Bulgur Wheat
#1, #2, #3, #4 [Bulgur (Turk); Bollgur (Albania); Pligouri, Pourgouri (Greek); Gurgur (Aramaic); Bulgoor (Armenia); Cerealis (Rome); Arisah (Biblical); Triticum durum (sometimes other varieties)]

Bulgur is sometimes called "cracked wheat", but not at all interchangeable with regular cracked wheat. For bulgur, whole wheat kernels are soaked, then boiled or steamed and dried. When dry, the hulls and some of the bran are removed (as little as 5%) after which they are crushed and sorted to various mesh sizes. This form cooks much faster than cracked wheat and can be used uncooked (just soak well). As with parboiled rice, some of the bran nutrients are driven deeper into the berry for better nutrition. Bulgur is much used in the cuisines of southeastern Europe, Anatolia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, ancient Rome and the Levant, The photo shows #1 and #2 (top row) and #3 and #4 (bottom row).

Originally a specialty of the Armenians and Assyrians, this method of treating wheat was also known to the Mongoles. Bulgar was carried far and wide, first by the Romans, then by the Ottoman Empire. Because a minimum amount of the bran is milled off, the USDA classifies bulgur as a whole wheat product.

More on Wheat.

In Turkey there are two grades:
  • Köftelik:   Fine grind for Kofta
  • Pilavlik:   Coarse grind for Pilaf
In North America thre are five grades, the first four of which are common.
  • #1:   Fine - often mixed with ground lamb to make kibbe.
  • #2:   Medium - used for tabouli
  • #3:   Medium Coarse - used for pilafs, casseroles, baked dishes.
  • #4:   Coarse - used for soups - not as common as #3.
  • #5   Very coarsely crushed - almost whole grains. Not common.

Buying:   Bulgur can be found packaged and sometimes in bulk in markets serving communities from Southeast Europe, Turkey, Armenia, the Levant, the Middle East and North Africa. Ethnic markets will probably have it in grades from #1 to #4. Preferably buy from a source with high turnover.

Storing:   Because bulgur contains some of the oils from the raw wheat, it is subject to rancidity. In a tightly sealed container in a cool place it will be usable up to 4 months.

Cooking:   Bulgur can be used uncooked (it has already been fully cooked), it just needs a bit of soaking. Cooking should be until bulgur is tender but not mushy. Timing will depend on coarsness, so check for doneness. Like pasta, it should still have just a little bite.

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