Saturday, October 04, 2008

Grinders and Mills

Dried whole grains form the basis for any serious long term food storage program. Dried whole grains can also be used for medium term food storage programs at significant cost savings over more processed foods. Example – a pound and a half of corn meal costs about what? Three bucks? So for a ten spot I could get four and half pounds of corn meal. For that same $10 I can get fifty pounds of dried corn at the feed store. What’s the difference between fifty pounds of dried corn and the same amount of corn meal? A grinder and a couple hours of effort.

The example above used corn. We can see similar cost savings with flour and wheat. Around here, 50 pounds of hard red winter wheat costs $12. Wheat, properly stored (read the blog entries below – February 10, 2008 and February 22, 2006) lasts forever. Flour, due to the milling process can go rancid after a period of time so not only is it more expensive, it is also less durable. The difference between whole wheat grain and flour? A grinder.

Back to Basics
The first wheat grinder (I call them grinders but I think the proper term is mill) we bought was the Back to Basics grain mill. It cost about $60 pre-Y2K and it’s not much more expensive now. It is quite small – about the size of a carton of cigarettes. It works fine for grinding wheat into flour. Over the years, I have ground wheat for many a loaf of bread – nothing like home made bread from wheat you ground yourself.

It works “okay” for grinding corn into meal. The steel plates are adjustable – a bit, but corn is oilier than wheat and it gets clogged up at times necessitating taking it apart and brushing off the mechanism with an old toothbrush I keep for just that purpose. When milling corn one must also poke around in the hopper (I use a chopstick) to keep the corn flowing. But again, wheat grinds up just fine with no problems.

Because of the problems we had grinding corn with the Back to Basics mill we searched about for another, more suitable option until we found the Corona. This is the AK-47 of grain mills – it is tougher than woodpecker lips and being “manufactured from the finest quality cast iron” it weighs about as much as an AK. It is made in Colombia by and for people who know all about grinding corn. It costs less than $40 and grinds corn into perfect meal like nobody’s business.

I recently gave a class on grinding, milling and processing various foods and we tried to grind some wheat in our Corona. First pass through – not so good. Very rough texture. Second pass through – it was okay but not great. The Corona is for corn and I guess in a pinch wheat - but really it was designed for corn. And it does a great job with it. I love this mill.

Country Living Grain Mill
I pinched pennies and saved for years until I could finally afford this mill. It is so popular in the more serious preparedness circles that it even has its own acronym – CLGM. We bought ours from Frugal’s (link on the right over there) for around $350. They are now about $400. I also purchased with this mill the “Power Arm” and having tried using it with and without, I would advise you to spend a little extra and get one. I did not buy the chute which guides the flour into the bowl one places beneath the mill when grinding. Instead, I just tape a piece of aluminum foil to the mill and shape it as needed. Ugly but cheap and effective.

The CLGM is better – much better than the Back to Basics mill. It grinds wheat faster, it feels more rugged and it has a groove in the fly wheel that would allow one to hook it up to a belt driven system (driven by an electric motor, a bicycle, a two arm deal – whatever you can imagine and fashion) to make the grinding even easier. Is it over $300 better? I will say this – I’m glad I bought it but I would not feel slighted if all I could afford was the Back to Basics. They both grind wheat to fine flour. If you have the money – buy one. If you don’t – the first one will work for you.

And finally we come to a real grinder. This is another “AK-47-tough” piece of equipment and this one is made in the Czech Republic and sold all over the world for grinding meat. Mine cost about $35 and came with a variety of grinding plates and sausage stuffers that hook right on. We bought it for grinding venison into hamburger and have only used it once.

Those familiar with butchering venison will know that each muscle is surrounded by fascia (“silver skin”) and let me tell you – that stuff gums up a grinder. I have been told that freezing the meat first and then grinding helps with this but when my wife and I put up a deer we put up a deer. Today. We don’t have an over abundance of freezer space to use for prepping meat to be ground. So now, when we want venison “hamburger” like for chili or spaghetti or something we take out a package labeled “chunks” and mince it with a big ol’ razor sharp butcher knife. When we want beef hamburger we buy it that way.

I suppose we could get beef at the store and grind it up for sausage but honestly, we don’t eat a lot of sausage. We don’t eat pork as a general rule either so there ya go. My buddy raises cattle though so maybe some day we will be grinding some serious burger. But until then – it sits on a shelf unused in the pantry.

Grinders and mills have a place in any serious preparedness minded person’s (can I just say “Survivalist’s”?) supplies. Start saving your pennies and get yourself one or two. Do not wait to buy your grain however, until you get a grinder. Get the grain right now. Today. Cresson Kearney shows us how to make a primitive mortar and pestle with a coffee can and a few pieces of rebar in his book Nuclear War Survival Skills. Heck if all you had was the grain you could grind it on your concrete patio or drive way with a brick if you had to.

But you really don’t have to, now do you? You could buy a mill instead. When you buy your mill(s) make sure you also buy spare parts. When you need a part you can pretty much be sure UPS won’t be delivering if you catch my drift…

And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number. – Genesis 41:49
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at Joe

You can also join us to discuss this and other issues at Viking Preparedness Forums

Prepared Americans for a Strong America


At 4/10/08 16:20, Blogger vlad said...

Corona mill does a good job on corn, beans and dried meat. I batter the dried meat to small chunks so it goes through Corona ok.

At 4/10/08 17:55, Blogger Hannah said...

Great article!

Cool picture of all the grinders! It's important for people to know they have options when it comes to buying these things!


At 5/10/08 13:27, Blogger Jodi said...

I have the Back to Basics hand grinder but it is slow and makes my arm tired. I am saving up to buy the Wondermill electric wheat grinder because it is so fast and easy for actually using my food storage wheat. But I'll keep the manual one in case of a true emergency where we don't have power.

At 12/3/09 18:44, Blogger WoundedEgo said...

Nice article. Kudos.


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