No, this isn’t about ground beef. This is about flour.
Last year, I became intrigued by grain mills. What a great idea — so I thought. That lasted until sticker-shock set in. The whole idea was put on hold as “nice idea, too expensive.” You can literally spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for a grain mill. Some are quite attractive to look at, but still, they’re expensive pieces of kitchen equipment. Trolling through Amazon taught me that there are great varieties out there. Some do a better job — apparently — than others, but at the end of the day, unless you buy one and try it, you don’t really know how it will work or whether it will fit your needs.
Our needs were basic: Just something to grind whole-wheat flour or whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t see myself as a daily grinder, but many do. Who knows, with enough passion, it could happen!
In a recent trolling trip through Amazon, I came across a Victorio grain mill, and I checked it out, as I already own their food mill, and love it. It was under $100, so with a click of the mouse, said mill along with some bags of Bob’s Red Mill whole grains, were on their way.
Upon its arrival, it got put to immediate use. Alas, my butcher block table was too thick for the clamp, but the workbench in the garage was perfect. You won’t want to connect this to anything fancy, like your dining room table. Serious force will be applied.
I had ordered a bag of hard red spring wheat berries to make whole-wheat flour, so in went two cups, and I started turning the crank. You will get a very nice upper body workout, which I consider a side benefit. With a bowl underneath to catch the flour as it came out, soon enough, we had flour. It took about 10 minutes to create three cups flour, and that is the normal yield, according to a book I got on grinding (more about that in the next blog post).
The next step was to bake something. In this case, I chose banana bread. If you have never tasted a baked item made with freshly ground flour, you are in for a real treat. The taste is totally different-fresher, tastier, more what you would expect a baked good should taste like. You just do not get that experience with commercially ground flours and baked products — especially whole-wheat. Many of the commercial ones taste strong, dry and bitter in comparison. For those reasons alone, whole-wheat flour was never popular in our house.
So what are some of things you need to look at when purchasing a grain mill? Certainly cost is a factor, but obviously not the only one. To motorize or not to motorize? Mine is not, but often times you can order a motor to go on it afterward if you wish. Check the model you’re interested in to make sure it can be upgraded.
The other thing to consider about motors is if it’s manual, it will always work. If you’re off the grid, it’s obvious, but if you have 30-hour power outages like we do here, you might want to keep that in mind too. It never hurts to be prepared. You can still make stuff on your camp stove in that situation!
Another thing to consider is speed. Some grind faster than others. Mine is considered a “slow” one, but I thought three cups in 10 minutes pretty adequate. Now if you are baking for a family of six, you might feel differently. Or, get the kids to do it! Mills also grind in different ways: Burr grinders, steel, stone.
What you can grind is also important. Mine, for example, won’t do large grains like corn, so if cornmeal is what you want, you will have to buy something bigger. Be aware that you are limited by what can fit through the hopper.
Small grains like wheat berries are what mine is designed for. It can handle buckwheat, teff, rice and the like. Oats are not recommended, because they are too light to flow through the hopper.
You need to watch out that the grinding cones don’t overheat when not enough material is being processed through them — hence, the problem with oats. Perhaps a bigger mill would handle oats with no problem. Or, you could run oatmeal flakes through a food processor or blender if you want oat flour.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into the decision to get a grain mill: What you intend to bake/make, size of your family, how often you intend to use it, lots of considerations. I can guarantee one thing though: If you purchase one and try the flour in your baked goodies, you will be won over by the taste!
Bob’s Red Mill carries a dizzying array of whole grains. They often have your harder to find items and more unusual flours, etc. Last accessed May 11, 2016.
Victorio offers sprouters, canners, dehydrators, etc. Last accessed May 11, 2016.
Sue Van Slooten teaches cooking and baking classes at her home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake, Ontario, Canada. She specializes in small classes for maximum benefit. Follow her homesteading adventures and check out her class offerings at www.SVanSlooten.com. You can email Sue questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. She'd be thrilled to hear from you! Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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