By Mary F. Henry

Cereals in general are a cheap source of energy but there are wide differences in the cost of the various cereals themselves. Rolled oats, the whole-wheat grain, and cornmeal are, under ordinary conditions, the cheapest energy-yielding foods. The ready-to-eat and the partly cooked cereals are from two to ten times as expensive as the raw cereals. Attention given to the proper cooking of the raw cereals and to simple variations in serving them will, therefore, help to keep the food bills low, while at the same time the family is provided with a nutritious and appetizing food.

Proportion Of Cereal And Water

No rule for the proportion of cereal and water can be given that will apply to all kinds of cereals, or that will give a consistency which will satisfy every taste. The kind of cereal, the method of manufacture, and the method of cooking affect the amount of water that should be used. Cereal cooked in a tireless cooker requires less water than that cooked in a double boiler because there is less evaporation. Cereal cooked in a double boiler requires less water than that cooked directly over the fire, for the same reason. The table here given suggests proportions of water and cereal that may be used. Modification may be made to suit the taste.

The proportion of salt should be 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for every cup of water.

Time Required For Cooking Cereals

Cereals require long, slow cooking to make them palatable and digestible. Just as the various cereals call for different proportions of water, so they require different lengths of time for cooking. The whole grains and the ground grains containing large amounts of cellulose, such as whole-wheat, oatmeal, or Ralston's breakfast food, require a longer time for cooking than the grains that naturally or because of the process of manufacture contain less cellulose, such as rice or cream of wheat. The time of cooking may be reduced considerably by soaking the cereal for several hours, or even as long as overnight, to soften the cellulose. This soaking may be especially desirable in the case of whole cereals. Since the cereal in this way absorbs a considerable amount of water, an equal amount should be deducted from that used in cooking the cereal.

Utensils For Cooking Cereals

A fireless cooker is particularly well adapted for cooking cereals, since it gives the desirable long, slow cooking and makes possible a saving in attention and fuel. A double boiler is the next most convenient utensil. Cereals may be cooked directly over the fire if the temperature is kept low, but since there is a tendency to shorten the time of cooking because of the attention required to prevent burning, this method is in general not recommended. Even if stirred, cereal cooked in this way is likely to stick to the kettle and make it difficult to wash.

Directions for cooking cereals in a double boiler.

(1) Measure the water, and bring it to the boiling point in the upper part of a double boiler; (2) when the water is boiling vigorously, sprinkle the dry cereal into it slowly in order not to stop the boiling, as this will prevent lumping; (3) stir the cereal only slightly to prevent sticking and allow it to boil from 5 to 10 minutes, or until it thickens; (4) cover the container, and place it over the lower part of the double boiler, which is filled one-third full with boiling water; (5) cook the cereal for the required length of time, keeping the water in the lower part of the double boiler constantly boiling.

Directions for cooking cereals in a fireless cooker.

(1) Cook the cereal in the fireless cooker container over direct heat for 5 or 10 minutes according to the directions just given for the use of a double boiler; (2) when the cereal has boiled 5 or 10 minutes, cover the container and place it as quickly as possible in the fireless cooker and allow it to remain overnight. If a hot soapstone is used, 4 or 5 hours' cooking may be sufficient. If necessary, reheat the cereal over direct heat or in a container of boiling water before serving it.

Table XXX. - Cooking of Cereals

Time of Cooking

Kind of cereal

Measure (cups)

Amount of water1 (cups)

Over direct heat (minutes)

Double boiler

(hours)

Fireless cooker

Amount after cooking

(cups)

Petti John's.......

2 to 2 1/2

5 to 10

3

Overnight

2 scant

Rolled oats.......

2 to 2 1/2

5 to 10

3

Overnight

2

Cream of wheat. . .

4 to 5

3 to 5

1

Overnight

4 scant

Farina...........

4 to 5

3 to 5

1

Overnight

4 scant

carn meal

4

5 to 10

2 to 3

Overnight

4 scant

Entire grain wheat.

4

5 to 10

6 to 8

Overnight

3 1/2

Ralston's.........

4

5 to 10

3

Overnight

4 scant

Oatmeal.........

4

5 to 10

6

Overnight

3 1/2

Hominy grits.....

4

5 to 10

6 to 8

Overnight

3 1/2 scant

Samp............

4

5 to 10

5 to 6

Overnight

4

Wheatena........

4

5 to 10

1 to 2

Overnight

4 scant

Rice.............

3 1/2 to 5

5 to 10

3

Overnight

4 1/2

1 If the fireless cooker is used, from 1/4 to 1/2 cup less water should be added than is given in this table.

Variations in cooking and serving breakfast cereals.

Cereals may be cooked in milk, or in a combination of milk and water. Slightly more milk is necessary than when water alone is used. The use of milk in cooking cereals offers a way of increasing the milk-content of a meal and makes the dish more nutritious. Figs or raisins may be chopped fine and stirred in a few minutes before serving. Bananas, berries, or other fruit may be served with the cereal. Combinations of two or more kinds of cereals are good for variety.

Uses For Left-Over Cereals

Left-over cereals may be served in various ways. The cereal may be poured into individual molds and served as pudding with fruit sauce or cream. Dates, figs, or other fruit may be added before it is molded. If the cereal is sufficiently stiff, it may be molded in a loaf, sliced, browned in a small amount of fat, and served with sirup or tomato sauce. Left-over cereal may be used for a part of the flour in muffins, pancakes, or other breads, and in scalloped dishes or croquettes.

How To Pop Corn

For good results in popping, the main requisites are good corn and a good hot fire. In popping, certain precautions may be observed to good advantage. Too much pop-corn should not be taken at one time, not more than enough barely to cover the bottom of the popper one kernel deep. The popper should be held high enough above the fire or heat to keep from burning the kernels or scorching them too quickly. The right degree of heat for best results in popping should make good corn begin to pop 1 1/2 minutes. This should give the maximum volume increase in popping. If it begins to pop in less time or if a large quantity of corn is put into the popper, it will not pop up so crisp and flaky. If it takes much longer for the popping to begin, the heat is probably not great enough or the pop-corn is of poor quality, or there may be other interfering causes, such as drafts of cold air.

To preserve the snowy whiteness of the popped kernels, the flame must be kept from striking them. This can be done by placing a plate of iron or a stove lid between the corn and the fire if a wire popper is used or by using a pan popper if popping directly over a flame.

If the pop-corn is in first-class condition and the heat properly applied, 1 pint of unpopped corn should give 15 to 20 pints of popped corn.

* Hartley, C. P., and Willier, J. G. Farmers' Bull. 553. U. S. Dept. of Agr.