Grinding your own grains provides a lot of health benefits. Primarily, you can be absolutely certain that the only processing your flour or cornmeal has been exposed to is the grinding stone. You can select grains which conform to your philosophy on GMOs. You can go organic or not, as you choose. Fundamentally, you seize the highest degree of control possible over this portion of your diet.
There are a lot of options out there for grinding grain. You can’t go wrong with the Kitchenaid stand mixer; your grains go from the grinder to the mixing bowl on the same machine. The primary drawback is the requirement for electricity. To avoid the need for electricity, we currently have a small hand grinder. One good popular option here is the Junior Hand Grain Mill, which uses a handle and works even when the power’s out.
Another one the best mills on the market, and on my list of things to acquire, is the Country Living Hand Mill. This mill has all the features that you should look for in a grain mill (unfortunately it has a price tag commensurate with its utility!) The key features to look for in a heavy use grain mill are a large hopper, a large heavy flywheel, and adjustable grinding burs. A good-size hopper holds in the neighborhood of two pounds of grain. This will, of course, yield a similar weight of flour or meal, and is a very usable amount. A large heavy flywheel will make your grinding easier, requiring less elbow grease to turn and grind. Finally, adjustable burs allow you to control the coarseness of your grind.
High quality mills like the Country Living often have the ability to be converted to electric operation, but can switch back when the lights go out. This is an awesome feature of inestimable value. Despite the cost of these systems, they truly fit the needs of the self-sufficient individual.
The ability to select the coarseness of your grind can’t be praised enough. This feature allows you to turn whole wheat berries into hearty, grainy breads or fine flour, and the ability to transform whole corn into cracked corn, grits or finer meals. This diversity of grinds translates into a diversity of diet. In addition to the adjustable burs, certain grinding tasks may require different hopper augers; the Country Living mill takes the standard auger, a corn auger, or a bean auger for a high degree of versatility.
Grinding your own flour and meal is a great way to seize control of your food. Most flours today are heavily processed and contain chemicals that you don’t want to eat as a result. Ground grains lose their nutritional value much faster than whole grains, so grinding what you need when you need it preserves all the value of your grains. Baked goods made from a fresh grind taste better, and the undeniable goodness of fresh baked bread is enhanced even more when the flour is fresh too. Unground grains can be stored for considerable periods of time, so grinding gives you the ability to store more for longer. All in all, grinding offers nothing but benefits for everyday life.
In order to maximize storage life, grains such as wheat and corn should be stored whole. Wheat that has been ground into flour loses most of its useful storage life, and ground corn loses even more. The cheapest way to store grains is the do-it-yourself way. Buy grains in 50-pound sacks and transfer them into 5-gallon buckets with Mylar liners, oxygen absorbers, desiccants, and air-tight lids. The Mylar is more impervious to oxygen than the bucket itself; believe it or not, sealed buckets by themselves are not oxygen tight. Oxygen absorbers help and a desiccant will protect your grains from moisture. (Oxygen and moisture are your stored grains’ biggest enemies.) Corn is worse than wheat for moisture content, so it is imperative that you find the driest corn possible to put into storage containers.
If you want to get very fancy, you can use dry ice to purge your buckets before sealing them. Place a thumb-size piece of dry ice on top of your grain, and when it is almost gone seal the Mylar liner and then the bucket. One warning here: If you seal things up before the dry ice is almost completely gone you have built a bucket bomb, because CO2 pressure will build up from the sublimation of the dry ice. Properly packaged grains can be stored for as long as 20 years, and some wheat from Egyptian tombs has been found to still sprout!