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A n Unprocessed Grain A Day Keeps the Doctor Away
When we purchase flour in the store, it is processed, bleached, messed with, and various ingredients are added. As with most of our processed foods, we take out the nutrition and fill up the space with added chemicals, preservatives and anything else the creative mind can come up with. Getting back to basics in our food growth and processing is best in terms of healthy eating, losing weight and keeping our bodies away from the doctor's office.
Eating an apple is much better for you than eating processed apple sauce or drinking apple juice that has been put through the wringer in getting it ready to go into the can. Sugar is added to many juices, creating a drink that is no better for you than soda in many ways. The apple you purchase, however, needs to either be organic or scrubbed clean from all of the insecticides and other chemicals it may hold as well.
In today's busy world, we grab for the already made, nuke it quick, frozen junk that we call food. It's how we roll. It's the only way many of us have time to get to work, get the kids out the door for school and manage our crazy schedule. Due to this, the percentages of cancer cases have increased. We have diseases that are completely unheard of and our bodies aren't what they used to be in the fifties or before. The difference? We ate whole foods, unprocessed edibles that looked great on the table, went down well and held all the nutrition we needed to balance our lives, health and souls. It was just good, down home, unprocessed food that gave us a sense of comfort, security and health. We eat such garbage that we also have added many digestive problems to our medical line up. So what do we do? We add more chemicals through medications such as Rolaids, Tums or even the prescribed stomach options. Instead of adding more chemicals to our systems, why not cut back on things that cause the problem in the first place?
With all of the illnesses, diseases and medical wonders that have come along in the past few years, shouldn't we get back to basics in our food quality? One way of doing this is to mill your own grain. A DIY grain mill can help you along in this process, milling your own flour to create a great loaf of homemade bread. Baking homemade bread is a simple way to get wholesome foods back on your table and a bit more money back in your wallet.
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I would like to share an experiment I ran to see if there really is a need to purchase or make a grain mill to get the most nutrition from grains in the flour making process for the in-home setting. There are grain mills on the market that will accommodate the desire to make your own flour, however most are above the two hundred dollar range, with the majority running into at least three hundred or more. For the purposes of writing this article, I spent some time thinking about the breaking up of grains to bring out the nutritional value in flour, which led me to the experiment I tried during some off hours. While there has been no testing to conclude it maintains the nutritional value, I feel that it cracked the grain and created a great tasting flour.
I began to wonder if bakers would really need the grain mill. What if we simply found an easier way to get flour through the grinding process without the use of a mill? I immediately went to the store and purchased some whole oats, wheat berries and even a bit of rice. Breaking out the blender, I added the oats and rice together and hit the high speed setting. To my surprise, the grains broke down into a nice powdery flour-type substance. I placed the mixture into a sift and began to crank.
Sifting the two together made a nice floury mixture that looked like it would allow me to bake up some great bread. The grains did blend up well, with very little grainy product on top. I simply threw the grainier stuff back into the blender and ran it through again. I found the key was to place about one to two cups at a time into the blender to ensure all of it had a chance to move about freely in the pitcher. The results were good. I had created flour by the use of a blender rather than having to purchase or create a mill. The next step was to add the wheat berries to produce a wheat type of flour. The berries worked the same as the rice and oats. I now had two types of flour, although I hadn't tested them to see if they would actually manufacture a nice edible bread.
I baked six loaves of bread over the weekend, which actually survived the rising process. The bread looked and smelled delicious. I baked up all six loaves, three each of wheat and rice-oat. They all turned out delicious, smelled wonderful and really made a difference in taste when using a fresh flour. In one of the loaves, I actually ground up some quionoa as well, which blended nicely with the other flour sources. The loaf came out dense, however the bread itself was fairly light, with grains galore throughout. It felt as though the denseness was attributed to the whole grains it contained and not due to the store bought flour substitute. My family loved it, I love it and will make it again.
While you may wish to have a bit smoother flour, the blender worked well as far as creating breads. Wheat berries made a great combination of wheat bread, in coordination with the rice-oat flour. I plan on making more flour to use in cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods, as an experiment in future baking projects. The blender I used was a regular in-home model that is nothing special. It is not the top of the line, but is not the cheapest blender you can purchase either. It is strong enough to have blended the rice well. You can taste the difference in the fresh, whole grain flour product.
Since this blender method provides only a small scale approach to grinding your own flour, there are larger grain mills that can be crafted by someone that needs a mill on a grander scale. One option for a do it yourself flour mill is designed by Hugo Gervais. Mr. Gervais was commissioned by the University of Vermont Crops and Soils extension to design and build a mill for their use. The University grows their own grains, records results and writes articles on findings. To find out more about grains, you can visit their website through the highlighted link above. This is an extensive grain growing project, with numerous pages of information to give the reader everything they need to know about grains and the growing process.
The flour mill and sifter design that Mr. Gervais has provided is in the form of a PDF file for easy download and reading while you are building. Gervais has carefully illustrated every step to ensure the construction is correct. If you still have questions about building the mill, he has provided his email address and phone number.
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Why Mill Your Own?
Two reasons to mill your own flour: germ and bran. Baking bread with flour seems like you are getting back to basics. You want to serve your family the nutritious breads, cookies, and baked goods they deserve. Did you know by baking bread, even handmade bread, is not as nutritious as you might think it is? When we purchase the ingredients to make bread, including the flour, we have lost most of the nutritional value in the bread already.
Bread flour or plain flour (including the wheat flour) has already lost 26 vitamins for proper nutrition. The bran and germ are milled in flour mills, however the process has removed the bran and germ due to preservation reasons. A bag of flour has to be milled, sifted, bagged, and shipped to who knows where across the planet. Once the grains have been crushed, the flour can only last for 72 hours at room temperature before it loses more nutrients.
The germ contains vitamins B and E. The majority of these essential vitamins have been lost already because of the necessary process to give us the flour we need for breads and baked goods. Roughage which helps clean out our systems by removing toxins and poisons in the digestive system, have also been lost due to the processing that whole grains require before being sold as the final product of flour.
Even with the “enriching" process that is sold as enriched flour, has already lost the natural vitamin packed quality by removing the germ and bran. By milling your own flour at home, you can keep the germ, bran and vitamins in the baked goods you feed your family. Getting back to basics keeps the flavor, nutrition and quality in the food.
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Design Your Own Mill
It seems the popularity of the purchased grinders is getting a wider range of audience. While most opt to either purchase the grinder to create their own bread, some are simply buying attachments to their appliances. The Kitchen Aide mixer sells a grinder attachment, as does the older variety of juicers. Some of these can be located on E-Bay and on Amazon.
People are attempting to create their own grain mills, either to produce flour for a more nutritional baking need or for brewing beer at home. Bicycle parts are welded to metal frames, attached to large belts wrapped around gears. The turning of stone or metal rollers are attached to regular 1/3 HP motors to crank out the product. Microwave carts and cupboards are used to house the pieces of grain mills, which are complete with pulleys, belts and the motor that runs it all.
Creativity abounds when it comes to the making of flour mills. The idea of producing your own flour has been around for centuries. Many places throughout the world still grind flour via a stone and stone base, grinding grain by crushing the rock across the pieces to eventually have some flour.
The "grain mills" are normally created to crush up the grain to brew ale, however you will need a mill that can crush grain into a powder and not leave half-pieces of grain. A large box or bucket is the basis for the mill. Designing and building a wooden box that will house the rollers is the first step in building your own flour mill. The pulley setup is an easier apparatus, connecting them with a belt, to turn the rollers that grind grain. A five gallon bucket placed underneath the mill will catch the flour once it comes through the rollers. Motors can be added, but a simple hand-crank is a great way to begin with your first flour mill.
Pasta machines can be purchased through craft stores, such as Michael's, that run about twenty-five bucks. The rollers can be used for the crushing system in your flour mill. Water bottles made for the water dispenser machines make a great grain feed system, placed at the top of the mill to drop grain into your rollers. Once the bottom of the water bottle is cut off, the bottle can be turned upside down to feed the grain through.
Draw your plans out on graph paper. With the use of junk parts, you can build your own flour mill. It makes a great project for those that love to "tinker" around the home. Once your plans are all drawn out, begin your search by checking out second hand stores. Even the appliances in second hand stores can be taken apart to find the items you need to make a flour mill.
Remember, the basic pieces are a way to crush your grain into fine particles, an apparatus to feed the grain, a device to turn the rollers and a container to catch the finished product. By attaching bike parts, you can set it up through a pulley system, so you have to exercise by pedaling your way to homemade bread!
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When you begin to "play" with your new mill, you will produce lots of flour. With the whole grains remaining in the flour, you will have to store it properly to avoid having to throw it out within a couple of days if not used. To store the fresh flour, place it in a large baggie, one that can be closed by pressing the two sides together. If the "zipper" bags are used, there will be a tiny hole left where the zipper meets the end of the bag. This allows air into the flour mixture.
Once you have bagged it, press the top closed. Place that bag inside another bag and store it in the freezer. The flour will not freeze but can be used at any time without any defrost time. It will remain powdery, but fresh.
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After experimenting with the blender and grains, I decided that there are many options for breaking grains into flour. There are the hand-crank coffee grinder systems that will easily make flour. The electric coffee grinders can manufacture it as well, however these don't allow much of the flour product to be made at once. Seed grinders connect to a table and can also grind various grains into flour.
Whichever method you choose, it is important to get back to the basics when it comes to preparing foods. The healthier we eat, the better chance we have of fighting off health problems. Be creative with the grinder of your choice! Legumes, grains and whole nuts can give tasty bread loaves that are healthy to eat. Make your own recipes with the choices you have in what you can make into flour. Even peanuts that are pulvarized by a mill can be made into great peanut butter. Whether you opt to purchase a mill or use an appliance you find in the store or even build your own grain mill, be assured that the baked goods you serve will be fresher and healthier!
- Perry, Vicki, "Wheatberry, oat & rice flour bread"
- University of Vermont, "Introduction to Grains" NW Crops & Soils Program,
- Grainmaster, "Why Mill Your Own Wheat?"
- "Processed Foods", McVitamins
- Author Unknown, "How is Heart Disease Caused by Processed Meat?", Livestrong
- Gervais, Hugo, "Flour mill instruction sheet" , commissioned builder by the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program