.
    Patti in Alaska

  10. I am presently staring at your blog in the same fashion a caveman would stare at someone who just produced fire from a zippo lighter...
    It's a sign of the times when the act of making bread is a rare art.

  11. I really need to find a wife that can bake bread like that.
    I have been doing the food storage thing for awhile now. I just dont know how to cook bread?.
    I got lots of wheat and a wheat grinder and I still can't figure out how to cook?
    I can repair guns, fix engines, and do all kinds of things, I just can't figure out how to cook? (unless its in can or box I can shove into a microwave)
    One question. I purchased a Grover Rocket Stove recently. Is it possible to bake bread in a dutch oven on top of a Grover Rocket Stove?
    (I need to order a dutch oven next)

  12. Enola,
    If the beans are still rock hard after soaking and adding a little baking soda, just mark and reserve that bucket to using for bean flour.
    Ground beans (like flour) are delicious in breads.


  13. What a blessing to be given the stored food. I have a question however. Why do you raise the bread items twice? With the Bosch Machine Dough Hook, the gluten is stretched enough to use only the one rising time. I put mine in the oven at 150* for 30 minutes and then turn it up to 350* for another 30 minutes. This is how my mom has used her Bosch since 1979,also.

  14. Tricia;
    It was a blessing to receive so much wheat. I grew up making bread and kneaded it by hand until about 6 years ago, when I bought my first Bosch, used at a yard sale for $10. Truthfully, I think bread made with the Bosch is inferior to hand kneaded bread. I use mine only out of convenience. True artisan bread is always set to risen three times. It produces a much finer crumb and the only reason not to allow breads to rise three times is out of concern for time. We notice quite a difference in quickie bread versus bread that is allowed to rise multiple times.

  15. Thanks for sharing Enola!!
    MaryB in GA

  16. bread, beans, and best of all is the honey! now that was a bonanza...especially with the troubles the honey bee has been having..honey is very expensive and almost a luxury.

  17. I'm in the same boat with Captain Crunch-If it burns fuel or routes electrons, I'm O.K. with it, but outside of shoving things into the microwave(The Gigahertz Gourmet), I'm cooking impaired. Properly stored foods can keep a really lomg time. I've eaten home canned food that was 40+years old,and factory canned food that was crowding 60(an old military field ration, dated 1949). The home canned stuff tasted just fine, the military stuff was utterly bland.

  18. CaptainCrunch;
    Yes! Sheepherders bread was made to be baked in a Dutch oven! Origanally, as the name implies, sheep herders would take their dough with them in a dutch oven and bake it over an open fire while they guarded their sheep. I often bake mine in a dutch oven. Use only half of the recipe (9 cups of flour rather than 18), thoroughly grease your 4 quart dutch oven (including the lid) and bake until done. The bread will actually lift the lid off the oven! If I were using a single point heat source rather than an oven, I would use heat for about 15 minutes. Turn off for 8 minutes, turn the heat on for 10 min, off for 5 and so on until your bread is done - otherwise you may very well burn the bottom and have the middle doughy. It is something you will have to play with, but if you can fix gas engines and figure out all of the other things guys do - you will succeed. Oh, and if you only eat things out of a microwave or cans, have you considered a can sealer?! (I'm being funny, by the way).

  19. Great post! Never throw away wheat that has been sealed correctly. Glad to know that the temperature differences didn't effect it. We have ours in our garage in CA and so the temp fluctuates beyond the recommended boundaries in the summer.

  20. So let me get this straight, if i want to long store my wheat berries they should be sealed in a bucket with dry ice? or can they just be sealed in the bucket? If I have to use the dry ice do you know how much to put in a 5 gallon bucket? Thanks for your wisdome!

  21. Enola,

    I laughed at the can sealer joke:)

    Its hard being a bachelor. Someone please come out with a "Collapse resistant, EMP proof, Mil Spec, Solar powered microwave"

    Really, thanks for the help for the baking idea. I will try that out in a month or two when it will cool off outside. I can fire up the rocket stove and test it. (its 110 degrees heat index in South Texas right now)

  22. Enola,
    Red and black is the chosen colors of communism.
    Please consider a pallet of Tea.

  23. This pallet is kind to the eyes AND to my soul.
    thank you.

  24. Similar find from my dads small stash. MY mom and older sister said that he did not put dry ice in the buckets. Rice, lentils and hard red wheat. Packed away 20 years ago in similar buckets. All edible and fresh smelling.

  25. Not where I can get to a local supplier of wheat and other long term goods. What do I look fo in a supplier. Am ready to buy but see huge prce diffferences between suppliers. Also, how does everyone feel about the #10 cans. I was thinking of doing some cans alongwith the buckets just in case I needed to put the food away from the public eye (this would be easier with the cans). Are they good as well? I know they are more expensive. Also, how much water are those of you who do not have wells storing? I have found a BPA free container supplier, but I am not sure of my dorection on the storage amount. Ideas?

  26. Wheat that is 25 years old! That's amazing, you've got to be kidding me! Btw, with all that climate change things, this year I'm definitely buying an emergency storage food! Than you for making me think about this!

  27. I was happy to read this. I am still using our wheat stored from 1999 that has been stored in a climate controlled room that still makes great pancakes and bread. We
    also still have about 100 buckets in a old garage that gets really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer. My husband and friend packaged in the white buckets and was nitrogen packed. I was going to get rid of them. After reading this guess I will keep them.

  28. Thanks for all the information on what to do with wheat that has been stored for many years. We have about 400 pounds of hard red winter wheat stored 50 years ago in large metal cans, back when I had a stone wheat grinder and baked lots of bread. Recently we opened one can, the wheat looks OK.