Small patches of corn are easy to harvest by hand, store or year-round use and grind fresh as needed.
Photo courtesy David Cavagnaro
For Freshest Flavor, Grind Your Own Grain Corn
So, let's say you grow a great crop of grain corn or buy some from someone else. How do you grind it? You can either use manual power or electricity, depending upon your needs, budget and muscle.
When corn aficionado Carl L. Barnes wants to just crack corn, he uses an old coffee mill. For flour, he uses a Vita-Mix blender, passing the meal through two or three times if he wants a fine grind. (Don't try this with ordinary blenders.)
Walter Goldstein also uses an old coffee mill to grind corn at his workplace, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wis.; at home, he uses a Champion Juicer with a milling attachment.
For grinding nixtamal (see "Make Masa: Nixtamalized Corn") into masa, a manual Corona Mill, which also grinds dry corn into coarse grits, works well — if you have a well-muscled arm to keep the handle turning.
Grinding cornmeal with a manual grinder is slow going (it takes five minutes of steady muscle work to produce 2 cups of coarse meal). Carol Deppe, a grain-corn hybridizer in Corvallis, Ore., says she has tried several electric grain mills and thinks the Whisper Mill is best for fine grinding. "It has a better feed design, and it's not nearly as loud as others." The Whisper Mill and another popular model, the Nutrimill, are "impact" mills that shatter grain as it is ground. All impact-type electric grain mills are noisy, but they produce very fine flours. Burr-type mills are slower and quieter, and give a coarser grind. Both types, whether manual or electric, do not overheat the grain. Prices start at $35 for a simple manual mill; a good electric mill or juicer with mill attachment costs about $250.
Two Web sites with good product information and machines for sale are www.pleasanthillgrain.com and www.lehmans.com.