How to cook emmer
Heat a pot over medium heat. Add whole or pearled emmer and toast until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add in salt and enough water to cover the emmer by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until the emmer is tender but chewy: 25 to 30 minutes for pearled, 40 to 50 minutes for the whole grain. Add more water if needed.
Emmer can also benefit from aromatics such as a onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. Add these items to the water while cooking and remove when the emmer is cooked.
How to use emmer
Use whole emmer as you would wheat berries. The chewiness is perfect for salads, soups, and grain bowls. Pearled emmer also makes great soups and stews, but is also my choice for alternative grain risottos. Crack whole emmer to use in risottos, or make into a porridge.
How to store emmer
Emmer, whether the whole grain or flour, is best stored in airtight containers in a cool place. Whole and pearled emmer can be stored up to a year in the freezer or 6 months in the pantry. Emmer flour is best stored in the freezer and will last up to 6 months. If the grains or flour have a rancid smell when you open the bag, toss and buy fresh.
One of my first experiences with emmer was a non traditional risotto made at a local restaurant, using emmer instead of typical arborio rice. The flavor of the grain was perfect mixed in with the cheese and vegetables, while the texture held the right amount of chew. I knew from that moment emmer would become a regular staple in my kitchen.
Emmer/Farro can be a slightly confusing grain as the name has been used to refer to a few different grains, all wheat based. There is Einkorn (which is the smallest), Emmer/Farro (medium), and Spelt (largest). More often than not, Emmer can be found in the bulk bins. Spelt is often labeled as such, and I tend to not substitute spelt for emmer, as I feel the taste and texture is a bit different.
Emmer is sold both whole (hulled) and semi-pearled pearled. Like with barley, pearled emmer has had the outer bran removed, making it quicker cooking. However, a lot of the grains nutrients in this process, which means pearled emmer is not a whole grain. Semi-pearled is good middle ground: just enough of the bran is removed while leaving a few nutrients intact. More often than not, stores that carry emmer have the pearled version. Check the package/bulk bin carefully before buying.
Flour: Flour made from Emmer has a lovely, nutty wheat flavor. It’s very hearty, and I typically use it in breads and pancakes. Emmer flour made from semi-pearled emmer is a bit lighter and can be used in pastries.