Friday, March 25, 2011

Why Grind?

It isn’t hard to go into any supermarket (or small market, for that matter) and find a variety of flours for different uses.  This raises the questions “Why would I take the time to grind my own?” and “What are the benefits of having my own mill?” Obviously there are many wonderful books on this topic, which cover it much more thoroughly than I will be doing here, and I encourage you to check them out. But for now, here are some basics…

As with all our food, the more wheat is processed, the more its flavor and nutritional value suffer.  Sadly, most commercial whole wheat flours have faced just as much processing as white flour.  In order for store bought, or commercially ground, flour to have any kind of a shelf life, the germ must be removed from the wheat.  The germ is the part of the wheat which contains most of the grain’s vitamins and unsaturated fats. If the germ is left in, then the fat starts to spoil or becomes rancid.  Also, the nutrients in wheat begin to degrade the moment the protective shell on the grain is broken, and the inner components are exposed to air.  And, as if those two things weren’t zapping enough nutrition and flavor from the wheat, any milling process that produces friction (which is pretty much any commercial milling process) may produce an amount of heat that is damaging to the wheat and, therefore, the flour. 

Wheat flour is by far not the only benefit of owning your own grain mill! You control what kind of flour and how coarse or fine you would like it. Some of the possibilities include corn, rye, rice, legumes (even make peanut butter!), and coffee.  Just as you can probably taste the difference between home-made bread and store-bought bread, you can taste the difference between home-made and store-bought flour!
If you are grinding your own flour, there is no need to store it in large quantities. Whole grains are much cheaper to buy in bulk than flour, and whole grains will also store for years in an air-tight container.  Just having the ability and the option to grind your own flour adds peace of mind, and who couldn't use a little more of that! 

*many facts in this post came from the book "Flour Power" by Marleeta F. Basey