Monday, October 27, 2014

Sharing the Staff of Life

Sometimes, you happen to overhear someone when they share something about themselves. And sometimes, you can relate to what they say. I happened to overhear a friend of mine talk about how his breadmaker was a great new addition to their kitchen appliance collection and how much he loves the taste of fresh, homemade bread. (Who doesn’t?)

I asked him if he ever used whole wheat flour or if he only used the white flour from the grocery store. He told me that he had only used the white flour because that’s all they had. So when I asked if he would like some freshly milled, whole-wheat flour he got really excited. So last evening, I rolled the mill out on its cart from the store room and milled for him some hard red winter wheat into flour.

We keep it on a rolling cart that is easy to
maneuver and easy to clean.
  Here is the mill. It’s an older model of the Magic Mill brand with stones that do the serious work. It was my parents’ mill and I’ve had it for nearly 35 years. They had it for at least 15 years before that that I can remember so I pretty much think it qualifies as an antique. I’m OK with that because it has never required much in the way of maintenance, has never broken down, and always delivers a great product.
If you leave your scoop in the bucket, you
won't have to search for it when you need it.
The grain goes into the hopper under the top lid. The hopper holds about 6 to 8 cups of grain and you can keep the mill running while you fill the hopper. We keep our wheat in large 5- or 6-gallon buckets. You can go through a lot of wheat if you do a lot of baking. Since wheat doesn’t store a long time as flour, the oils in it will make it rancid, we mill when we are getting ready to bake. You can keep it in the refrigerator between baking sessions. But since it’s so easy to make, we prefer to do ours at the same time.
The motor and the stones are not quiet. Ear protection
is always a good idea. It's not bad and the
newer models are much, much louder.
The vibration keeps the wheat berries
moving on the plate. You just have to direct them at the end.
As the mill operates, it funnels down through the center hole in the metal plate. This allows and directs the grain into the corresponding hole in the stationery stone against which the rotating stone operates.
The one on the right spins. The hole is angled
toward the gap in the center. Don't set them too close
together or you can break your stones.
This shows the stationery stone, the one with the hole, and the moving stone. The gap between them determines the degree of fineness of the grind. Since we use this mill to turn wheat into flour that is the setting at which we leave it. We have changed it for cracked wheat cereal, and for fine pastry flour. But this grind is great for wonderful bread.

As you mill, the wheat berries flow down the hole from the hopper. The only thing the operator does is make sure that all of the wheat makes it to the hole. A gentle sweeping toward the center accomplishes this. No tools required. This is a good job for a grandkid. Unless they stick their finger down the hole, or something else, they can’t go wrong. (Hint: never turn your back on grandkids when milling flour.)

It's almost impossible to NOT pinch the flour between
your fingers. It's a great way to feel the texture of the
grind to make sure it meets your needs. Plus, it's fun.
The flour falls down into the metal pan directly below the stones. When the mill has been turned off, you can remove the pan and access the flour. You don’t want to do that before you turn the mill off because you will make a mess with all the flour dust.

The flour will be warm to the touch. Apparently, crushing and grinding wheat between stones creates some heat by friction. If you are making bread right away, you will want to let it completely cool before you add it to your yeast or you might kill off your yeast. Good way to make crackers instead of bread. When giving away flour, I put it into a gallon-sized zipper-top bag and put it in the refrigerator to cool overnight.
A gallon bag holds enough flour for several loaves
of bread, a couple batches of wonderful pancakes,
thickening material for gravy and lots more. It's
a lot of flour.

Once we have milled all the flour we need, cleanup is fast and simple. You simply brush all the flour that might stick to the sides of the inside of the mill down into the pan. Run the motor for a moment to make sure that no wheat is inside the stationery stone. Brush out or wipe out the metal pan. A small vacuum cleaner can also be used to tidy up the mill. It’s important to keep everything dry. Flour and water make a great place for insects and mold to thrive. Plus, it makes a form of concrete that is hard to remove from your mill. A simple brush is fine.

Since we keep our mill on a rolling cart (it’s kind of heavy, motor, stones, etc.), it’s very simple to roll it back into the store room and park it next to the wheat where it waits until the next time we need it. 
Buy your wheat by the ton, it's cheaper. You can
also buy it already sealed in buckets so it will last.
Right now, I'm using wheat we bought 5 or 6 years
ago. If stored properly, wheat can stay viable for
centuries. I don't plan to live that long.

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