“What’s THIS?” I asked, flipping a globular wooden knob back and forth.
“It’s a grain mill,” she said. “A friend brought it from Germany for me.”
That really floored me. Her flat was actually quite spacious by the cramped standards of Hong Kong, but the kitchen was little more than a narrow corridor wedged between an oversized living room and the tiny, windowless room we stored stuff in, but was designed as the maid’s bedroom. We may have been cooking with gas, but you had to be really organised or you’d quickly run out of counter room. You could stretch your arms across and touch both walls it was so small, so this glorified hunk of wood seems like the last thing you’d need.
But she swore by the results she got by grinding her own whole wheat flour, and I couldn’t much argue after she served up some Kaffee und Küchen for the first time.
In Hamburg we have a much bigger kitchen, so the mill seems to take up a lot less room on our counters, and after 22 years it still gets used a lot, especially the last couple of years or so that I’ve been baking bread regularly.
It’s a German product, dependable and built to last out of solid beech, but you have to take it apart once in a while to give it a thorough cleaning or it starts to look a little ratty.
On the inside you’ll find a powerful motor and millstones made of a hardened ceramic. The first time I turned loose all the bolts and separated the parts to clean was after it hadn’t been used in a few months.
There were a few bug skins clinging to the walls of the flour chute and around the grinding face, which was a bit of a YUCK moment, but once it was scrubbed clean, put back together and burnished with linseed oil, it looked good as new.
For grain I head to the organic food store. I’ve ground a variety of grains over the years, but usually stick to wheat because that’s what the bread recipes I use call for. The only thing I’ve not tried is corn, because I’ve never found corn kernels that specially say they’re for making corn flour, but what I’d love to do is grind some corn to see if I can make some whole grain polenta from it.
The manufacturer’s website has a variety of mills to choose from, and I like the fact they still make the exact model we own. Their website gives you a bit of sticker shock, though. Our model will set you back €454, but they’re guaranteed for 10 years. Like I said, they’re built to last, so you should have it at least as long as we have with regular care.
If you want to see it running in this video, turn your sound down! It is a bit of a noisy thing: