I bake nearly all my own baked goods. Sourdough bread is a staple food for me and Dan. I started grinding my own whole wheat flour in 2007. I had originally tried to set up a cooperative grain mill venture with similarly-minded people. I wanted to buy a Diamant grain mill, unquestionably the best hand crank flour mill on the market, but also quite expensive. The photo below of a Diamant mill is from Lehman’s.
When the cooperative ownership idea fell through I purchased Lehman’s Own Hand-Cranked Grain Mill. Mine is pictured below. I have not been disappointed in it and recommend it to others as the lowest-priced, yet high-quality hand cranked grain mill on the market. I have both cast iron burrs, which I mainly use for cracking grain, and synthetic stone burrs that Lehman’s no longer sells, which make very fine flour (the cast iron burrs make good flour, too, but stone burrs are known for their extra-fine flour). In this photo you can also see my bamboo blinds that I use for wet felting tucked under the counter, my canning funnel in the dish rack and a blurry “Chicks Dig Vegans” bumper sticker on the refrigerator.
Hand grinding flour is a great form of upper body exercise for me that I can do even if it is raining or snowing outside. I grind about two pounds of flour per week. It takes me about an hour to grind one pound. Metal or glass rectangular pans make the best flour-catchers; plastic containers generate static electricity, which causes the flour to stick everywhere and fly around and make a mess.
I buy 25 or 50 pound bags of organic hard (high protein or bread) wheat from my local natural foods buying club, which will be the subject of my next blog post. The wheat is grown in Utah, the nearest source of organic wheat I can easily obtain. I store the grain in food grade five gallon plastic buckets.
I quickly became addicted to my hand ground flour. Freshly-ground whole grain flour tastes sweet. The few times when I have been forced by circumstances to buy whole wheat flour I have noticed that pre-ground flour tastes rancid to me. It doesn’t matter whether the flour comes from the bulk bin of a natural food store or is a well-known national brand. The highly polyunsaturated oil in wheat germ goes rancid as quickly as flax and hemp oils do. The oils of other grains are similar. The two year expiration dates on commercial whole grain flour packages are meaningless, and I think, criminal. If you buy commercial whole grain flour, store it in the freezer, and know that the oil is probably rancid, even though your taste buds have learned to ignore the off flavors.
Whether you want to support local or regional agriculture, buy organic grains at decent prices, get more exercise or eat baked goods made from freshly ground flour, or all of the above, grinding your own flour is a great option.