Pearl barley is a type of barley groats in the form of smooth grains of white or slightly yellowish oblong or round shape, used as a base for side dishes and porridges, filling for soups, stews. The name is associated with the similarity of grains of cereals with pearls (pearls).
Grains of vitreous and semi-vitreous varieties of barley are used for the production of cereals. Whole barley grains are pre-cleaned of impurities and peeled to remove flower films, crushed to kernels, which are then ground and polished, as a result, the grains of cereals are the endosperm of barley with minor remnants of fruit and seed shells and the aleurone layer. The resulting grits are sorted by size, in Soviet commodity science, five "numbers" of pearl barley were distinguished by size: No. 1 and 2 - with large oval-shaped granules with a dark longitudinal groove characteristic of barley grain (passage through 3.5 and 3.0 mm sieves), No. 3, 4 and 5 - with small spherical grains (through 2.5 to 1.5 mm sieves, respectively). Large varieties are more often used for side dishes, small ones - for fillings and minor backfills. At the same time, at the beginning of the XX century, small cereals were considered the most valuable ("royal") in comparison with larger ones ("Dutch", "half-Dutch" and the largest "ordinary").
It is boiled for a long time in comparison with other cereals - up to 1.5 hours, while the grains swell significantly, absorbing a lot of water, but retain their shape, giving a crumbly side dish (unlike another type of barley groats — barley - which is boiled into a product of a viscous consistency). The volume of pearl barley is 5-6 times higher than the initial volume of cereals, the yield of porridge with 1 kg of cereals is from 3 kg for large and up to 4.5 kg for small cereals.
It is most popular in Russian cuisine, where it is usually used to make pearl barley porridge. In the 1930s, the industrial production of pearl barley in significant volumes was mastered in the USSR, and due to the low price and long storage time, cereals were widely used in public catering, in the diet of military personnel and prisoners. At the same time, due to the frequency of use and low cost, a stereotype of a low-value product has developed, to the point that due to the low popularity among soldiers in 2011 in the diet of the Russian Army, the product in side dishes was replaced with more expensive buckwheat and rice (at the same time it was left as a filling for soups and an additional dressing for canned meat).
It is common in Swedish, Danish, Finnish cuisines, where it is used for side dishes, cereal sausages, as a filling in soups. In the Italian culinary tradition, there is a dish of pearl barley orzotto, similar in recipe to rice risotto. In British and North American cuisine, grits are less common, and are used as a secondary filling in soups, stews, stews, sometimes used to make unsweetened puddings; in German and French cuisines, it is found as an additional ingredient-filling sausage products and pates. Among Western popular nutritionists, large pearl barley with bran residues is considered a "whole grain product" (English scotch barley) and is recommended for a healthy diet.
Since the second half of the XX century, the production of instant pearl barley has been mastered using a steaming process similar to steaming rice