Friday, December 26, 2008

Use It or Lose It...Rice

"Rice is a versatile, economical food for family meals. It is a good source of energy, and can supply vitamins and minerals to the diet.

It is generally classified as a grain, but in family meals it can be used as:
1. A cereal

2. A vegetable
A. As a substitute for potatoes
B. As a base for meat
C. In soups

3. A dessert
D. Puddings
E. Custards

Rice has been commonly known and used since ancient times. It has been and still is a medium of exchange in some countries. The custom of throwing rice at weddings is a survival of the ancient Chinese religious belief that rice is the symbol of fertility. It is easy to store, takes little storage space, and has no waste since it is completely edible. Rice has been grown in America since 1668, and technological developments have kept pace to provide the kind of rice needed for any purpose.

Even though there are 7,000 varieties of rice produced in the world, the consumer needs to be aware that generally there are only three different lengths of rice grain and five different kinds.

Long grain rice is distinguished because its length is four to five times its width. The grains are clear and translucent. The grains remain distinct and separate after cooking.

Medium grain rice is about three times as long as its width. This type is less expensive than long grain rice. This is because it requires a shorter growing season and produces a higher yield per acre. It is also easier to mill than the long grained variety.

Short grain rice is only one and a half to two times as long as it is wide. It is generally the least expensive of the three lengths.

With five different kinds of rice to select from, it is important to be able to distinguish between the different varieties available.

Brown rice is the whole, unpolished grain of rice with only the outer fibrous, inedible hull removed. Brown rice requires more water and longer cooking time than white rice. It has a delightful, chewy texture, with a distinctive nut-like flavor. Brown rice shelf life is very short. It is not a good item for long term storage.

Regular milled white rice is rice from which hulls, germ, outer bran layers and most of the inner bran are removed in the milling process. The grains are bland in flavor and are fluffy and distinct when cooking directions are followed.

Parboiled rice—sometimes called processed or converted rice—has been treated to keep some of the natural vitamins and minerals the whole grain contains. It has been cooked before milling by a special steam pressure process. It requires longer cooking time than regular milled white rice, but after cooking the grains are fluffy, separate and plump.

Pre-cooked or instant rice—quick type—is completely cooked. It needs only to stand in boiling water to be ready for serving. Cooking this product will result in a gummy, distinguishable mass.

Fortified or Enriched rice—This product is a combination of highly fortified rice with ordinary milled rice. A coating of vitamins and minerals—thiamine, niacin, iron, and sometimes riboflavin—is used to fortify rice. This coating adheres to the rice and does not dissolve with ordinary washing or cooking.

Wild rice—Wild rice is not rice at all, but the seed of a wild water grass found around the Great Lakes region. It is much more expensive than the types of rice described above. Many Americans have discovered this rice and developed a taste for it. The demand for it is almost greater than the supply.

Some rules are a must in preparing rice. Due to the fact that the B vitamins are added to rice in the form of powder, much of the valuable nutrients are lost if the product is not handled properly.

A. Do not wash rice before cooking or rinse it after cooking. Rice is one of the most sanitary foods. Rice grown and milled in the U.S. is clean. Nutrients on the surface of the rice are washed away if it is washed or rinsed before cooking.

B. Do not use too much water when cooking rice. Any water drained off means wasted food value. Too much water makes soggy rice. Too little water results in a dry product.

C. Do not stir rice after it comes to a boil. This breaks up the grains and makes the rice gummy.

D. Do not leave rice in a pan in which it is cooked for more than 5-10 minutes or the cooked rice will pack."
(Source: Utah State University Food Storage Cooking School—Low and Hendricks, USU Extension, Salt Lake County, 1/1999, pgs. 108, 109. Copies may be made for individual and non-profit use as long as Utah State University Extension credit appears on each page.)

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