Make Sure Your Flour Is Pure and Unadulterated!

All flours from The Mill at Janie’s Farm have no additives, and contain all the nutrition of the whole kernel.

All flours from The Mill at Janie’s Farm have no additives, and contain all the nutrition of the whole kernel.

Most of us grew up on roller-milled, sifted, bleached, and bromated flour. Because all the nutrients had been removed during these industrial processes, some were added back in, and the flour was labelled “enriched.” But it was only enriched because it had been so terribly impoverished.

We just learned from an article in the New York Times that two chemicals linked to cancer, potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide (ADA), are still found in many industrial flours and baked goods. Why? Because they were allowed previous to a 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that prohibited the FDA from approving food additives linked to cancer. The article reports that “an agency spokeswoman said that many substances that were in use before passage of the amendment, known as the Delaney amendment, are considered to have had prior approval and ‘therefore are not regulated as food additives.’” Never mind that a lot of cancer research has taken place since 1958!

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times aricle about food additives banned in Europe but still allowed in the U.S. Topping the list are two commonly found in flour and the doughs used to make commercial breads, rolls, and other baked goods:

Potassium bromate and Azodicarbonamide (ADA)

These additives are commonly added to baked goods, but neither is required, and both are banned in Europe because they may cause cancer. In recent years, some American restaurant chains have responded to consumer pressure and removed them from their food.

Potassium bromate is often added to flour used in bread, rolls, cookies, buns, pastry dough, pizza dough and other items to make the dough rise higher and give it a white glow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it a possible human carcinogen, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. to ban it nearly 20 years ago. The F.D.A. says potassium bromate has been in use since before the Delaney amendment on carcinogenic food additives was passed.

Azodicarbonamide, or ADA, which is used as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner, breaks down during baking into chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals. It is used by many chain restaurants that serve sandwiches and buns. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has urged the F.D.A. to bar its use.

The moral of the story? Get your flour from a farmer and a miller that you know and trust!

Our stone-milling process results in flavorful flour with all the nutrients found in the original grains.

Our stone-milling process results in flavorful flour with all the nutrients found in the original grains.

Wheat Berry "CUCCIA" for Saint Lucy's Feast Day, Dec. 13

In the first century A.D., the Roman historian Apicius wrote about a sweet porridge made of boiled whole spelt kernels (an ancient form of wheat) called Apothermum, the precursor of the Sicilian dish, CUCCIA.

In the first century A.D., the Roman historian Apicius wrote about a sweet porridge made of boiled whole spelt kernels (an ancient form of wheat) called Apothermum, the precursor of the Sicilian dish, CUCCIA.

Wheat berries and rye berries are delicious packages of whole kernel nutrition that you can easily boil up and have on hand for healthy meals morning, noon, and night—from a whole-grain breakfast bowl, to a lunch salad bowl, to a a hearty Tuscan kale and wheat berry soup or a whole-grain “risotto.”

I was so enamored with my honey-yogurt-rye-berry breakfast bowl that I started looking for whole-kernel dessert recipes, and came across the Sicilian dish cuccìa, which I learned is always served on the feast day of Saint Lucy, December 13. I thought I’d just post a recipe for cuccia, but the deeper I dug into the history and culture of cuccìa, the more interesting the stories surrounding Santa Lucia and cuccìa became (including that Lucia (Lu-CHEE-yah) and cuccìa (cu-CHEE-yah) rhyme).

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There are many competing narratives, but the basics we can be fairly sure of. A young woman (who was to become St. Lucia) was born in Syracuse, Sicily, during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. She died in 304 A.D. after she refused a suitor who desired her. (One story has it that he told her that he had fallen in love with her eyes, so she plucked them out and had them delivered to him on a platter.) The snubbed suitor denounced Lucia to the authorities, outing her as a Christian. She was then abducted, tortured, and killed. (Gory stories abound as to just how all of that went down, but no need to go into that here!)

The upshot is that Lucia became one of the earliest Roman Catholic saints, recognized as such in the 4th century AD, and became the patron saint of Syracuse, of virgins, and of the blind and those with eye problems. Her Saint’s day is celebrated on December 13, which is said to be the anniversary of her death.

Her connection with cuccìa came some 150 centuries later, in 1763 (or thereabouts). The Syracusan historian Giuseppe Capodieci writes that a great famine struck Sicily and the people of the island were suffering and dying. A priest prayed to St. Lucia, telling her that she could provide for her people by sending ships laden with grain.

Lo and behold, the very next day, a ship loaded with wheat arrived from the East, and soon after, another ship arrived with grain, and then a third vessel from Dubrovnik. These three ships were followed by another three, all arriving in the port of Syracuse so swiftly and with such abundance that it was declared a miracle.

The starving population descended upon the ships, boiled the whole grains, and ate them. This is said to have been the first cuccìa.

It turns out, however, that a dish very similar to cuccia existed way back in Greek and Roman times, and likely even back into prehistoric times. Even the Sicilian word cuccia is derived from the Greek kokkìa, meaning grains.

In his first-century book Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, Apicius gives this recipe for a sweet gruel that is very similar to present-day cuccia, made with boiled spelt, nuts, raisins, and other condiments:

Boil spelt with pine nuts and peeled almonds immersed in boiling water and washed with white clay so that they appear perfectly white, add raisins, flavor with condensed wine or raisin wine, and serve it in a round dish with crushed nuts, fruit, bread, or cake crumbs sprinkled over it.

This statue of Ceres holding a sheaf of wheat is in the Boboli gardens in Florence, Italy.

This statue of Ceres holding a sheaf of wheat is in the Boboli gardens in Florence, Italy.

This recipe is referenced by Mary Taylor Simeti in her wonderful book Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food. She points out that “The grain in contemporary cuccia requires three days’ soaking, however—too slow a process to fit the story of the famine, which is no doubt a Christian myth fabricated to cloak pagan antecedents.”

Others have pointed out that Santa Lucia and her story and iconography overlapped, and eventually replaced, the story and iconography of Ceres, the Roman goddess of fertility, grain, bountiful harvests, and motherhood (Demeter in Greek). Both Ceres and Lucia are commonly shown holding a sheaf of wheat, and both are associated with light.

Although St. Lucia’s feast day is Dec. 13 in the modern calendar, in the Julian calendar it was Dec. 21, the winter solstice and the longest night of the year, signaling the return of longer days. Her very name refers to light (lux in Latin and luce in Italian). The longer days also signal the return of warmth, and the planting of seeds.

Benvenuto Tisi  painted St. Lucia  in 1533 with wheat in her right hand, and eyes on the plate to her left.

Benvenuto Tisi painted St. Lucia in 1533 with wheat in her right hand, and eyes on the plate to her left.

The whole grains in cuccia are seeds, and as such symbolize new life and the promise of a bountiful harvest. The ritual of eating cuccia to honor St. Lucia hearkens back to the ancient Greeks, who prepared a ritual dish of boiled whole grains known as panspermia (all seeds), which they prepared twice a year to mark the coming and going of longer days at the winter and summer solstices. From pre-history until today, seeds and grain remain precious things, and we can honor them, and the people who grow them, with a delicious dish of cuccia.

Today there are many variations of cuccia, from a simple savory dish with only salt and olive oil, to luscious dishes made with creamy ricotta cheese and honey, often studded with candied fruit and topped with shaved chocolate.

Here’s a recipe we like. If you use our soft red winter wheat berries or rye berries, you don’t need to pre-soak them—simply cook until al dente. If you use hard red winter wheat, soak the berries overnight, or even for a few days, changing the water a few times, before boiling.

Sicilian Cuccìa

1 cup wheat berries or rye berries

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta (made without gelatin or stabilizers)

Honey to taste

1/2 cup currants, raisins, or candied fruit (optional)

Cinnamon and/or chocolate for garnish (optional)

1. If using hard red winter wheat, soak the berries in cold water overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and place in a 3-quart pan along with the salt and enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches.

2. If using soft red winter wheat or rye berries, put them in a pan with the salt and enough water to cover by 2-3 inche

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3. Cover and cook wheat or rye berries at a slow simmer for at least 1 hour, or until tender. Kernels will open up slightly.

4. Turn off the heat, and leave the berries in the pot to slowly cool and fluff up. When the berries are at room temperature, drain them if they have not soaked up all of the water.

5. Combine the cooked grain with the ricotta. For a smoother texture, press the ricotta through a food mill or sieve.

6. Blend in honey to taste, along with raisins, currants, or candied fruit. Turn into a deep serving bowl and dust with cinnamon. Serve warm or at room temperature in small bowls, and top with shaved chocolate if you like.




Fabulous Article in FEAST Magazine Profiling Harold, Janie's Farm, and The Mill

Harold, his son Ross, and his nephew Tim Vaske. Photo by Judd Demaline.

Harold, his son Ross, and his nephew Tim Vaske. Photo by Judd Demaline.

We were thrilled to read this beautiful article by Liz Miller that perfectly captured Harold’s character and spirit, and his tireless efforts to grow and mill great-tasting and healthy grains.

The photos by Judd Demaline are also extraordinary, and we have put a few of them here, along with a few quotes from Liz Miller’s writing.

But you should really click here to see all the photos and read the whole piece in the St. Louis FEAST Magazine.

Thank you to Liz, Judd, and all of our friends who provided quotes. We are grateful to all of you!

“When we started going organic, I had a neighbor come over – he’s 10 years older than me – and he said, ‘Harold, I’m worried about you. If you go organic, you’ll never rent another piece of ground. Nobody is going to have anything to do with you; you’re going to be all on your own.’” Wilken says. “And I said, ‘I thank you very much for your concern, but I feel that this is what I have to do.’ That was about 1,700 acres ago.”   Photo by Judd Demaline, of organic corn going from the combine into the grain wagon. Nearly all of the grain Harold grows on his 2,400 acres is food for people, a rarity in the Midwest.

“When we started going organic, I had a neighbor come over – he’s 10 years older than me – and he said, ‘Harold, I’m worried about you. If you go organic, you’ll never rent another piece of ground. Nobody is going to have anything to do with you; you’re going to be all on your own.’” Wilken says. “And I said, ‘I thank you very much for your concern, but I feel that this is what I have to do.’ That was about 1,700 acres ago.”

Photo by Judd Demaline, of organic corn going from the combine into the grain wagon. Nearly all of the grain Harold grows on his 2,400 acres is food for people, a rarity in the Midwest.

Years before the two Engsko stone mills from Denmark were installed at The Mill, Wilken, Ross and Brockman-Cummings were focused on research. They traveled to mills across the country, from Oregon to New York, to see how other people were milling grain to make whole-kernel flour. It was during a mill tour in New York that Wilken met Amy Halloran, author of  The New Bread Basket . The book charts the 10,000-year history of grain growing, including how America has drifted away from local and regional milling over the past 100 years. Although people like Wilken are seeking to bring that tradition back to communities across America, it’s slow going.  “Harold is a demonstration of exactly what’s missing to help create regional grain economies," Halloran says. "The mill is not just set up to benefit his farm, but to help several growers. He’s not looking just to process his own grain – no mill is. They’re engines of regional economies that eventually provide a market for a lot more than a single farm. The interest in a local or regional grain product and economy is coming along, but it’s much slower than other areas of local food, because [mills] – that intermediate processing facility – [have] disappeared, and because that processing facility is so expensive to create. Consumers being able to taste the difference figures into the equation of the value you put on the product, too.”   Photo by Judd Demaline, of Mill Manager Jill Brockman-Cummings closely monitoring the milling process, including the temperature of the millstones, and their proximity, resulting in finer or coarser whole-kernel flours.

Years before the two Engsko stone mills from Denmark were installed at The Mill, Wilken, Ross and Brockman-Cummings were focused on research. They traveled to mills across the country, from Oregon to New York, to see how other people were milling grain to make whole-kernel flour. It was during a mill tour in New York that Wilken met Amy Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket. The book charts the 10,000-year history of grain growing, including how America has drifted away from local and regional milling over the past 100 years. Although people like Wilken are seeking to bring that tradition back to communities across America, it’s slow going.

“Harold is a demonstration of exactly what’s missing to help create regional grain economies," Halloran says. "The mill is not just set up to benefit his farm, but to help several growers. He’s not looking just to process his own grain – no mill is. They’re engines of regional economies that eventually provide a market for a lot more than a single farm. The interest in a local or regional grain product and economy is coming along, but it’s much slower than other areas of local food, because [mills] – that intermediate processing facility – [have] disappeared, and because that processing facility is so expensive to create. Consumers being able to taste the difference figures into the equation of the value you put on the product, too.”

Photo by Judd Demaline, of Mill Manager Jill Brockman-Cummings closely monitoring the milling process, including the temperature of the millstones, and their proximity, resulting in finer or coarser whole-kernel flours.

Unlike a bag of white all-purpose flour you buy at the grocery store, The Mill’s flours vary in color, from grayish-blue rye and rosy Turkey Red to light brown Glenn bread flour.  “They’re not the same product,” Brockman-Cummings says of most industrially milled flours. “There’s no flavor from their flour. It’s a medium, whereas ours is a medium with flavor and nutrition.”  All of the flours produced at The Mill are whole-kernel, which means the nutrition in the bran and germ – including oils, vitamins, proteins, amino acids and minerals – are left intact. This is achieved with those Danish Engsko stone mills; most large industrial mills use high-speed roller mills, which process out the bran and germ.  “The fat and flavor lie in the bran and the germ of the kernel, and largely in the germ,” Halloran says. “That germ is not reintegrated in a supermarket product because it has short shelf life, it’s very volatile and you want stability. To have true stone milling increases flavor tremendously, regardless of the characteristics of the grain itself.”   Photo by Judd Demaline, of five of the many certified organic flours stone-ground by Jill Brockman-Cummings at The Mill at Janie’s Farm, each with a different color, texture, and taste profile. Clockwise from left: Calumet Bread Flour, Wabash Artisan Bread Flour, Whole-Kernel Rye Flour, Des Plaines Pastry/Cake Flour, and Mackinaw flour from the heirloom Turkey Red wheat

Unlike a bag of white all-purpose flour you buy at the grocery store, The Mill’s flours vary in color, from grayish-blue rye and rosy Turkey Red to light brown Glenn bread flour.

“They’re not the same product,” Brockman-Cummings says of most industrially milled flours. “There’s no flavor from their flour. It’s a medium, whereas ours is a medium with flavor and nutrition.”

All of the flours produced at The Mill are whole-kernel, which means the nutrition in the bran and germ – including oils, vitamins, proteins, amino acids and minerals – are left intact. This is achieved with those Danish Engsko stone mills; most large industrial mills use high-speed roller mills, which process out the bran and germ.

“The fat and flavor lie in the bran and the germ of the kernel, and largely in the germ,” Halloran says. “That germ is not reintegrated in a supermarket product because it has short shelf life, it’s very volatile and you want stability. To have true stone milling increases flavor tremendously, regardless of the characteristics of the grain itself.”

Photo by Judd Demaline, of five of the many certified organic flours stone-ground by Jill Brockman-Cummings at The Mill at Janie’s Farm, each with a different color, texture, and taste profile. Clockwise from left: Calumet Bread Flour, Wabash Artisan Bread Flour, Whole-Kernel Rye Flour, Des Plaines Pastry/Cake Flour, and Mackinaw flour from the heirloom Turkey Red wheat

Janie’s Farm at Terra Madre & Salone del Gusto

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Since Harold was unfortunately unable to attend Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto, the international meeting of farmers and food artisans, with his Slow Food Chicago scholarship, I (miller and mill manager, Jill) was able to attend in his place.

This will be the first of a number of blog posts about this incredible experience . . . but before I tell you about some of the Italian millers and farmers I’ve met and learned from, I thought I should briefly introduce the international organization called Slow Food, the huge gathering of farmers and food artisans called Terra Madre, (Mother Earth) and the 10 or more football fields of booths staffed by many thousands of food producers from all over the world who proudly present their local, authentic, pure, simple, and delicious foods.

Slow Food was founded in 1986 when the first McDonalds in Italy opened at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Carlo Petrini, who was a food and wine journalist at the time, was appalled. But instead of having an angry demonstration, he organized a positive protest that proved the pleasures of Italian food. To do so, he invited grandmothers from every region of Italy to prepare and share their local specialties at a long table outside the new McDonalds. His message was that instead of rushing to consume fast food, we should all pause and enjoy “slow food”—the food of our region, our families, our cultural heritage.

Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food based not only on the principle of slowing down and finding pleasure and conviviality in eating and sharing food, but also on the important principle of seeking out and supporting food that is good (tasty!), clean (no chemicals), and fair (pays the farmer and farm workers fairly for their labor.

A local farmer from Tuscany demonstrates ancient stone mills. Thank goodness we at The Mill at Janie’s Farm have more modern stone-grinding technology!

A local farmer from Tuscany demonstrates ancient stone mills. Thank goodness we at The Mill at Janie’s Farm have more modern stone-grinding technology!

A few years after founding Slow Food, Carlo Petrini held the first Terra Madre, inviting farmers who grew “good, clean, and fair” food to attend a conference to share their knowledge and their products. Over the years Terra Madre melded with Salone del Gusto, the Hall of Taste, which features fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats, olive oils, vinegars, wines, pastries, and much, much more.

But it’s so much more than just food and drink. It’s the people and their passion. They pull you in and share not only a taste of their food, but in-depth stories about what they’re growing and making and the who, where, when, how, and why of it. We already know the history of a number of mills and millers from all over Italy, the history of Sicilian marzipan, the story of a special hand-made, air-dried liver sausage — both the savory version, and the honey-preserved sweet version. The pride in the process is always apparent — from the way a plant is grown or an animal fed, to the way the millstones are hand-chiseled, just the way your grandfather taught you.

It’s the same pride and passion that all of us at Janie’s Farm and the Mill at Janie’s Farm have in our process and our product, and we can’t wait to tell you more about what we’re learning here at Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto . . . a presto!

La filiera corta del grano  means “the short chain of wheat,“ which we at The Mill at Janie’s Farm also believe in and work towards each day — shortening the distance and making clear the links in the chain from field to mill to table.

La filiera corta del grano means “the short chain of wheat,“ which we at The Mill at Janie’s Farm also believe in and work towards each day — shortening the distance and making clear the links in the chain from field to mill to table.





Introducing . . . Heritage Baking by Ellen King

Hewn Bakery co-owner Ellen King holds an advance copy of her book,   Heritage Baking.   It’s available for pre-orders now, and will be in bookstores on October 23, 2018.

Hewn Bakery co-owner Ellen King holds an advance copy of her book, Heritage Baking. It’s available for pre-orders now, and will be in bookstores on October 23, 2018.

We are thrilled to inaugurate our “What’s New!” blog by announcing that baker, local organic grain booster, and historian Ellen King’s first book, Heritage Baking, is now available for pre-orders, and will be in bookstores by the end of October.

We first met Ellen when The Mill at Janie’s Farm was still a gleam in farmer Harold Wilken’s eye. In fact, Ellen came downstate to see the farm and talk with Jill, who would become our head miller, just after we had gone on a fact-finding field trip to Farmer Ground Flour in Trumansburg, New York. It was a very cold day in late winter/early spring, but Ellen brought warmth and joy, along with practical advice and encouragement.

Our miller Jill Brockman-Cummings confers with author Ellen King at The Mill at Janie’s Farm.

Our miller Jill Brockman-Cummings confers with author Ellen King at The Mill at Janie’s Farm.

Ever since that first meeting, Ellen has been an important and supportive person as The Mill at Janie’s Farm evolved. She provided us with invaluable feedback during our early attempts to grind grains into quality flours at different extraction rates. The truth is that she is in large part responsible to getting us to where we are today: providing consistent, high-quality, organic, stone-ground flours to home bakers and professionals alike.

Heritage Baking, like Ellen herself, is full of passion for grains and breads, and full of fact-based, down-to-earth information and advice presented in memorable ways. For example, most people know that salt is one of the ingredients in your sourdough starter and in bread. But did you know what crucial role salt performs? As Ellen explains: “Without salt, the starter would party all night and literally eat up all the sugars in the flour before having time to properly ferment.” In other words, as Ellen puts it, salt is the necessary “buzzkill.”

This book is the opposite of a buzzkill — with bread and pastry recipes that run the gamut from a basic Heritage Country Loaf to a Cinnamon Roll Brioche to a Sourdough Tart Cherry Coffee Cake. These great recipes by Ellen are accompanied by gorgeous photographs by John Lee, and lots of background information about grains and flour by Ellen and her co-writer Amelia Levin. In fact, we are so jazzed about this book, that I’m sure we’ll have future blog entries about it.

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For now, we’d like to quote one of our favorite sentences, in the Primer at the beginning of the book: “When you buy freshly milled local flour, you’ll find that the taste is so distinct, so beautiful and nuanced, that it will be difficult to go back to the bagged stuff aging away on grocery store shelves.”

We couldn’t agree more, and are honored to be part of the “grain chain” that, like this book, brings delicious, wholesome joy into your life.

Ellen’s book tour to spread the word about baking with local and regional stone-milled grains starts in October. All the details can be found at the Hewn Bakery website: http://www.hewnbread.com/