Most homesteaders grudgingly admit that they aren’t 100% self-sufficient. The items that we typically end up outsourcing are staples: oil, sugar, salt, and flour. While honey can certainly substitute for sugar, oil and salt are trickier (unless you live close to an ocean), but flour is something that any of us can produce domestically.
Most people are under the impression that it takes a huge amount of land to produce a usable amount of wheat, which is completely incorrect.
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The truth is that it only takes about 1,000 square feet to grow a bushel of wheat. To put it into perspective, a bushel of wheat is 60 pounds of grain–enough for at least 90 loaves of bread. Of course, you don’t have to grow your own, especially if you live in an agricultural area.
Any farmer will sell you a bushel of wheat berries for next to nothing. However, if you want to grow wheat that is organic and non-GMO, your best bet is to grow your own. Once you’ve got your wheat, converting it into flour is surprisingly easy.
The first thing you’ll need is a grain mill. There are a handful of different types of mills on the market to choose from, each with their advantages. Champion juicers and KitchenAid mixers have grain mill attachments that use steel cutting plates to mill flour, although the end result is not the finest and there is no way to control fineness other than running flour through multiple times.
Standalone countertop mills, on the other hand, typically use actual stones to grind flour, much like a traditional grain mill. There are also completely manual mills that do a fine job but take more time and effort to operate.
If you are working on going completely off-grid, check on how much energy a unit uses and factor it in if you use solar power. The mill I’m using is an electric countertop mill that uses granite stones to grind flour.
Side Note: Sprouting grains before making them into flour adds a bit more work to the process, but also creates a flour that is more nutrient-dense, sweeter, and easier for some people to digest. There are some wonderful online resources for explaining the process, but this one is the best I’ve come across.
The following will demonstrate exactly how to use an electric countertop grain mill to make flour.
Step 1: Prepare Grinder
Take apart the mill and make sure there is no debris from past grinds inside. Shake or vacuum out the top and bottom and check for residue caked onto any of the nooks and crannies.
If you use the mill frequently, you can skip this step. The main objective here is to clean out any insects or old residue lurking inside the mill.
Step 2: Set Mill up For Action
Many countertop-style mills will have black dots that must align for the mill to function properly. Make sure these dots are lined up (in the photo, the other dot is on the backside of the mill). Once you have the dots aligned, plug the machine in.
Step 3: Clean the Grinding Surface/Set Fineness
Many people use mills for grinding different types of grain and sometimes spices, too. Regardless of what you’ve been grinding, if it’s been a while, you’ll want to do a quick cleaning of the grinding surfaces and take the opportunity to set the level of fineness you want, too. To do this, use white rice.
Pour a small amount of rice–a handful is fine–and then turn on the mill and set it to the level of coarse or fineness that you prefer.
Note: Rice is harder than wheat, and may not give you the measure of accuracy you want. You may have to make an additional adjustment later.
Once the rice has run completely through, your mill is ready to grind the wheat berries.
Step 4: Weigh Wheat and Load into Mill
One of the nicest things about having your own mill is that you can have freshly-milled flour whenever you want. Bakers are happy to explain that the fresher the flour, the better the finished product.
For this reason, you might not want to grind a huge amount at a time. One pound of wheat berries will yield almost 3 cups of flour, so consider this when grinding.
If you do decide to mill a large batch, storing it in the freezer or vacuum sealed and in a cool, dry place like a cellar will help keep flour fresh.
Step 5: Set up a Container, Adjust for Fineness
Place a container that is tall enough and has enough volume to contain all the flour you will mill beneath the downspout of your mill. Turn it on and let it run for ten seconds or so and check the fineness of your flour.
If it is too coarse or too fine, adjust the mill settings and then turn on the mill again for ten seconds or so.
Don’t worry that you are wasting wheat. You can always pour flour back through the mill to re-mill it, and if it is too fine, it can be combined with coarser flour and will work just fine.
Step 6: Shake Container to Level Flour
As your wheat is ground, you’ll want to tap or shake the bowl you’re collecting it in to keep it level. This also gives you a chance to examine the flour for consistency.
Step 7: Work all Grains Through
Once it seems the mill has completed its job, turn it off, remove the lid and coax all of the wheat grains into the mouth of the mill. Turn it back on and let it finish off the last of the grains.
Step 8: Measure Flour for Use or Storage
As mentioned, one pound of wheat berries yields almost three cups of flour. Measure the flour out and pack it up for storage or use it in your favorite baking recipe immediately.
This is how you get the good stuff: hearty, unbleached, un-treated, organic whole wheat. Use it for cooking, baking, and feeling proud of your self-sufficiency!
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