Ari’s Pick: Really Tasty Rye Porridge to Cook At Home

Freshly milled grain cooks up quickly to make a marvelous meal

Here’s a terrific autumn meal you can make with a minimal amount of work in under half an hour. It’s easy to make, enjoyable to eat, warming, and a wonderful fit for the cooler, shorter autumn days.

a bag of michigan whole rye flour with a pile of rye flour in front of itThe freshly-milled on-site rye at the Bakehouse right now is particularly special. It’s the ingredient shift that took the Bakehouse’s honey cake from good to great last month. It’s the basis of what makes the Bakehouse’s Jewish Rye one of the best in the country. One way to taste it straight up is to enjoy the Vollkornbrot—the traditional German whole grain bread. You can taste the grain’s earthy, almost spicy, wonderfully round full flavor. You can also get a taste of it, in a less direct fashion in the Dinkelbrot, the Roadhouse bread, and the Country Miche.

While polenta, oatmeal, and grits have long since gained relatively wide acceptance in our end of the food world, rye porridge remains pretty much unknown. It’s quite common though in Scandinavia and it’s so easy and so good I can’t see why it couldn’t become so around here as well. We get organic rye berries from DKB farms in Columbiaville, Michigan, and mill them on our stone mill, almost every day, into a dark-colored whole grain flour. It’s mineral-rich, nutrient-dense, and marvelously delicious.

How to Make Rye Porridge

This porridge gives a completely different way to enjoy the goodness of the grain. Like polenta or pasta, the toppings are essentially limitless. As is true for polenta, there’s really no “proper” ratio—it’s all about what you prefer; less water leads to a thicker porridge and vice versa. Generally three to five parts water to one part rye flour. Put the water in a heavy saucepan and warm over medium heat. Add a spoonful or so of sea salt and stir. Slowly whisk rye flour into the warm but not yet boiling water (it will incorporate better and is more likely to stay smooth if you do it before the water boils). Bring to a light boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring regularly, for about 20 to 30 minutes. The porridge should be smooth in texture.

rye porridge in a blue bowl topped with a melting pat of butter and freshly cracked black pepper

I’m inclined, as I usually am, to eat in a savory way. Topped with olive oil, sautéed autumn spinach, and a bit of grated Valserena Parmigiano Reggiano (made solely from the milk of Sola Bruna, or Brown Swiss, cows). Great as a side dish too, the way you would serve grits or polenta. Blue cheese crumbled over top and walnuts are another wonderful combination. If you want to make a bit of an inverted Reuben, sauté up some sauerkraut with diced corned beef and serve it over the hot porridge. Grate some great mountain cheese (I’m super high on Comté right now). The porridge is also terrific with tarragon butter melted over top. Cabbage sautéed in bacon fat would be beautiful as well. If you want to go sweet, honey, syrup, butter, and/or jam are all beautiful pairings, as are fresh berries macerated in a bit of sugar, or sautéed stem fruits like pears or apples!


Ari headshot
Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments