Category Archives: Local Grains – Where to Get Them and What to do with Them

The Grain Grinder Comparison – Berry Meets Mill and Show Us Your Stuff

Last January I had a grinder party at my house. Unfortunately I was so busy protecting incubating eggs and tomato seedlings from errant jungle children that I was not able to take pictures, but just imagine a house full of adults and children, flour in the air and the whir of many grain grinders. The few photos I managed to snap with my phone are so blurry I’m embarrassed to show them to you.

I realized that we must keep the house exceedingly cool since it was packed with people and not a one took off their ski coat. It made it easy for everyone to find coats at the end of the party, but I have a dickens of a time getting my bread to raise.

We had a Retzel Grain Mill, a Jupiter/Family Grain Mill, a Country Living Grain Mill, a Nutramill Grain Mill, a Champion juicer and a few others here for comparison.

Around the same time other friends of mine also had a milling party and kept fantastic notes, used here with permission. They were much more organized and scientific about the whole thing, with more grinders than I had here. They even had a laser to measure the temperature of the flour during grinding. Flour nerds. My kind of people!

Click for a larger version of grinder comparison notes.

You can see from the chart that the Country Living Grain Mill(powered by bicycle) was the finest grind, and the quietest mill. The flour temperature was among the lowest. The price point was higher than the Jupiter or the Nutramill but slightly less than the Retzel (my second favorite). The Jupiter allows for many alternative methods to power the mill, including bicycle, hand power or motor (sold separately). And although I have loved the small footprint of my Jupiter, after four years the motor has started smoking so I can no longer recommend it.

The Country Living Mill may have a steeper price point, but owning a grain mill is one of those things that will pay for itself, and the Country Living Mill will last forever. Any cook that buys flour could be grinding their own, just as they do with coffee beans. The wonderful thing about burr grinder mills (vs the impact grinders like Nutramill that pulverize the grains upon impact), is that you have the opportunity to use a coarse first grind, then sift out the bran and germ and re-grind the remaining flour on a finer setting just like commercial mills do. This gives you something more like white flour for those times when you want the perfect birthday cake or airy baguette. You can choose how much bran and germ to remove. You can also crack them coarsely to create a hot breakfast cereal or cracked wheat or barley for homebrewing.

The proof is in the flour.

See that lovely pile of powder fresh flour on the right? And the bigger bits of bran and germ from the other two mills? Each mill was set to grind as finely as it would go. The Country Living Grain Mill produces the finest flour possible in a home mill.

The one thing I will say is that if you are grinding flour for daily loaves by hand – you will be exceedingly strong at the end of one month. It is an exercise in patience to use a hand grinder, even with the power bar. That is probably why you see so many bicycle conversions. I have a motor for my hand grinder which makes grinding a snap. You can find used motors online and convert the Country Living Mill – but I love idea of the bicycle conversion which gives you a bit of a workout. If you have a couch potato in the house, just move the whole thing in front of the television.

And now that I hope I have convinced anyone looking for a good grain mill for Christmas that the Country Living Mill is the way to go, I will open up comments the UFH November Grain Challenge comments and linkup. You might win a $25 gift certificate to Bob’s Redmill or a Country Living Grain Mill!

Show us your stuff to Win!

{Note} This giveaway is limited to US and Canadian participants – sorry!

Please leave a comment OR link up to blog entries below using Mr. Linky (even though Mr Linky tells you to do both), telling me about the grain challenges you have taken this month. Please only leave one comment or link up one time since doing so is what enters you into the random drawing for prizes. I will leave this challenge open until Sunday, December 9 and then reply to commenters in this blog entry, or by email to those who linked up that won the random prize drawing. Good luck!


UFH Challenge #4 & 5: Soak Your Grains; Try a New Grain

Doesn’t it seem like everyone has gluten intolerance or Celiac’s these days? I find it troubling, and personally troubling because I’ve noticed since switching to whole grain bread that even I, who have never had a problem with grains before, am developing digestive problems with them. The odd thing is if I eat something made from white flour it troubles me less.

I love baking, and I love grains so my response has not been to give them up. It’s been a combination of soaking my doughs, decreasing baked goods made with wheat, and giving up grains during the summer. This lets me indulge in baked goods more during the winter when I have more time to bake and when I am more appreciative of those extra pounds that come along with baking since we keep the house quite cold.

Having your own grain grinder is a fantastic way to change up the grains you use in baking projects. I’ve come to appreciate the nutty flavor of spelt in pancakes and crackers and more crackers and pumpkin cookies and pumpkin scones (much better than wheat!), and the exotic of rye in my limpa or rustic rye.

But if I want a high rising loaf of sandwich bread, I reach for hard wheat. I just make sure that I soak the dough first. You will notice that nearly all the recipes on my blog call for soaking the grains in some fashion, with the exception of crackers. In place of soaking cracker dough you may want to experiment with sprouted grain flours.

November UFH Challenge #4: Soak Your Grains.
November UFH Challenge #5: Try a New Grain.

Meet the Grain Challenge Sponsors and Challenge #3: All Grain Brewing

I am super excited this month to announce our grain challenge sponsors!

I have been a huge fan of Bob from the time I first purchased a bag of organic thick cut oats with that red mill logo on the front. Fast forward to my local foods mid life crisis and Bob was there for me. A short while later, when I learned how prevalent GMOs were in the US food chain, Bob’s Red Mill took a non GMO pledge. Anytime I wanted to know where a particular package of something was grown, I would phone up the company and they would tell me. And just when I thought Bob was as cool as cool got, in February of 2010 he went and gave his company to the employees.

And it’s not just that Bob is so cool – his products are amazing. Some of my personal staples are the thick cut organic oats, the red lentils, the semolina flour, the masa harina (yes I know I could nixtamalize my own but I have been there and done that, girlfriend), and anytime I don’t grind my own, I use Bob’s.

Which he grinds using this.

You probably don’t use that.

But come next month, you may use this.

Because November’s other sponsor is Country Living Grain Mills

That is not a typo. I’m SUPER excited to share my favorite mill with someone.

I waxed poetic about it in the book. I coveted it and dreamt about it and when my little old Family Grain mill started slowing down last year, I took the plunge and bought my own. The next post I do this week will be a grain mill comparison from a grinding party I had last January (because I am jiggy like that) and you will see that the Country Living Mill was the finest grind, the quietest grind, and the lowest electricity grind. When our power went out for a week last January we ate high on the hog and stayed warm by grinding flour by kerosene lantern. We had pancakes for breakfast (on the campstove of course), rooster and dumplings for dinner, rabbit gumbo with corn pones, and dutch oven biscuits. No generator required.

The Country Living mill is made in the USA by a small, family owned business in Stanwood, WA. It’s convertible from manual to electric but my favorite way to power it is by bicycle. There is a photo in The Urban Farm Handbook of Scott from Marra Farm and Lettuce Link (which a portion of my royalties will go to should I ever earn any…) pedaling grains during the Seattle Farm Coop’s Harvest and Barter Fair.

How could you not want that?

So a special thanks to November’s fantastic sponsors!

And now to jump to November’s fantastic co-host, Homebrew Husband on Erica’s fantastic blog, NW Edible Life and his indescribably beautiful post on how to brew all grain mash homebrew. Because grains are not just for bread people. You can drink them too. Without further adieu, please jump to brew!

But remember to come back here in a few days for another grain challenge, and then again on the last day of the month to enter your comments or linkup to the final roundup post for a chance to win these fantastic prizes! Please note for this challenge that winners are limited to US and Canada.

November UFH Challenge Kickoff: Grains – No GMO But Do You Know What That Means?

This morning the country is still processing election day results, dusting themselves off or basking in the glow of optimism. This is not a political blog. Nonetheless it’s my intent that this blog affects change. Change that every family, no matter what income class, educational level, race, family size, sexual orientation or religious creed can feel. Change that every person, no matter how old or how very, very young will benefit from. I’m talking about food.

I may not be able to affect matters of fiscal or foreign policy, but I can affect matters of food and so can you.

Yesterday, a California initiative that was cobbled together by a ragtag grassroots group of passionate and committed individuals was defeated by a massive international giant with staggering coffers. Coffers built upon sabotage, greed, threats, deceit and complete disregard for the physical welfare of current and future generations of life forms and planetary health.

What is truly amazing is just how far that ragtag grassroots effort made it, and how much money it cost that international giant to defeat the initiative.

Goliath, you may have won the battle but you will not win this war.

Just think if every state managed to get that initiative on the ballot if only to drain more of Goliath’s funds and to distract and confuse their lobbying efforts.

This first challenge is somewhat political – motivated by food.

This first challenge is to support or start an initiative in your state requiring labeling for genetically modified foods.

Here in Washington state we have an opportunity to get Initiative 522 on the ballot if we get enough signatures by December 31. So far we are only halfway there and time is ticking. To find out how to print your own petition copies, visit www.LabelItWA.org.

If you are unable to do that, then I challenge you to abstain from buying any food containing non-organic wheat for the entire month.

But here is the problem with even organic foods: even organic foods can be genetically modified, and in fact, all organic wheat is.

Genetic modification is the result of several methods.

One: Take the genetic code you desire, insert into a vector. Use that vector to insert the desired genetic code into an item. Use that item to reproduce a genetically modified organism.

Two: Use a processes that will cause global mutations of genetic code (could be chemical exposure, mechanical or other). Back-cross the new genetic code with the original and observe results. Repeat many times until the new items becomes stable and predictable.

Method one is required to undergo food safety studies prior to entering the food chain. Method two is not required to undergo safety studies prior to entering the food chain.

An organism created using method two can be certified as organic. Without any safety studies.

Genetic information in food signals the body how to react to that food. Yet food companies are allowed to genetically alter organisms without safety studies and still obtain organic certification.

Using method number two, you obtain modern dwarf, high gluten wheat varieties. And staggering rates of gluten intolerance and Celiac’s disease. White flour isn’t the only culprit – it’s WHEAT flour.

I know this challenge is more complicated and heavy than any kick off challenge should be but it’s not over yet.

I want you to read this booklet on GM truths and myths and understand a little bit more about genetic modification. This will better help you explain to others why labeling matters, even if it it is only a very tiny first step towards our greater food education.

Why even bother buying organic if it doesn’t mean your flour is not genetically modified? Because it’s sending a signal to food manufacturers that you care about what you are eating, and that is the first step in affecting change. Because it’s doable, and giving up wheat cold turkey is more than many of us can tackle at this stage in our lives. Because baby steps eventually lead in the direction we need to go – but without first starting down the path we can never reach our goal.

Whole Grain Swedish Limpa

Just like meatloaf, there are a lot of bad limpa recipes floating around the universe. But if you are lucky enough to have tried good limpa you know it can be memorable, surprising and even divine. For breakfast – smeared with apricot jam and a slice of good farm cheese there is nothing better.

I have a good dozen recipes for limpa that I’ve clipped or been given over the last twenty five years and I’ve tried them all. None of them really captured that light, slightly sweet and aromatic loaf that is the limpa of my memories. I’ve given it up as being situational. Maybe, like eating food while camping, it’s more about the camping than the food.

A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas and of course the first thing I tried was the limpa recipe. It called for mostly white flour so I adapted it for whole grain and swapped out things like salad oil which I’m pretty sure would not be historically accurate. It smelled ethereal even before it hit the oven. But once it hit the oven and began to spring and perfume my kitchen, I knew there was something different about this limpa recipe. I knew this was it.

When I pulled the loaves out and brushed the crust with molasses, I committed a cardinal sin. I sliced that steaming hot loaf and tasted the breadbaker’s right (that is the most flavorable piece of the whole loaf, the crust piece). I closed my eyes and visions of Sweden danced in my head. I was in an airy wooden kitchen with red and white striped curtains and dish towels, Bjorn Skiffs on the radio, warm bread smells in the air, and I was tasting good bread for the first time. Swedish limpa with fennel, caraway and orange zest. If anyone ever offers you limpa with candied orange peel in it, just politely decline.

This limpa recipe, with quite a few adaptations, embodies my memory of real Swedish limpa. I hope you enjoy it.

Swedish Limpa
makes 3 loaves

8-9 cups hard red wheat flour
2 cups rye flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
3 teaspoons salt
grated peel of one orange
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon caraway seed
4 cups milk (if not using raw or buttermilk, substitute 1/2 cup whey or yogurt as part of the milk. This acidic medium will help reduce the phytic acid in the grains and soften the dough considerably)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup dark molasses

Before bed, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover bowl and let stand on the counter overnight.

In the morning, turn all the dough out and knead by hand, adding as little flour as possible. You can also split this into two batches and knead using a bowl mixer. Continue kneading until the dough is shiny and smooth-looking but still tacky and passes the windowpane test (when you stretch a small piece of it, it stretches to form an opaque window rather than tearing), about 6-8 minutes.

Butter 3 loaf pans or cake pans. Shape into oblong loaves for bread pans or rounds for cake pans. Place loaves in pans, cover and let rise until almost doubled in the warmest spot in your kitchen, about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 F.

Score and lightly spray tops of loaves with water just before placing them in the oven. This will keep the surface supple and allow the loaves to continue rising in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the loaves are a deep brown and the inside registers 190 F. Brush the loaves with molasses and allow to cool before slicing. You may even want to put some ABBA on for this loaf. It’s that good.