Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I love a beautiful fall. It's the time of year to take stock, appreciate the summers harvest and ready the home and farm for winter. Of course, this has been a hard summer, and the coffers are not full from the harvest, but we are fortunate that in this easy age, we can always buy or trade for what we need and want. Going into the cold winter months with some hardy grain would be a treat. My field corn harvest was a miserable failure this year, and we haven't grown wheat in years. Mom and I were fortunate to have a friend to share some with us. Our friend, Mike, farms some beautiful land near Texarkana and saved us some of the wheat that he harvested this year. This was a beautiful, tasty soft wheat that we were thrilled to get. In return, Mike got a jar of our home-made sorghum molasses.
When I was growing up mom would make bread from fresh ground wheat. Oh, her bread was so delicious. Mom would sometimes order cheese from the milk company that the milk hauler would bring by on his route. I was so excited to see that brown paper wrapped, 5 pound block of cheddar cheese sitting on the milk tank after the hauler had left our farm. That was such good cheese! Mom would make the best grilled cheese sandwiches using that cheese on her whole wheat bread when she made vegetable soup. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!
My family has always had an old iron grain mill. It has wheels on it where a belt could power it, but for as long as I remember using it, it has been run from an electric motor that my dad installed onto it. It's at least 100 years old and still does what it's intended to do! We got it out the other day to grind some of the wheat.
The mill had not been out in a few years and had a little rust here and there. I took a wire brush and scratched off the rust, then we washed out the hopper and grinding wheels with a little bleach water and then let it dry out in the sunshine. We first ground some whole corn to see if it was working right, and to make adjustments, then brushed it out again and started in on the wheat. The grinder grinds pretty coarsely, but running it through twice makes a wonderfully textured flour. It was a chilly day, but me, my mom and cousins, Anne and Michelle, had a great time watching the grinder work and getting a few pounds of the wheat ground.
We bagged it all up into quart sized freezer bags. It is good to freeze grain. Milled grains can go rancid and also lose their nutrients quickly if stored at room temperature. We have been busy making bread. When making bread, I have had success using about 1/3 whole wheat in place of the all purpose flour. This makes a heartier yet light bread for either slicing or rolls. It is also makes wonderful hamburger buns. Here is a recipe that I like for snacks. These crackers have a wonderful texture and flavor.
Whole Wheat Critters
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ cup milk
- 2 Tbls granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
Combine flours and baking powder. Beat butter 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, honey, and vanilla; beat until fluffy. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to beaten mixture, beating after each addition. Divide in half. Cover, chill several hours or overnight. On floured surface roll out half of the dough to 1/8” thickness. Using large cutters, cut into desired shapes; re-roll as needed. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Using tines of a fork, prick sparingly, combine granulated sugar and nutmeg; sprinkle over crackers. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake in a 350' oven 12- 14 minutes. Remove immediately; cool on a wire rack. Makes about 36.