Rice Harvesting & Milling
Upon harvesting, rice is cleaned and milled to remove the outer husk. This first process leaves the bran intact and results in brown rice. The bran holds beneficial nutrients but also spoils quicker. Rice at this stage can be processed further to remove the germ resulting in white rice. Because many nutrients have been lost from removal of the germ, rice is often fortified by adding vitamins and minerals back. Rice at either the brown or white rice stage is often polished to give it a smooth appears and shine. Rice is often soaked, steamed, and dried before hulling, a process called parboiling, giving it a golden hue when polished and sold as converted rice.
Rice is divided into short, medium or long grain varieties. Most rice varieties are hybrid cultivars developed over years of research and experimentation with farming and processing techniques.
Short Grain – From the Japonica cultivar this rice has a sticky texture and an oval or pearl shaped grain it is also called sweet rice, glutinous rice, or waxy rice.
Medium Grain – From either the Indica or Japonica or a hybrid of the two it is used for breakfast cereals, confections, and snacks. It is also used in sushi, desserts and puddings. The cooked grains are moist and tender and have a greater tendency to cling together than long grain.
Long Grain – Long grained rice is from the Indica cultivar, has a long, cylindrical appearance and when cooked the grains are dry and fluffy.
Texture – Amylose and amylopectin are two starch components in rice. Higher contents of amylose are found in long grain rice producing dryer kernels that hold their shape better. Short and medium grain varieties have more amylopectin and when cooked results in sticky rice that can break down and turn mushy. Some short grain varieties are called glutinous rice, an inaccurate name as they contain no gluten, but are used to describe their sticky texture.
Color – Brown, black, and red rice get their color from pigmentation in the plant because they are minimally processed with the bran left intact. These varieties take longer to cook, hold their shape better, and have a chewier texture. Because the bran is susceptible to spoiling quicker they have a shorter shelf life than white rice. Variations in translucence produce rice that can be opaque to chalky in color. Opaque or “chalky” grains are softer, denser and heavier than translucent grains will also cook more quickly than translucent rice varieties.
Aromatic Rice - Varieties like basmati, jasmine, texmati, and weihani rice have distinctive flavor profiles that are nutty and bold. Arkansas, northern California and Texas are leading growers of these types in the United States.
Wild Rice is grown in the United States is technically a wild grass not in the same genus as rice. It is named because it has similar characteristics to rice. Wild rice is found in the upper Midwest and in Canada but most commercial wild rice is grown in California. True wild rice has a gray-black color and its shape is not as consistent as the cultivated variety which is darker and more uniform in appearance.
Storage and Use
Rice should be stored in sealed containers at room temperature in a cool and dry place. Because of the oil in the bran brown rice and other colored varieties will become rancid if not stored and rotated through storage quicker.
Rinsing – Modern processing does an effective job of removing most impuritiesand producing a clean rice product. Some types of rice preparations recommend rinsing or soaking riceto remove starch and make it less sticky. Small and medium grain rice varieties often call for it to be rinsed to remove excess starch before cooking.
Rice can be boiled in salted water similar to pasta.
Braising methods including pilaf, paella, jambalaya, and risotto call for rice to be sautéed and even browned in fat before adding liquid.
Long grain rice usually is not stirred after the liquid is added.
Short grain rice varieties used in paella and risotto are stirred while adding liquids.
Sticky rice varieties used in Asian cooking are rinse or soaked, combined with water, covered, and steamed gently without being stirred.