March 30, 2012

Community Supported Agriculture and Bread

A few years ago, I joined the local community supported agriculture program. I was able to buy grains that were grown without chemicals in a 50 mile zone from my place. I received 20 pound bags of hard spring wheat, soft winter wheat, spelt, khorasan, and oats. I bought my shares before the crops were even planted to ensure that the farmers would be paid even if there were crop failures due to weather or other natural disasters. The grains were brought up the lake from the farms by sailboats owned by local folks that all donated their time. After that first year, the CSA program grew so big that not all the crops could be brought by sailboat, but the intent of leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible is still adhered to. This year, in addition to the wheat varieties, I received lentils, dried peas, and rye.

I researched grain mills and eventually decided on the Country Living one pictured here, as it uses metal plates to grind the grains. Stone mills leave tiny bits of stone in the flour and certain other kinds over-heat the flour thus reducing the nutrition. I urge anyone looking to buy a grain mill to do your own research. They are an expensive investment and you want to be sure of getting one that is fully suited to your needs.

The grains need to be picked over and sorted as occasionally there are tiny pebbles or clods of soil. I know that some people might not want to spend the time doing this, but I can't think of a better use of time than providing my family with amazing food that is more healthy than can ever be bought in a store. Once you have a system down pat, it really doesn't take more than a few minutes to sort enough grain for a batch of bread. You are ensuring the highest quality flour and protecting the grinding surfaces of the mill.

The flour is excellent quality and should be used within 12 hours of grinding for the optimum nutritional value. I use mine immediately after milling it. It took a while but I now know exactly how much to use in my recipes so that there is none left over.

The new rye grain is soft, sweet and makes the best rye bread I've ever had. This is the recipe I use:

Caraway Rye Bread

  • 1 tbsp of yeast (mixed in with a cup of the flour)

  • 2 cups (quite) warm water

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons caraway seed (1 tbsp ground in a spice or coffee grinder)

  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 3 1/2 cups whole rye flour

  • 2 cups organic all-purpose flour (I buy mine in large quantities from our local co-op)

Mix down the usual way for instant yeast. I make my loaves round and slash the top for an old-world esthetic. Warm out of the oven and served with cheese, nothing is better.

If there is a community supported agriculture program near where you live, I urge you to participate. It supports the farmers, local food initiatives and empowers us to be a part of the decisions regarding one of the most important parts of our lives- food. Baking your own bread from scratch is the ultimate slow food- and worth every minute.