Saturday, December 18, 2010

Michigan Millers

I probably baked quite often with rancid whole wheat flour until I met Archie Jennings at my local farmers market. This is because whole wheat flour contains the germ which has natural oils that can go rancid quickly if not stored properly. The flour needs to be stored in the freezer or refrigerator. Now, I purchase freshly milled flours from Jennings Brothers; they sell buckwheat, spelt, whole wheat, and whole wheat pastry flours as well as corn meal. And, I store it in the freezer. It does not actually freeze, so I can use it at any time.

Recently, I took a drive to visit Archie and his wife Mattie at their farm in Barry County, south of Hastings, MI. I drove up to the yard - with a classic tire swing in the tree - where the white house sits in front of the two barns and acres of grains. The house has what I refer to as an old Michigan fieldstone basement. And, that basement contains two walls of shelves filled with home canned products. Very impressive!

Back in the barn, the antique milling equipment is nestled along the sides of an airplane. Wait. What? Yes, Archie is a pilot and owns a 182K Cessna plane which is stored in one of the barns. That day, corn was drying prior to becoming corn meal. The corn is all open-pollinated and organic. He has: Truckers Favorite (developed in 1907), Reed Yellow Dent (1846), Bloody Butcher (1856), and the 6,000 year old Hopi Blue. One of the “parents” of Reed Yellow Dent was, according to Archie, the yellow corn that the Native Americans shared with the first settlers of New England.

The corn is shelled, cleaned, ground, and packaged with the equipment shown below that Archie purchased second hand. The equipment was built during the first half of the 20th Century - when things were built to last. The parts of the grain not meant for human consumption are sent to other farms to be used as animal feed. It’s a truly sustainable production process. The Jennings’ sell monthly at the Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids farmers markets, and the grains are available through the West Michigan Co-op.

Click here for the Jennings recipe page.

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