For most of us who ascribe the term locavore to our lifestyles, we usually only mean it to a certain degree. Sure, we might only buy local meat and produce, eat our asparagus and strawberries when they are in season, and employ strategies for preserving food such as freezing and canning. But what about common household items such coffee, sugar, and exotic spices? We are usually willing to grant ourselves special dispensations when it comes to these necessities. I am firmly in this camp, but last week I took flour off of the list of special allowances. From now on I will only buy my flour locally. Why? The usual reasons — I want to know where my food is coming from and I want to support local businesses. But also because it tastes great, it has better texture, and the variety of options is so much wider than what I can find in my supermarket and food co-op. It all began with a fieldtrip to Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a requirement of one of my Drexel University courses.
The course was called Wheat Lab and was taught by renowned Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and baker Claire McWilliams. It covered the history of the history of wheat, how to use it culinary, and how commercially milled wheat differs from the fresh product. The fieldtrip was intended to demonstrate the latter.
The man in the photo is Mark Fischer. Mark is the owner of Castle Valley Mill. The mill has been here since 1730 using water from the Neshaminy Creek to power it. The mill grinds grains the way it was done for hundreds of years before the Industrial Revolution. The property was in poor condition when Mark’s grandfather, Henry, acquired it in 1947. He restored the building and collected much of the milling machinery that they use today. Mark has continued to restore the machinery that his grandfather acquired and also hopes to get back to using the power of water to run his operation.
The flours that you get from this mill are nothing like you get in the supermarket. They are fresh and flavorful and all whole grain. Mark gets his grain from local farmers everything from wheat to rye to spelt. I drove up a second time to buy some more (They also ship; just contact them.) Supporting businesses like this and local farmers is an important way to keep a piece of history alive.
Next week I will share some the goodies I make with this wonderful product.