Whatcha Millin’?

I’m a kitchen snob. There, I said it! The kitchen is just my thing. It’s my hobby, a love, a pastime, an obsession, my “center” of the homestead if you will. Most* of my other “homesteading hobbies” center around the kitchen in one way or another.

For example, gardening. I love gardening in-and-of-itself; growing things is rewarding, but I grow things so we can eat them – in comes the kitchen. Another example, chickens. I ADORE chickens and wouldn’t ever choose to live life without their quirky silliness pecking around my yard. But, I keep chickens for two main reasons; the eggs and now for meat – in comes the kitchen. Rabbits, herb gardens, reading, cooking (duh!) etc. can all be connected back to the kitchen.

The kitchen, in my opinion, is the center of a homestead.

So how does that make me a kitchen snob? I like spending time in my kitchen and because it is my “area” I like things just so. I like to have my gadgets that make working in the kitchen easier, sometimes more-complex, and just more fun. I like to have nice kitchen things and even take the time to do research on things that are the best of the best. Then, if I can afford it, I add that to my collection.

Unfortunately there are those times that I can’t afford that new kitchen gadget that I would like. There are times when, in fact, that new kitchen gadget gets given to me. Just like one such gadget I have here on the homestead with me – the grain mill. A special thanks to Caryl Dungan, the Little Mama, for sending me to Africa with it!

What do you do with a grain mill? Different people have different uses for one but mostly, you mill grain into flour. I can think of many different applications I’d like to try, including making my own sprouted flour for baking, but here are some of the things I’ve been milling so far.

Sugar. Yup, you read that right. Here, unrefined cane sugar in large granules is the norm. That can make baking, precise measuring, and dissolving a problem. So, why not grind the sugar a little bit to make it closer in size to what we are used to?

Pouring in the large-grained cane sugar
Pouring in the large-grained cane sugar

The mill will also be able to make powdered sugar from the cane sugar which is VERY handy because the only other powdered sugar available has to be flown in from Kampala, Uganda! All you have to do is set the mill to a finer grind by turning the nut on the outside of the grinding stones. It’s trial and error until you get it where you want it.

Grinding the sugar
Grinding the sugar

With sugar, milling by hand is easy.

I use a large cake pan to catch the milled sugar
I use a large cake pan to catch the milled sugar
The cane sugar after being milled
The cane sugar after being milled
Checking the size or "quality" of the sugar to see if adjustments need to be made
Checking the size or “quality” of the sugar to see if adjustments need to be made

Corn, however, does give you a workout! That is the other thing I’ve used my mill for so far – corn. With corn, and other grains you might buy here, it’s a good idea to do some cleaning and sorting before milling.

Tossing the corn to get out any debris
Tossing the corn to get out any debris

The first step I do is toss the kernels in a colander over the sink. I am NOT getting them wet, that would not be good for the milling process. I’m simply “fluffing” out any husks of light debris; sort of separating the “chaff from the wheat” so to speak. After that, I pour the corn into a rimmed baking sheet and pick through the kernels cleaning out any leftover debris or bad kernels of corn.

Cleaning and checking the corn before it goes into the mill
Cleaning and checking the corn before it goes into the mill

After that it’s a two-stage process for the corn. First you “crack” the corn.

Cracked corn
Cracked corn

Cracked corn is just the first stage to getting corn meal or a finer corn flour, but it also can be used as-is for chicken treats and feed. Those that raise chickens will know cracked corn is in “scratch” and sometimes other feeds like “layers” feed. Cracking the corn brought memories of chickens to mind because it is one the smells that I associate with keeping chickens (there is more to that then manure you know!). So, once we have chickens, I’ll use the mill to prepare their cracked corn and only run the corn through roughly like the above pictured. Be grateful, all you chicken keepers, for the machine-cracked corn you buy in 50 pound bags in the states.

Whole corn kernels in the hopper and cracked corn coming out of the grinding stones
Whole corn kernels in the hopper and cracked corn coming out of the grinding stones

So after cracking, comes the next run through.

Cracked corn in the large bowl and hopper and fine corn meal coming out of the stones
Cracked corn in the large bowl and hopper and fine corn meal coming out of the stones

This milling makes it equivalent to a rough corn meal and is perfect for cornbread, mush, and anything else you use corn meal for.

After the second milling a third can be done to produce a fine flour
After the second milling a third can be done to produce a fine flour

After the second milling a third can be done to produce a fine flour that is good for things like tortillas and “toe” and African staple food that we eat. In the end it’s a lot of work but so far we have not seen corn meal or corn flour available here, so it’s a labor of love (love of all things corn that is!). So the next time you enjoy a delicious piece of cornbread, make sure you take time to savor it.

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