In the last few days I have learned a lot about oats. For example: whole oats are called groats. Not impressed? Fine. Here are the main “styles” of processed oats:
- Rolled oats: steam-rolled flat. I think the most popular style.
- Steel-cut oats: each groat is cut (by steel, I guess) into a few pieces. Sometimes called Irish oats.
- Quick Oats: the oats are steel cut and then steam-rolled, even flatter than rolled oats, reducing cooking time (hence the name).
Why have I become a scholar of oats? This week Judy brought us a 20 kg bag of rolled oats and a 20 kg bag of quick oats, both from the Can-Oat mill in Manola, and each costing about $25. While Lisa and I are pushing shopping carts through organic grocery stores and reading labels to try and find local food, Judy is hitting the highway and visiting industrial milling operations and talking to farmers.
As dry goods, our oats will keep for months, as long as we store them in a cool, dry place. Regardless of how well they keep, the simple fact that there is almost a hundred pounds of oats in my house has made me anxious to start figuring out how I can use them. Hence the oat research.
The first information I came across was historical. Several sources that I consulted had a quote from Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, which defines oats as a grain “which in England is generally given to horses, but which in Scotland supports the people.” Apparently the common Scottish reply went something like, “That’s why England produces such fine horses, and Scotland such fine men.”
Eventually I found some practical information on consuming large amounts of oats. Here are the down and dirty, super-simple recipes with which I plan to eat my bounty.
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/8 cup cold-pressed canola oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cup nuts and seeds
- 1 cup dried fruit
- Combine all the ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until everything is well coated in the oil and sweeteners. Spread evenly on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Bake at 375°F. Watch the oats around the very edges of the pan. When they are just starting to brown (about 8 minutes into baking), flip and redistribute the oats as best you can, then return the tray to the oven until, once again, the oats on the perimeter start to brown (roughly another 4 minutes). Watch carefully: they’ll burn quickly. At this point the oats will feel soft and moist, but as they cool they will become crisp.
- Once the granola has cooled, add the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
That’s just the base. Add dried fruit, nuts, spices, and dairy products as you see fit. I like mine with hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried currants.
- 10 oz pitted dates
- 2 oz dried sour cherries
- 2 oz honey
- 8 oz granola (recipe above)
- small pinch kosher salt
- Finely chop the dates and cherries in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until a stiff paste forms.
- Line a small casserole with wax paper. Lightly wet your fingers and press the granola mixture into the casserole and smooth out the surface.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Cut into desired shapes and let stand on the wire rack over night. Transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.
Yield: 8 x 2.5 oz granola bars