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ON PRESSURE COOKING.

The art of cooking whole grains is of fundamental importance in living a macrobiotic life and there is no question in my experience that the best way to cook whole grains, other than millet, polenta, quinoea, bulghur and buckwheat, is by pressure cooking them. This makes the grains - rice, barley, whole oats, whole wheat, rye and whole corn - more easily digestible, have more vitality and taste better than any other method of cooking them.


So let us go to the pressure cooker - I have one here that I have used since 1979, a SEB stainless steel model, one of three pressure cookers we have - the others being a Presto and an Aeturnum. When I pressure cook brown rice for the family I usually use the SEB (for cooking classes I use the 8 quart Aeturnum) and cook 3 cups at a time and this will make 6 + cups of cooked rice.


Now, right off the bat we can determine whether turning 3 cups of uncooked rice to 6 + cups of cooked rice is a more yin or yang process. What do you think? And what is the reason the amount of rice more than doubles? It is because it has taken up water. Now, is water more yin or more yang than dry, hard, compacted short grain brown rice?


The way I determine how much water to use is the trusty finger method, which only works in my experience with any amount of rice over 2 cups. And I recommend you always cook 2 cups or more as a practical measure - this means you will have brown rice available for two or three days at a time. The only people to whom this does not apply are those with severe candidiasis or environmental illness, where it is better to cook the rice fresh every day. After washing the rice a couple of times add spring or purified water to the rice in the pressure cooker so that the level of water is at the first crease of your index finger as the tip of the finger lightly rests level with the top of the rice. This is your guideline.


Now, there are only three possible outcomes when you cook the rice - it will be either too watery (undercooked) and mushy, too dry and burnt(overcooked) or just right. The main elements that determine the outcome are the amount of water, the speed with which you bring the rice to pressure, the level of pressure while cooking the rice and the amount of time pressure cooking.


Now, before you put the lid on, after you have added the water, the most important ingredient which is absolutely necessary to cook the rice to make it digestible is seasalt. This must be done with a premium on accuracy (using pinches of seasalt will NOT do) - add a measured 1/8 teaspoonful of seasalt (in my experience, SI-salt is without peer as the seasalt of choice, having used Lima, Celtic Grey and Muramoto's in the past) per cup of rice (or any grain, whether pressure cooking or boiling).


Make no mistake about it, the amount and quality of seasalt is very significant in making the rice digestible and not too yin or too yang. If you use too little seasalt, the grain has no "power', is weak, too yin; if you use too much it is overly strong, too salty tasting and too yang. If seasalt is not used in cooking the rice, it is simply undigestible.


Now, place on the lid of the pressure cooker and tighten it or make sure it is on properly; and make sure the rubber seal is in good shape as you do not want any pressure to leak out at the sides. Place on the weight and put the pressure cooker on the stove. It is much more preferable and certainly a lot healthier and easier to cook on a gas stove, so if you have an all-electric kitchen it is certainly worth your health, time and expenditure to invest in a two-burner stove top gas burner, just for cooking the rice or other grain and/or beans that you are pressure cooking.


When you begin the cooking, have the flame on medium to medium high and simply wait until the rice comes to full pressure - this will be signified by the weight or jiggler on the pressure being very active - on the SEB it begins to rotate rapidly - and of course there is the loud noise of steam being expelled. At this point, remove the pressure cooker from the burner and place a flame deflector on the burner (this is a flat piece of metal with a handle) and then place the pressure cooker on the flame deflector. The reason for the flame deflector is to ensure an even distribution of heat so you minimize the possibility of having charred rice at the bottom of the pressure cooker after cooking is finished.


The next most significant step is to turn the flame down so that the hissing of steam escaping from the presure cooking is reduced to a faint hiss in the background. The sound of the hissing tells you whether you are overcooking or undercooking the rice. If you cannot hear any hissing sound, then there is not enough pressure, the rice will be undercooked and it will be soggy and mushy. If the hissing sound is loud and impinges itself on your ears, so to speak, the pressure is too high and the rice will be overcooked and dry.This is one of the factors that makes the rice either too dry, too wet or just right.


Another is if you bring the rice to pressure too quickly it will be dry and overcooked; if you bring it to pressure to slowly, it will be wet and mushy.


And the last is the amount of water. Too much and it will be mushy, too little and it will be dry. The water content is problematical. as the amount you need to use will vary according to many factors, including the stove you are using, the condition of the rice, the geography and climate of your place of habitation, the season, the weather. And the only way to get the water right is to pressure cook everyday and get a feel for it so that eventually your healthy instinct will tell you how much water to add on any particular day.


Also, even though I recommend everyone to start out using pressure cooking as the preferred method of cooking grains, this is not written in stone, for it depends on your condition and your constitution, on where you live and the time of year, and how you feel when you eat pressure cooked brown rice for 2 weeks or so. I personally ate it every day for perhaps the first 18 years of my macrobiotic life. Then perhaps three or four times a week for 3-4 years and the last 3-4 years I eat it perhaps once or twice a month.


It is from this point on that you time the rice - 45 minutes in the Fall and Winter, 40 minutes in the Spring and Summer. This is a study in yin and yang for you to understand why.


If you get all these factors right for that particular day then how do you know that the rice is done properly?


I have before me as I type some rice I pressure cooked on Sunday evening, so this being Wednesday evening, it is now three days old. I feel it and it is still moist, and I am eating some and it is still soft, with a mild sweet taste. If I look at one individual cooked kernal of rice (and all of them retain their 'individuality'), what I see is the outer shell opened up at one end with the inner germ of the rice expanded, coming out of the shell like a bud of a flower beginning to open up. Now, are any of these - softness, moisture and the expanded inner germ opening up more yin or more yang characteristics? They are all more yin than their opposites - hardness, dryness and contraction and closing.
So, in other words, pressure cooking short grain brown rice makes it more yin than uncooked brown rice.


Now, how do we explain this whole process in terms of yin and yang?
Well, I leave that up to you- this is your homework. After all, macrobiotic practice does NOT work - YOU have to make it work for YOU - and that requires study AND practice. Later I will tell you what I think.

In The Kitchen


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Kaare Bursell
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