Watson’s Flour Mill (website here) is a historic grist mill located in Manotick, Ontario, Canada. It was built in 1860 and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. So Ed and I went to see a milling demonstration and to buy some stone ground whole wheat flour. Although much of the original equipment is no longer necessary for today’s process, the mill still uses the original machinery. We (well, more so I) were really impressed with the 150 year old equipment and milling process. Below is a brief look at how Watson’s Flour Mill grinds whole wheat flour today. (If you’re interested, check out this article about the ghosts that haunt the mill.)
Photo above was taken from the second floor of the mill.
About the stone ground whole wheat flour: The flour contains no added salt or preservatives, so it is only good for about 6 weeks, unless kept in the freezer. It is said to have more nutrients than processed whole wheat flour. Some of the local bakers even claim that bread and baked goods taste better when made with stone ground flour. This flour is a fantastic option for people that are trying to eat more healthily, because it is processed so naturally. Also, people in the surrounding area can use this as a resource for the 100 mile food challenge.
Step 1: Large bags of wheat, weighing about 200 pounds each, would be delivered by buggies, dragged into the mill and right on top of this weigh scale. The scale was built into the ground so the millers wouldn’t have to lift the heavy bags (which I think is pretty smart).
Step 2: The wheat is then fed through the hopper. The handle opens and closes the opening at the bottom of the hopper which is only 1 or 2 cm wide to prevent clogging. The wheat falls into a large storage container in the basement.
Step 3: The wheat is then conveyed from the basement up to the third floor (or the attic) via the conveyor.
Step 4: The wheat then travels down to the second floor where it is held in the garner bin until ready to be ground.
Step 5: The wheat then flows back down to the first floor where it is ground between the millstones which are held 1/2 cm apart. The top millstone is the runner stone and spins against the bed stone which remains stationary.
The millstones originated from France and weigh about 900 kg each. They have lines carved into them that act like scissors to split and cut the wheat, as opposed to actually grinding it. The tools used to hand carve the stones can be seen in the photo below on the right.
With the power generated from the turbines in the basement, the runner stone makes up to 120 revolutions per minute. I believe I saw 6 turbines in total in the basement.
Step 6: When the wheat gets cut between the millstones, a warm and moist grist is produced. This grist is greasy from the natural oils that are released from the wheat. So this is conveyed back up to the third floor to cool off in the auger.
Step 7: The grist then falls down into the bolter on the second floor where the flour gets sifted out and separated from the chaff and bran.
Step 8: The flour and chaff plus bran fall into separate bags on the first floor. As you can see from the photo below, there is a weigh scale underneath the flour bag on the right. Once the bag of flour weighs 50 pounds, it will be hand-sewn closed for sale (or re-distributed into smaller bags for sale in the mill). It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to fill a 50 pound bag. The bag of chaff and bran on the left will be sold as feed.
I will be working with this flour over the next few months, so check back for the results of taste tests and for the successful recipes.
Note: I was in the middle of writing this post when my laptop died. So additional information (ie. details about the millstones) and photos were unfortunately lost (ie. photos of the garner bin, auger, bolter, second and third floors of the mill, etc.). Watson’s Mill puts on regular milling demonstrations, so I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the surrounding area.