Just Barley

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    [we see AB thru a rain soaked window where he has entire pantry laid out on the floor in a neat grid pattern]
    Ahh. You know, like most cooks on cold, rainy days, I like to take stock of my stores. You know it occurs to me, never before has mankind had access to as many different types of foods as we have today. I wonder: if we had the power to exploit Einstein's theory of gravitational time dilation, and could, in fact, travel back in time like Reese did in The Terminator—except, you know, with clothes on—which of these foods might we find in use, say, 10,000 years ago?
    [the foods disappear, one by one, leaving only a few] There you have it. I've got a jar of honey and some dried berries, and ... ahh, barley. You know, before wheat, rye, buckwheat, millet, or some even say, rice, barley was cultivated and gathered on almost every continent on this planet. It was roasted, boiled, toasted, ground, simmered, and of course, malted, that is, sprouted, and then roasted. Sounds yummy? Well, kind of depends on the delivery system.

THING: [holds out a mug of beer]

    Although the average American consumes plenty of barley in liquid form, few folks take advantage of its qualities as a culinary multitasker. But that, my food friends, is all about to change. Because in this kitchen, barley isn't just a grain whose time has come again, it's ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

The Kitchen

GUEST: BA, aka Alton's Brother

    America, meet Hordeum vulgare: barley. Consumed in many forms throughout the ages from Egypt to Greece, Japan to Britain, India to Italy where barley was fed to gladiators to keep them strong, hence their nickname, barbarian hordearii. It means "barley eater".

Hordeum Vulgare

    There are only two major types of barley grown. And to help us sort it all out, please welcome my brother, BA.

BA: [steps into frame similarly dressed as AB, i.e. he has a trench coat on; he plays the hull-less variety of barley]

    Both hull-less and hulled barley actually do possess a hull, that is, an inedible protective covering. But the coat on hull-less varieties simply falls off during the threshing process.

BA: [removes and discards his outer coat easily]

    So hull-less varieties can go straight to the pot with their nutritious and flavorful bran layers intact. This is kind of what it looks like. [shows a sample] There you go.


BA: [returns with a belt-sander]

    Now, hulled barleys cling to their hull so they have to be ground off in a process called "pearling". [shows a sample] See, there they are. Pearling is like, well ...

AB: [tosses his hat to BA] Go ahead. [it is clear AB is going to portray the hulled barley]
BA: [uses a hand-held belt sander on AB's clothes, shredding them]

    If the pearling is done correctly, much of the bran coat will remain and you'll have whole hulled, dehulled, or Scotch barley, which, being easy to find, is the barley that we will be using today. Look, here's some now.


    I'm sad to say that pearling is often performed several more times. The end result being ...

AB: [to BA] ... go ahead
BA: [shreds AB's clothes some more]

    The result, pearled barley. This is the barley one most often sees in the megamart. Which is a shame, because most of the flavor potential and a good many of the nutrients are gone. It looks like me: pasty, white, starchy. But rest assured, there's still some nutritional value here. Because unlike wheat or spelt or most other grains whose fiber content rests in the outer layers, barley contains a good bit of dietary fiber all the way through the grain.
    Another form of barley worth mentioning is rolled barley which closely resembles rolled oats.

BA: [rolls in a lawn roller]
AB: Don't even think about it.

The Kitchen

    As I was saying before I had to stop and deal with my loving brother, we will be using whole, hulled barley today for two reasons. One, it is easy to find. Two, it is so gosh darn versatile. Of course, if you want to get more barley in your diet, you are going to have to cook it; and I think this is the easiest way.

    Simply dispense one cup of your barley into a casserole or baking dish capable of containing 1.5 quarts. Then add about a teaspoon of kosher salt, one tablespoon of butter [drops it onto the counter]—you didn't see that—and two cups of boiling water, and just give that a good stir. You don't have to wait for the butter to melt all the way. And cover tightly with foil. You want a really good seal here, because the steam and the pressure will help the little grains be "plumpier". Is that a word? I don't know. Anyway, I'm going to put the lid on top of that. There, good seal.

1 Cup Hulled Barley

1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
2 Cups Boiling Water

    Now park this in the middle of a 375 degree oven for one hour.

375 Degrees

    Now, proper fluffing is crucial because right now, the starch on the surface of each kernel hasn't set yet. And if you just let it sit, it will turn into a brick. If, on the other hand, you stir this with a spoon, you could mash the soft kernels together, and you'd end up with, a "brick". That's why you want to use either a really big fork, or a pair of chopsticks, and just kind of lightly get in and toss around. The goal is to separate each grain and expose them to as much air as possible. This is also referred to as "steaming out", by the way.
    Now, you could serve this as is or cool and stash in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or while the starch coat is vulnerable, you could inject some flavor.

    For instance, you could whisk together two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, along with three tablespoons of orange juice—freshly squeezed would be the right thing to do. Then toss in 3.5 to four cups of cooked and cooled barley. That's just one batch that we've baked up there. One small head of fennel, cut very thin, just julienned, tossed in, a quarter cup of toasted pine nuts would follow, then a half cup of grated parmesan cheese, and half a cup of cooked and crumbled bacon along with two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. Finish it off with a little kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Toss to coat, and combine, and you'd have yourself a mighty nice salad. [takes a bite an exits] Excuse me.

3 Tbs. Freshly Squeezed
    Orange Juice +
2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 ½ - 4 Cups Cooked &
    Cooled Barley
1 Small Head Fennel,
¼ Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
½ Cup Grated Parmesan
1/2 Cup Cooked & Crumbled
2 Tbs. Chopped Fresh Parsley
Salt & Pepper To Taste

Most of the barley raised in the United States is fed to livestock.

A Grain Mill††

    If you really want to take full culinary advantage of barley, and I know that you do, you will need some coarse cracked kernels—or barley grits—and some barley flour. Now you could procure either of these from the Internet or from a well-stocked health food store. But hey, who's got the time? Besides, all you need is a mill.
    Few pieces of machinery have made more of an impact on the lives of human beings than this one: the water-powered grain mill. Let's take a look.
    Ahh, there's no school like old school. This baby will grind just about anything. Today, it's yellow corn; but it could be grinding barley just as easily. Now the real heart of this device is actually right down in here. The set of big, spinning ...  well, come here.
    Here is a stone that used to be inside that mill. It wore down, and now it's just a paver. But anyway, imagine another one of these just like it up on top, and one spins, and the other stays stationary. And the grain is fed down through the middle. And as it is ground, it gets finer and finer and works its way out these grooves, and is collected around the outside.
    The very same technology is available for home use albeit in a much smaller package. When folks buy handles like this, they often start with the granite wheel, but it loses its romance quickly. Which is why they move up to the steel burr wheels which are much faster and also a lot easier to clean.

    Still, I say, why go with hand power when you can have this German jet engine mill? That's right, kids. I said "jet engine." Here's the grinder. It's basically a turbine. Air and grain fed in at high speed, and this wheel, full of teeth, spins at a high speed inside there, basically pulverizes everything. This guy can convert two-thirds of a cup of barley into a cup of barley grits in about, I don't know, 60 seconds. And that, by the way, would be just the right amount to go with ...

[AB displays this NutriMill Grain Mill by Kitchen Resources]

The Kitchen

... lamb. I love lamb. And this is my very favorite cut of all, the shoulder. You will need two pounds of it. And it does not matter a whit if you choose roast or steaks because in the end, you're going to cube it. [the camera pans down to the cutting board, the lamb shoulder has been replaced by a bowl of cubed lamb] See, told you.

2 Pounds
Lamb Shoulder, Trimmed &

    Now after you have cubed it, you will add a bit of salt. Of course, I like a pinch of kosher—I'm guessing that will be a quarter of a teaspoon—a few grinds of pepper, and about a tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Just enough to kind of cover all of this. There we go. Now toss that. You don't have to use gloves, but it is a nice thing to do.

Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Tbs. All-Purpose Flour
    And meanwhile, we've got a four to five-quart Dutch oven heating up over medium-high heat. And that needs to sit for at least, I'd say, four minutes before you add half a tablespoon of olive oil. There is absolutely no reason to use extra virgin olive oil here. Just use the cheap, non-extra virgin stuff. And then we will add meat. I'm only going to add about a third of this at a time because we do not want to crowd the pan. That's about all I'm going to put in. Well, maybe one more. There you go. ½ Tbs. Olive Oil

    Now if you become un-patient, if you rush things, and you either don't let the pot heat thoroughly or you crowd the pan, bad things will happen. Why? Well, because stews and soups like this adhere to the snowball principle, and the snowball ...  uh ... ahh ... [waves for us to follow him]

    The snowball effect clearly states that tiny little actions taken at the beginning of a process snowball, resulting in massive cumulative effects in the final dish. Now in the case of our current application, the snowball in question is the flavor created during the browning process, which cannot be replaced, and cannot be substituted. Memorize this. Essay test, Monday.


    When the first batch is browned all the way around, fish it up add a touch more oil if necessary. And then finish the meat with a second or even a third pass if necessary. Now as you change out each meaty payload, take care to be quick. An empty pan overheats quickly, and we don't want those precious wee bits at the bottom to burn.

    When the meat is finally done, add three carrots, chopped, add another little pinch of salt to the pan, cook for three to four minutes, until they take on a little bit of color. Then return the lamb, all of it, to the pan. Add a cup of your barley grits, and a quart—that's 32 ounces, two pints, four cups—of homemade chicken broth or stock. Okay, so store-bought would be okay too.

3 Carrots Chopped +
A Pinch of Kosher Salt

1 Cup Barley Grits
1 Quart Chicken Broth Or

    The rest is straightforward stewing. Bring to a boil, cover, then drop the heat to a simmer and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the barley has drunk up all the liquid, and the lamb falls apart from exhaustion.

    Sprinkle on a little freshly chopped oregano and you have yourself a heroic meal of Herculean proportions in less time than it would take to cook barley by itself. How is this possible? I don't know, but I'm grateful.

2 tsp. Chopped Fresh

Hull-less barley contains 2–3 times the protein of an equal portion of rice.

The Kitchen

    Before the world became obsessed with yeast-risen white wheat flour breads, barley bread was king. And if you ask me, it's time for the return of the king. Now we're going to need 10 ounces of barley flour. So I have measured out 10.05 ounces of grain because we are going to lose a little bit to the milling process itself. So. [puts on headphones] ...  Contact!

[because the mill is so loud, AB's text is closed captioned]

    Now certainly, you could just purchase barley flour at a health food store, but it just wouldn't be as healthy or as good as grinding your own. And on top of that, this is a whole lot more fun, huh?

    Certainly you could purchase barley flour at a health food store but it wouldn't be as healthy or as good as grinding your own. And on top of that, this is a whole lot more fun!

Noise level in decibels:
normal breathing = 10
rainfall = 50
average grain mill = 80
air raid siren = 130

The Kitchen

    There we go. Let the engine wind down. There. Now you will notice that milling your own, that the volume will definitely have increased. The general rule, in fact, is that one cup of grain ... one cup of ...[realizes that he cannot hear himself, because he is still wearing his headphones, which he removes] ... will become one and a half cups of flour. So that will go into a nice big bowl. 10 Ounces Barley Flour
    And we face the rest of our software. Now, over on the dry team side, we have two and a half tablespoons—that's about an ounce—of baking powder, and a teaspoon of kosher salt. We will put that to the whisk to evenly distribute the baking powder so that the leavening is equal. Dry Team

2½ Tbs. or 1 Ounce Baking
1 tsp. Kosher Salt

    Now we move to the liquid goods. I like to start with the viscous stuff. So we'll go with two large Gallus [gallus] domesticus eggs—that is, chicken eggs—and two tablespoons of honey, any type will do. And whisk those together. Kind of start an emulsion, which, of course, will be created when the fat phase of the eggs and the water phase of the egg white comes together. That will make the batter a little bit easier to work with. Now I'm going to drizzle in a quarter cup of canola or vegetable oil—there we go—until you really don't see any more of the oil, and then a cup of milk. Again, the slower you can bring that in, the faster the batter will come together. There we go.

Wet Team

2 Whole Eggs
2 Tbs. Honey

¼ Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Whole Milk

    Now, the question is, how do we bring these two kids together? Well, I'll give you a hint. Our bread is a quick bread and is therefore brought together via the "muffin method". What does that mean? Yes: the wet stuff goes on to the dry stuff. There we go. Trade our whisk for a spoon.
    Now if we were bringing together a quick bread batter based on wheat flour, I would say, stir this as little as possible. Why? Gluten! You know, those meshy strands of protein that make chewy breads like baguettes possible. These proteins are really only available in wheat flour. And they are formed when we agitate the flour in the presence of water. Now barley contains very few of these proteins, so go ahead and stir all you want. However, since I wish to save my strength, I will limit my stirring to 13.72 revolutions.

The Fireplace

    Now barley bread was originally designed as a hearth bread, meaning that it was meant to be cooked either in front of or over glowing coals. Basically, when people started using Dutch ovens like this, they needed some kind of support mechanism. So they started installing jacks and cranes, like this, so that they could control the temperature.
    So, I'm just going to lube up this pan a little. I've got just a little oil in there. And basically just scoop in the batter. And don't worry about it being kind of lumpy as long as you get most of it in there. There. And then we'll just swing that over the deepest part of the fire, thusly. And if you want to, you can put a cover on. Although it won't brown quite as nicely, it will cook faster. There. Now just leave that in place for about ... How many of you at home actually have fireplace cranes, raise your hands. One, two, three, heh heh heh. Okay, let's retire to the out of doors, shall we?

The Patio

    The gas grill, set to low, will do just fine as long as it has had 10 to 15 minutes to get good and hot. Now the Dutch oven will remain uncovered, but we will close the grill, for 35 to 40 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread hits 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Could you achieve this in, say, a 350 degree oven for, you know, 25 to 30 minutes? Yeah, sort of. But the bread won't be as good because modern ovens cycle on and off. Grills don't, and this bread is best served by constant heat from below.

AB: [addressing the grill] I'll be back.

35-40 minutes later

    Well, time is up on our bread. And it indeed looks done. And the thermometer at 188 says that it is done. I'm sure we'll coast those last few degrees. So, out it comes. Now we've got to cool this down. But I'm afraid of just dumping it out of the pot that is this deep because the starch is still pretty soft at this point. So I'm going to put a, just a paper plate on there and then turn it out onto that. Then we'll just jerk that out from under. In 15 or 20 minutes, that should be good and set. We turn the grill off. I'll be back; and that bread better be there when I return.

Barley kernels or 'barleycorns' were used as units
of measurement as early as the 6th century.

Doctor's Office

GUEST: Dr. Brown, aka Alton Brown (He's not really a Doctor)
            Mr. Anderson
            Security Guards #1 and #2

MR. ANDERSON: [we take the position of the patient who is reading a pamphlet

A healthy
is a happy

DB: Mr. Anderson. Hi, Dr. Brown. I've gone over your test results and I just want you to know that, we're going to do everything in our power to help you. Really, we are. And the first thing I want you to do is to start a very strict regimen of barley water intake. Here's the way we want this to go. It's a simple procedure and you won't feel a thing. No, it's to take internally, Mr. Anderson, internally.

DB: What I want you to do is to take one cup of hulled barley. I want you to place it in two quarts of water. I want you to turn that up to high heat and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer for one half hour. 1 Cup Hulled Barley
2 Quarts Water
DB: Now in the meantime, Mr. Anderson, take these two lemons and zest them with this vegetable peeler. Remember, the real flavor is in the outer part of the lemon so don't dig down and get any of that nasty pith. That's probably what got you here in the first place. Then I want you, of course, to juice both of those into this pitcher. And we're also going to go ahead and add a quarter of a cup of honey to this pitcher. There we go. Now, you keep an eye on that and I'll be back to check on you in about half an hour. Zest & Juice From 2 Lemons

¼ Cup Honey

DB: Well, Mr. Anderson, you've made some excellent progress. That's good. Now the barley has given up its goodness by now, to the water. So, if you'll hold that strainer there, we will just strain this off. Now believe you me, when you get a little of this elixir into you, you're going to start to feel better very, very quickly. Why? Well, Mr. Anderson, trust me, this is just packed with nutrition. It's loaded with B vitamins, and anti-inflammatory's, like ...
NURSE: [enters from behind]
DB: Oh, nurse, excellent to see you. Mr. Anderson here needs a CBC and a Chem 5 and also a PVC for his BLT on his duodenum. And let's go ahead and order a CAT scan, an MRI, and a PUMA scan on his epithelial epiglottal mass. STAT!
N: [startled, she runs away]
DB: Heh heh heh, sorry. Believe me, besides the obvious nutrition, this stuff, barley water, we call it, acts as a diuretic, aids digestion. Some folks even say it can cure a runny nose. And of course, it's just so refreshing. That's why the English guzzle this stuff all summer long. And if you can just leave the zest in the pitcher, believe me, this stuff will only get better with age. There you go.
DB: Well, Mr. Anderson, ... oww
SECURITY GUARDS #1 AND #2: [grab AB and begin to drag him away]
DB: I hope that you feel better soon. DRINK MORE BARLEY WATER! [gets and clings to the door frame] Hey, well I hope that we've convinced you to make a little space in your kitchen and your stomach for an ancient grain whose time has come again. Barley really is the Swiss Army Knife of the cereal world and it deserves to be upgraded to full active pantry status. See you next time on Good Eats.

  • From my research, the Latin word for "barley eaters" or "eaters of barley" is just the word Hordearii. Barbarian comes ultimately from Greek, barbaros, meaning foreign or ignorant and so I'm not sure why gladiators would have had this nickname.

  • ††It appears AB is at the Sylvan Falls Mill in Rabun Gap, GA

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010