Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Growing, Grinding, Baking & Eating Corn

Late last Spring, Nancy Schaeffer planted a handful of corn kernels in the Morris Arboretum’s community garden. By mid-September, mature cobs were ready for harvest. Nancy and gardeners Diane Wells & Eleanor Peck plucked 15 cobs from their stalks and brought them to the Arboretum’s recently restored 1854 gristmill. There they shucked the cobs and hung them to dry. Diane had brought her own dried buckwheat kernels that she ground into meal on a pedal powered mill.

By mid-November the dried corn was ready to grind. Nancy was shown by mill engineer Craig San Pietro how to use the powered sheller to remove the kernels from the cobs. The mill’s 4 foot diameter, one ton grindstones, elevator and powered sifter system would have lost too much of her small batch during processing so Nancy fed the kernels into a smaller powered mill and then used a hand sifter to separate the fine corn flour from coarser meal.

At that point Nancy worked with mill engineer & baker Ted Bell to mix her corn flour with mill ground wheat flour, eggs, milk, maple syrup, butter, sugar, and baking powder and fill muffin trays. Trays of hot muffins soon emerged from the mill’s oven. A few were eaten but Nancy took most of them home along with enough of her flour to bake two more batches for Thanksgiving.

The Arboretum’s mission is to connect plants, place and people. The creekside mill is the place where plants have been converted to food for people and their livestock for more than 150 years. Mill demonstrations of 10 different restored machines (and muffins!) will begin on Sunday, May 17th from 1 to 4 PM and continue on the 3rd Sunday of each month through October.

Learn more about Morris Arboretum's Grist Mill by visiting our website here.

Picking the corn planted by Nancy Schaeffer in Morris Arboretum’s community garden.

Getting ready to remove the kernels from the cobs.

Using the power mill to grind the kernels.

Making corn muffin mix and prepping the tins.

Homemade corn muffins, yum!

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