Humble rye is a much honored and well loved grain, particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe and Russia (Russia, Belarus, Poland and the Ukraine are the world's largest producers of the grain.). Rye grows well in much poorer soils than those necessary for most cereal grains. Thus, it is an especially valuable crop in regions where the soil has sand or peat. Rye plants withstand cold better than other small grains do and will survive with snow cover that would otherwise result in winter-kill for winter wheat. These attributes meant that it became a staple both in Northern climes and for poorer people for many generations.
Rye flour is high in gliadin but low in glutenin (These are the two components of gluten), making it difficult to handle – shaping loaves is like working with cement. It also contains a higher proportion of soluble fiber.
Rye breads tend to be somewhat sour in taste, with a deep, slightly bitter flavor. Baking rye bread is its own world – you can do a week long course on baking with rye at the San Francisco Baking Institute – those of you with Northern European roots will know of the dozens of varieties of rye breads made there. I in now way consider myself a match for the grain. We'll see how things go this weekend! : )
By law, rye whiskey must be made from a mash containing at least 51% rye (The other ingredients are usually corn and malted barley). Rye is said to impart a spicy, fruity taste to the liquor. On the other hand, bourbon, made from a corn mash is sweeter and more full bodied. Canadian rye whiskey has no such legal requirement and is blended for flavor with God knows what additives (Damn Canadians!).
From Episode 20 of the Seinfield Show
JERRY: I want that rye, lady!
MABEL: Help! Someone help!
JERRY: Shut up, you old bag!
MABEL: Stop thief! Stop him! He's got my marble rye!
This Saturday’s Bake
I am going to bake an organic rye / spelt mix, with 30% fresh ground rye, 30% white spelt and 40% white flour. This is will be a light rye: the white flour will give it a more open crumb and make the dough easier to handle.
Your Canadian Baker