This post is going to show you how to go from this (whole wheat berries):
to this (taco flavored gluten or wheat meat):
This is probably something that most of you have never even considered. Wheat as meat?! However, as a meat substitute, using the gluten in freshly ground wheat flour is a pretty frugal thing to do. I saw a 25 pound bucket of wheat at my local Sam's club this week for about $15. You could get about ten meals out of that bucket. How often do you spend $1.50 or less for the meat in your meal?
Gluten is where the protein is in wheat. It's the thing that so many people have trouble with. If you don't have any intolerance, you may want to experiment with it. I was once told that 1 cup of raw gluten has 72 grams of protein in it. That's like 12 ounces of hamburger or a dozen eggs or I don't know how many cups of cooked beans!
All you need is
8-9 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour (that's about 6-7 cups of whole wheat berries to begin with)
4-5 cups water
1 Tbsp of meat base (beef, pork, chicken)
Mix the flour and water for about 10 minutes straight. I use my heavy duty Kitchen Aid at speed 4. If you want, you can do this by hand, but you will probably need to take some breaks. This is a great workout! After ten minutes with the mixer (or maybe 20 minutes by hand, counting rest time) it will be really elastic.
Using the same bowl, cover the wheat mixture with water.
Leave the bowl in the sink and with your hands, vigorously knead the dough. It will feel sort of like play dough. When the water is really tan and thick (because you are working all of the bran out of it), remove the glob of gluten from the water and transfer to another bowl. You can save the bran in the water. I know it's possible, but I haven't had any luck. Otherwise, just save the liquid to use in bread, stews, gravies, desserts or to water plants...they love it.
Back to the gluten. After saving the first water, just start rinsing the gluten under the faucet (with that second bowl under it to catch pieces that may fall out of your hand. Keep moving it, squeezing out the bran with your fingers until it resembles an alien mass (fibrous, stretchy, with no tiny brown flecks in it). Drain off all of the water (use a sieve or colander). Place the gluten glob back into the bowl and grab that 1 Tbsp of meat base. You are going to work it into the gluten and if you thought anything before this was hard, Ha! This is the really hard part. Stretch the gluten, mash the base into it, keep going until the gluten seems to have changed color a bit and most of the base is worked in.
Stretch out the gluten on a jelly roll pan (or large cookie sheet with a lip) and add 1/4 cup water. Bake it at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Add more water if the top seems to be crisping.
(I added the liquid left in my bowl from adding the meat base)
This is really weird looking stuff...the entire way through the process. At this point, it is springy, but firm instead of gloppy like it was before baking. To make a ground meat substitute, tear the gluten into smaller pieces and run it through a food processor.
At this point, you can use it just like hamburger. You can also freeze it to use later (but after all of that work, you may just want to enjoy the fruits of your labor). You can cut it half and half with real meat or use it by itself. I like it in chili or tacos. The stronger the seasoning you add at this point, the harder it will be to tell that it isn't real meat. My kids took one look at it and asked if I was using steak for the tacos that night (I had a hard time not giggling, but I kept a straight face and said, "No, it's not steak.") They all raved at how tasty the soft tacos were that night. Not one suspected he wasn't eating beef.
You can also cube the gluten when it comes out of the oven. Use it in pot pies in place of chicken or turkey or in stews. I wouldn't recommend using it in pieces bigger than cubes. I have heard of people cutting it into "steaks" but I don't think I would like the texture.
I plan to use a lot of wheat meat in 2011.
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