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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 type of pressure cooker you are using.
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 or at the appropriate pressure
indication. If there is not enough pressure, the rice will be
undercooked and it will be soggy and mushy. Ifthe pressure is too
high and the rice will be overcooked and dry.This is one of the
factors that makes the rice eithertoo 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
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 the most part.
However, when it is less often, it feels like I'm not eating real
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
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.
Comments or questions can be sent to the address below as I check
this address every few weeks. Please mention Alchemycal Pages in the
subject line. Thank you. Patricia
Copyright © Kaare Bursell, 1996-2031.