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Grist Mill: Farmview History in the Making

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Grist mills have a long and fascinating history. In fact, the first recorded use of a grist mill was from 71 B.C. from the Greek geographer Strabo. But we’re getting ahead of (or is it behind?) ourselves. Farmview Market is preserving the extensive history of the grist mill by having one in our grocery store! But first, what is a grist mill, and how does the mill actually work?

grist mill Grist mills were fashioned with the primary function of converting corn or wheat into fresh grits, cornmeal, or wheat flour. For cornmeal, first, the corn is husked, dried, and shelled to prepare it for milling. After the corn is removed and shelled from the cob, it is deposited into a hopper. The hopper is a receptacle above the grinding stone. A vertical rod, called the “damsel,” is then used to shake the kernels downward, through the “shoe” and into the millstone. The hopper releases an average of three bushels of corn an hour for grinding.

The grinding surface of these “runner” stones, or top stones, is concave and carved in spoke patterns. The runner stone sits atop another carved stone, known as a “bed stone”. As the top stone rotates, the grain becomes cracked and then can be ground further. The finest grinding occurs along the perimeter of the stones. That’s all really fancy speak for saying the corn is ground between stones.

grist mill Traditionally, the millstones are positioned one on top of the other; however, since we have a more modern mill, our stones are positioned under the hopper vertically (side by side). Our mill stones have been sharpened and polished to perfection, to give you the finest mill available. As the ground corn falls from the grain spout, it is filtered through a mesh screen that sifts out the courser pieces of the corn’s outer layers. It is blown into our separator which contains 4 small silos for cornmeal, finely ground grits, coarse grinds and by-product. Freshly ground grits and mill is then weighed on a scale and hand-bagged. And, handy tip! Since traditionally milled corn contains none of the preservatives found in store bought grains, our flour, cornmeal, and grits should be kept refrigerated to preserve freshness.

Our grist mill by Meadows Mills will make corn meal and grits from heirloom varieties of corn. We are currently growing and grinding two varieties that make excellent corn meal and grits. One is “Hickory King”, a yellow dent corn that is excellent for grits and makes good cornmeal. Our other variety is a red kernel corn known as “Bloody Butcher”. That doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it makes really spectacular cornmeal! Later, we hope to grow heirloom wheat which we will make into flour. Stop by Farmview Market today and get your freshly milled grains from our grocer!