What is a wheat berry? If you had asked me that seven years ago, I would have had no idea. I would have probably responded with something like: “A berry that grows from wheat?” I’ve had a similar reaction from many people when I talk about milling my own flour. I know others who also mill their own flour, but it’s still not too common. The wheat berry is just the kernel of wheat removed from its hull. Milling the wheat berry produces whole grain flour. When I mill it myself, it contains all of the germ, the bran, and the endosperm.
Unfortunately, modern white flour does not contain all the parts of the kernel. White flour and most standard products containing flour (breads, other baked goods, pastas, desserts) are made from only 60% of the wheat berry. The bran and the germ has been removed. What remains is only the endosperm which is then processed and bleached. The end product has nowhere near the nutrition that was originally in the wheat berry. Over half of the vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber are lost. This is why processed baked goods are completely devoid of nutrition and full of empty calories. Not only are they full of sugar/high fructose corn syrup and bad fats, but their flour has been stripped of any quality nutrition that it once had.
Removing the bran and germ got started as far back as the middle ages. The upper classes liked the texture of white flour and thought it was more healthy than whole wheat. Mold and fungus grew on flour that was kept for a period of time and not stored in a cool dry place. The brain and the germ is what caused this. Removing them made flour more shelf-stable. After the industrial revolution, manufacturers found that they could make more money by offering a very shelf-stable product by removing the bran and the germ and bleaching the flour. However, since the 1940’s there have been laws in place to require enriching this flour with vitamins because of the health problems that were linked to consumption of unenriched white flour.
In the late twentieth century, nutritionists began to realize that eating whole grains was very healthy and 100% whole wheat flour started to be produced by manufacturers. I remember sitting in a college nutrition class in the late 90’s and being told that the only bread I should eat should be one with the very first ingredient: 100% whole wheat flour. Unfortunately, this flour is not 100% of the wheat berry either. Flour that is labeled 100% whole wheat is milled exactly like white flour. The bran and germ are removed. There are laws to tell food manufacturers just how much of the bran and germ their product needs to have in order for them to label it whole grain. So they put back just enough of the bran and germ to meet the requirement. Consequently, their product is more shelf-stable. But it also has less vitamins and flour than what I can mill in my own kitchen from a whole wheat berry. Before I started milling my own flour, I thought wheat was wheat. I thought if a label said 100% whole wheat, it really was 100% of the whole grain.
I also had no idea that there were different varieties of wheat. I was only familiar with what is commonly called traditional whole wheat. It is milled from red wheatberries. I had tried baking with this before, and my family did not like the result. Plus, I was always told that I needed to use equal amounts of whole wheat flour and white flour. It seemed pointless to me when I could buy what I thought was whole grain bread at the store. At least it said that it was made with 100% whole wheat flour.
All the reasons above are great reasons to mill your own flour, but I was hooked when I learned about the white winter wheatberry, both soft and hard. I found out that I could make my own 100% whole wheat bread that was the best I had ever tasted! My family loved it! I have been milling my own flour ever since. White winter wheat is a good wheat berry to start milling and baking your own bread if you have never done it before. It has the closest texture to store-bought white flour. Flour companies have caught onto this in the last couple of years and now you can buy milled white winter wheat in grocery stores. However, you still can’t be sure how much of the beneficial germ and bran it has.
I got started with milling the white winter wheat berry, but I have also milled rye, spelt, kamut and corn. I especially love making my own cornmeal. I use the bread setting and the result is much lighter than store-bought cornmeal. My cornbread made with this “corn flour” is so delicious. It is light, but doesn’t fall apart. Most importantly I know that my cornmeal is gmo free! I purchase my grain from a company called Country Life Natural Foods. They have the best prices I have found. If you contact the company, they may be able to direct you to a co-op in your area that combines orders for free shipping. I order mine from a Mennonite store in town that orders in bulk from them.
So what kind of mill do I use? I love my WonderMill. It makes milling flour so easy. It is actually the only electric kitchen appliance that I still use and I have a small generator in my utility room for this purpose. Of all the electrical appliances that I used to use on a daily basis, this is the only one that I can’t replace with an off grid option. (See Kitchen Appliances, Who Needs Them?) I also have a Country Living Grain Mill that uses a hand crank, but the WonderMill makes milling so much easier. If you have ever used a hand crank to mill your flour, you know it takes some time to get enough for a loaf of bread! When my boys get older, maybe that can be one of their chores!
We love making all our own bread and baked goods on our homestead. My family especially loves real sourdough bread! I believe that milling flour and baking bread is one of the most important self-sufficient skills to learn in the kitchen.
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Great post. I have always heard that the red wheat berries were the way to go, but now I know I can use the winter white. 🙂 Thanks. I have been wanting to do this for a while now. I have a real good sour dough starter and want to try it out. 🙂
Thank you for this post! I just began making my own bread…but I have been using whole wheat flour, not actually milling my own. You have convinced me to buy the wheat berries and mill my own. What is the shelf life of the wheat berries? Do you just mill enough flour for whatever you are baking at the time or do you mill some and keep it for a while? What’s the shlf life of your milled flour? I wonder if my energetic and helpful 9 year old boy could be in charge of turning the hand powered mill?
I have been milling my own wheat too. I have found a recipe that I make on a regular basis but always up for new recipes. Do you have a few favorites or a webpage that you get your bread recipes from? I use hard white wheat but have played around with other grains too but have found my family likes my basic bread the most.
I am very inspired by your blog. I feel this direction is where the Lord is leading me, and its good to see someone experience it beforehand and let you know how its going and how you are still coping (with strength from the Lord) from all the material living in this world today.
I was wondering where do you get the Winter white wheat berries/flour because I am not able to locate it? (I live in NW MO)
Thanks and God bless.
Thanks for your sweet comment! Look above in the article, and you will see a link for Country Life Natural Foods. This is a good place to start looking. They deliver to different co-ops around the US.
Have you checked in to Azure Standard? I think they get pretty close to your area and they have the best prices on bulk items (including organic produce) that I’ve been able to find. I’ve been ordering from them for over 10 years, back when they did not deliver so far east and we were in the Pacific NW. Excellent company.
Also, they do not sell any “unclean” meat products and I appreciate the way they run their business.
My husband actually found an amish store about 10 miles from where we live a little over a year ago and we purchase our flour there so that I can make all my bread home made. They sell whole grain flour unbleached and it makes the best bread! We haven’t bought store bought bread ever since and home made just tastes so much better! You and your husband are such an encouragement to me. We have been working toward moving off-grid for the past almost two years now and we hope within the next year, we will be able to. I am learning so much from your articles and youtube videos. Thank you both for taking the time to share your experience and shine some knowledge on those of us who wish to live life intentionally! God bless.
In a few of your videos you referenced a book that you use for your sourdough recipe. What is the name of that book? I would love to have a resource like that.
The name of the book is “Nourishing Traditions” by Sallon Fallon. http://www.amazon.com/Nourishing-Traditions-Challenges-Politically-Dictocrats-ebook/dp/B00276HAWG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421181071&sr=8-1&keywords=nourishing+traditions
This is also one that I would like to put in my collection one day. http://www.amazon.com/The-Nourished-Kitchen-Farm-Table-ebook/dp/B00F8FA8D6/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=12TEZ63QNPYZ941YG026
Have you ever done the break down on nutrition facts on your bread. Looking to see how many carbs your bread has.