How to Make Wheat Gluten Meat (Seitan)
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt grain. Mixing the flour made from one of these grains with water will result in a sticky, slightly elastic dough. Gluten is what gives bread the ability to rise and provides the pleasure that comes with chewing a well-baked crust.
Gluten is also a common descriptor for a vegan 'meat' analogue (a plant-based alternative to meat). For the purposes of keeping things simple, I will refer to the vegan meat made with wheat as 'wheat gluten meat'.
Wheat gluten meat is also commonly referred to as seitan (say-TAN).
Gluten and Celiac Disease
Gluten is also a toxic protein for anyone who has celiac disease. Celiacs are generally tested and placed on a diet that restricts any of the grains with gluten in them. Sometimes the proteins in corn and other grains are also problematic and removed from the diet. It is estimated that 1% of people in North America are celiac, and another 1% of people have adverse reactions to gluten and are gluten-sensitive or gluten-allergic.
My First Experience With Wheat Gluten Meat
My husband and I were a young couple with a baby the first time I ate wheat gluten meat. We were invited to eat at his Seventh-day Adventist pastor's home. The casserole was a creamy mushroom-noodle type dish. It smelled wonderful and tasted very nice, also. I kept commenting that it "tastes just like real chicken!"
I think the pastor's wife was unsure of how to respond. She did show me the jar that she got it in. This was 1970, and I had no idea that there were faux meat products out there.
Do-It-Yourself Wheat Gluten Meat Recipe
The above video shows how one can make gluten the traditional way by washing the wheat starch out of the dough so that what you have left is the protein (gluten). As you can see in the video, it is a labour-intensive method of getting a small amount of vegetable protein. This is like the first demonstration I saw as a 'new' Seventh-day Adventist attending one of their vegetarian cooking schools.
I admit that I was bewildered by the process. No one actually explained what they were doing—they just went away with a ball of dough and returned a couple of times with a gooey mass, which they kneaded. Following is a recipe for making the fake meat, similar to what you see in the above video, but with slightly different details around times and amounts of ingredients.
For the Gluten Meat:
- 8 cups flour, organic, whole wheat or unbleached wheat flour
- 3 cups water
For the Broth:
- 8 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt or seasoning salt
- Add the water to the flour and mix. Knead well and form a ball of dough.
- Place the ball of dough in a large bowl and cover with water. In the video, the woman appears to have a large colander inside the other bowl. This would be a good idea. Allow it to soften for 30 minutes or overnight.
- After you return, 30 minutes later or the next day, work the starch out of the dough ball in the water, kneading in the bowl of water and keeping the dough together. You will notice that it grows more elastic as you knead it.
- Pour the first washing into a Mason jar with a lid and put in the fridge to allow the starch in the liquid to settle. The fluid in this bottle is high in the B-vitamins and other nutrients. It could be used in cooking or baking.
- Repeat the above, letting the dough rest for about 30 minutes, and then wash it again. Pour the washing water into the same container that you poured the first washing water into, or into another one. Let it rest for another 30 minutes.
- Continue with the above process, washing and kneading the dough ball until the water is almost completely uncloudy with starch.
- After the second washing, it is not useful to save the washing water to bake with. Most of the nutrients will have been washed out.
- Bring the water and salt for the 'broth' to a rollicking boil in something like a corn pot (large). With kitchen scissors or shears, trim off pieces of the gluten meat into the boiling water. Depending on which fake meat you are planning to use the protein for, you can trim the gluten meat accordingly (examples: stew, steaks, chops, strips). The pieces will swell in the water, so cut slimmer than the expected cut.
- Boil gently (simmer) for about 30 to 35 minutes. The pieces will have floated to the top and will generally not stick together. Remove with tongs and freeze, can or prepare them to use for a large meal.
- The gluten may be ground up to use in burgers or spaghetti sauces. When you sauté, boil or bake the gluten with spices in the water or with sauces, it will absorb the flavours. It can be used in vegan gravies and pasta sauces, stews, roasts, loaves and, as mentioned previously, burgers.