Grinding Your Grain
If you've never eaten food made from freshly ground grain, you've never realized how flat and insipid the flour you're used to really tastes. You can home-grind all the grains, including rye, wheat, corn, rice, barley, and oats, as well as soybeans, chestnuts, peanuts, lentils, and dried peas to make a variety of flours. In the old days you took your grain to a mill and had the miller grind it. For payment, old-time law stipulated that the miller was entitled to one-tenth part of what he ground—except for corn, in which case the cut was one-seventh. That's because corn is the hardest of all grains to grind. When you're shopping, keep in mind that some mills can handle anything but corn. The basic tip is to make sure your food is dry before you put it through.
Bargain Grains for Grinding: If you just want to experiment a little with grinding, popcorn is available at any grocery store. Make it into cornmeal. If you are survival-minded or if you like the taste and nutritional value of home-ground flour, but won't be growing it yourself, you can still have your own grain in storage. You can buy grain from health food stores, food co-ops, and by mail—whole as "berries," rolled as "flakes," ground coarse for cereal, or ground fine for bread flour.
The cheapest way to get whole grains for home grinding is by going to a grain elevator and buying grain there, just as the farmers do to feed their stock. It's fine for human consumption too. It will have some dust and weed seeds and a few husks in it. As you need it, winnow or wash it, pick out the remaining husks by hand, grind, cook, and eat. If there's no grain elevator around but you have a Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) friend, they can also help you buy wheat in quantity for long-term storage, because Mormons are advised to have a year's supply of food in storage. (If you don't know a Mormon, call their nearest church, listed in your phone directory.) Or see the list of mail-order sources under "Bulk Foods for Storage" in Chapter 1. Ground Grain for Livestock Feed: Grain can be fed whole or ground. Some grains, like corn, will go straight on through an animal if they aren't at least partly ground beforehand. It matters which grain you have, how dry/hard and large the kernel is, and what your animal is. Experiment with different grains and coarsenesses of grind. Many farms are equipped with large burr, hammer, or roller mills mainly to grind grain for chickens and livestock. Fine and Coarse: Almost all the grinders are adjustable for "fine" or "coarse" grinding. "Grits" are made by cracking grain on one of the coarser settings and then removing the "fines" by sifting. The coarser grits are cooked in water or milk, being then a type of hot cereal. Mills with the finest settings produce a "cake" flour. One cup of grain will usually (but not always—depends on the grain) grind into about IV2 c. flour.
Storing Home-Ground Flour: Don't make all your grain into flour at once. Whole-grain cornmeal or wheat flour or any other flour ground at home loses quality —flavor and vitamins—almost literally every hour it waits between the grinding and the baking. Home-ground flour and cornmeal has a higher lipid (oil) content and is not degerminated or bleached. It's therefore better food for you and any other form of life, so it won't keep like store-bought flour—unless you freeze it. As soon as your grain is ground, the oxidation processes begin; ultimately they will turn the fat in it rancid. Rancid fat is not deadly poisonous; it's merely slightly harmful to eat and unpleasant to taste.
Weevils and other insects are also more inclined to get into and be a noxious presence in flour than whole grain. Home-ground flour can also absorb odor and dampness, so it's best to store it in an airtight container—for a small quantity, a glass jar; for large quantities, one of the 5-gal. metal or plastic cans that you can buy with fitted lids. Best of all is to grind the flour just before using it. If you plan to keep it more than a week, freeze it! Nonelectric Grinders: Back when I first wrote this book and the back-to-the-land movement was beginning, none of us usually came right out and said it, but we were all reacting to having grown up with the imminent horror of all-out nuclear war, and each of us was preparing to survive the nuclear destruction of the underpinnings of urban civilization. Nonelectric grinding was a requirement of that projected scenario.
Mortar and Pestle. You can use a mortar made of a hollowed block of wood, with a heavy chunk of wood for a pestle, but stone works better. Find a flat, smooth rock with a center depression large enough to grind on and a smooth rock to grind with.
Hand-Cranked Models. A typical home grain grinder sets on a tabletop. There is usually a large screw clamp to provide firm attachment to a bench or table while you are grinding. The hand models work as long as you have the strength and will to turn the crank. Hand grinders come in various sizes. The Family Grain Mill, made in Germany, provides the best-quality flour of any of the grinders— bread quality with only one grinding! It is not too hard to turn and is reasonably priced (about $130). But its plastic parts have been known to break. These mills are available from Linda Yoder, PO Box 100, Mark Center, OH 43536; 419-542-6275. When it comes to grinders, you definitely get what you pay for. A cheaper hand mill would not be able to produce consistently fine flour. Also, cheap mills are much harder to turn and cannot be motorized—which most people want to do sooner or later.
With the small, bargain hand grinders, it is hard work to get grain fine enough so as to not have chunks in it. The worst of the manual grinders produces a "fine meal" rather than a "flour" on the first grind. In order to get a flour grind, you have to crank very hard and put it through more than once. Then sift out the "grits" and put through again, and so on until you are satisfied with your flour. Feed the grits to your livestock, or cook for cereal. Powered Grinding: Electric grinding is easy and quick, and blenders are easy to buy. They will work to grind a small amount of grain at any one time, such as the grain for your day's cooking needs. But grinding is hard on blender blades, and they can't handle bulk jobs. In most commercial mills today, flour is made by crushing the grain between a series of rollers, much like a wringer washing machine. The expensive electric models for home use can put out around 10 to 16 lb. of flour per hour, depending on size, and cost several hundred dollars. They are kitchen appliances. You plug one in and pour your grain in the hopper, and it grinds your baking flour. One or two quarts of grain at a time is about right for a small family. Stone Mill. "Stone grinding" means that the grain is reduced to flour texture by rubbing against a stone surface in a manner similar to the old-style water-powered gristmills. Stone wheel mills, whether electric- or hand-powered, cannot be used for soybeans because of the oil from the beans, but they will produce a fine flour. Incidentally, the more a grinder grinds, the better job it does, because the stones grind themselves into a better and better fit. Burr Mill. This type of mill crushes the grain between a stationary heavy wheel and a revolving one. These are good for people who want to grind feed for livestock as well as their own meal and flour. A burr mill grinds finer than a hand-cranked household mill, although you may need to run it through more than once—maybe 3 times for baking flour. A burr mill is also the answer for folks who want to grind flour in larger quantities than household mills can handle. The drawback of a burr mill is that it grinds any grain fine but will not grind unthreshed grain-straw combinations. Incidentally, don't run the burrs on empty. It wears them out faster.
Roller Mill. You can buy an attachment for some household mills that will make rolled oats, wheat, or rye flakes ($99 attachment for the Family Grain Mill). Or get the Marga Grain Roller/Flaker, which has three hardened steel rollers and can be adjusted to make different grades of either flour or flakes, $70 from the Urban Homemaker (see "Buying Your Grinder" below). A roller-type mill is the best for rolling and flaking grains, but it's not good for making flours. They are less expensive than hammer mills and require less power. They work by mashing the grain between two clothes-wringer-type rollers. You can set a roller mill to hull, crack, and grind grain. The grain will be quite fine, but not fine enough for baking. A good roller mill with crusher rollers can chop corn or grain on the stalk, wet or dry, into silage. A roller mill is what you need if you want to grow one of the grains that doesn't thresh clean and must be dehulled after threshing and before grinding (such as oats or barley).
Hammer Mill. Hammer mills do big grinding jobs. They also use a lot of electricity and cost a lot. The hammer mill basically grinds anything. You can put whole grain right on the stalk into a hammer mill, and it will turn out a fine livestock feed that includes roughage and avoids threshing. You can mix the feed beforehand and then mill it, and grind corn on the cob. In some cases you can adjust these grinders to make cornmeal, too, but usually a hammer mill always lets some coarser material through and won't make a baking-quality flour.
Buying Your Grinder: Shop around, comparing prices and available models. Because there is such a confusing array of choices, tell the grinder salesperson your size of household; what grains or seeds you plan to grind, shell, or crush for oil; and, if you'll be also be grinding feed for livestock, how many and what kind. Health food stores or co-ops sometimes have grinders for sale, but they're not as likely to be able to give you expert advice. Grinders are now available that can operate either by hand or by electricity at the flip of a switch. The Country Living Grain Mill can even grind moist, oily items like oil seeds ($380 from Urban Homemaker). The Quaker City Grinding Mill will mill grains, beans, corn, coffee, and even nuts ($190 from Urban Homemaker). For family milling of wheat, I recommend the Family Grain Mill (available from many outlets). Health food stores and co-ops often have grinders for sale. The Braun Coffee/Grain Mill can't mill corn or beans, but it has 24 fineness settings and is only $70 (Urban Home-maker). Magic Mill is another popular home grinder. Back to Basics Products designs and produces specialty kitchen tools and appliances: grain mills (also peelers, slicers, strainers, food dryers, juicers, meat grinders, sprouters, smoothie machines, etc.). Their hand mill retails for $80. Free catalog: 801-571-7349; 11660 S. State St., Draper, UT 84020-9455; fax 801-571-6061; www.backtobasicsproducts.com. C. S. Bell makes hammer mills and burr or grist mills. The hammer mills are good for livestock and poultry feed preparation, grinding yard waste for compost, or fruit, vegetable, and grain processing for kitchen use. The mill weighs 54 lb. Its auger shaft is supported by two bronze bearings with oilers; the grinding disks self-align. Hand crank optional. Their mills can grind bones, hull sunflower seeds, or make bread flour in two grinds: 419-448-0791; Box 291, Tiffin, OH 44883; [email protected]; www.csbellco.com. Christian Family Resources sells many different grinders. Their free catalog compares the mills based on speed, effort, burrs, hopper capacity, motor, country of origin, size, warranty, etc.: 719-962-3228 (l-5pm M-F, Mountain Time); PO Box 405, Kit Carson, CO 80825; www.cfamilyresources.com. Cumberland General Store sells stone burr mills, etc., ranging in capacity from 150 to 1,250 lb./hr. Catalog, $4; 615-484-8481; 800-334-4640; Number 1, Hwy. 68, Crossville, TN 38555. Electro-Mechano makes a good, high-speed electric mill that works by shattering grain into flour. Suited for a big family or small bakery No hand crank option: 414272-4050; 242 E. Erie St., Milwaukee, WI 53202. K-TEC makes a very good high-speed electric (no manual option) micronetic chamber grain mill for $199-240; 800-748-5400; 1206 S. 1680 W, Orem, UT 84058; www.blendtec.com. Kuest Enterprises manufactures a good-quality, highvolume electric mill with stainless steel burrs able to deal with dry or oily grains, including a commercial-size grinder. Detachable handle for hand cranking: Box 110, Filer, ID 83328; 208-326-4084. Lehman's Hardware carries 12 grinder models, both hand and power, in full price and performance range (high-quality hand mill for $950). Check out their comparative performance chart: 330-857-5757; 888-438-5346; [email protected]; www.lehmans.com. R & R Mill Co. sells hand-cranked and motorized mills for home use: 801-563-3333; 45 W First N„ Smithfield, UT 84335.
Retsel Corp. manufactures the Little Ark (hand) and the Mil-Rite (electric with optional hand crank)— interchangeable stone and metal burrs, a lifetime warranty, and no answering machines! The Mil-Rite has a removable hand crank for optional hand operation: 208-254-3737; fax 208-478-5779; PO Box 37, Mc-Cammon, ID 83250; www.RETSEL.com. Rocky Top General Store sells a heavy-duty power mill with 1,400-lb. capacity as well as smaller mills. Free catalog; 865-882-8867; fax 865-882-9056; PO Box 1006, Harriman, TN 37748; [email protected]. Survival Center offers the Country Living Mill, and more; $2 catalog; 800-321-2900; PO Box 234, McKenna, WA 98558.
Urban Homemaker has a wonderful selection of kitchen grain grinders (and much else!!!): 800-55-BREAD; [email protected]; www.urbanhomemaker.com. Vita-Mix sells a blender that can grind grain or make juice: 800-848-2649; www.vitamix.com.
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