Grist Mill says pancakes deserve a good turn

Historic site shares flapjacks made from its own ground flour

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

If you go

• What: Blueberry Pancake Day: Feast on blueberry pancakes made from locally grown and ground ingredients, tour the historic Cedar Creek Grist Mill and bring home some fresh-ground flour to make your own recipes.

• When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, July 28.

• Where: Cedar Creek Grist Mill, Grist Mill Road, outside of Woodland.

• Cost: Free, with donations to the all-volunteer-run mill encouraged.

• Information: http://www.cedarcreekgristmill.com or call 360-225-5832.

• Advice: Use driving directions from the website and not from GPS or Google Maps.

A few blueberry farms

Kaye’s Blueberries, 5406 N.E. 219th St., Battle Ground, 360-687-4630

Bosch’s Blueberry Hill Farm, 3917 N.E. Cedar Creek Road, Woodland, 360-225-7103

Bountiful Acres, 4008 N.E. Cedar Creek Road, Woodland, 360-225-9479

Kanooth’s Berry Blast, 37614 N.E. 137th Court, La Center, 360-921-3571

Annie’s Berry Farm, 39609 N.E. 41st Ave., La Center, 360-263-2289

Typical white flour sounds a tad disgusting when you hear Tom Henrich describe it.

As a volunteer at the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, Henrich has learned quite a bit about the differences between modern processing methods and the way that millers historically made and ground flour back in 1876, when the mill first opened.

“In commercial milling, they start with the (wheat) grain, and first they take the bran off,” Henrich told a tour group on a recent sunny morning. “That’s fiber, so they sell that in separate jars, make animal feed or processed foods out of it. Then they take out the germ, which is where all the vitamins, minerals and essential oils are.”

With those gone, the grain is reduced to the wheat endosperm, which is mostly starch and has very little nutrients. But the process still isn’t finished.

After that, just so the stuff doesn’t have even a hint remaining of its natural yellowish color, it’s fumigated with chlorine gas and other chemicals to bleach it white, he said.

“Then, commercial plants will go back and enrich it with things like niacin and riboflavin, nutrients they removed and want to put back in,” Henrich said, smiling slightly at the horrified look on his visitors’ faces.

Commercial plants process it that way to give it a longer shelf life. Flour that’s ground the old-fashioned way has natural oils and other components that will make it go rancid if left at room temperature for long.

Still, you can preserve stone-ground flour easily — without all the processing and chemicals — by just sticking it in the freezer, he said.

“In the milling we do, all the oils get dispersed through the flour,” Henrich said. “If you leave it out, it will go rancid in a few weeks. But it’s much more nutritious, and it tastes much better.”

To give the public a taste of foods made with flour ground the old way, and to teach people about how those foods were once processed, the Grist Mill hosts a series of special events each year.

Saturday visitors will get to a chance to try a breakfast favorite combined with locally grown berries as part of the annual “Blueberry Pancake Day.”

“The goal is to get people to think a little bit about what they’re eating and maybe get them to eat a little better,” said Barb Sizemore, the mill’s events coordinator. “It also teaches kids about green energy. The mill runs on hydropower. It’s just a neat historical place.”

The mill, which is supported entirely by donations and volunteers, buys the locally grown grain from Bob’s Red Mill in Oregon and gets the blueberries from local growers around Woodland.

“We’ll make the pancakes right here. We’ll put in the blueberries, and they’ll get fresh blueberry sauce,” Sizemore said. “Then they can get some flour, a recipe and go over to some of the blueberry farms nearby so they can go home and make their own.”

There’s no charge for the pancakes and flour, but donations are strongly encouraged, she said.

The mill’s cast-iron turbine was installed in 1886, and still runs on wooden bearings. Belts and shafts throughout the building use the spinning motion created from water flow in the turbine to twist grinding rocks against one another — and also to power a small generator that can run a light bulb.

“They man who owned this (Mike Lynch, who purchased the mill in 1879 from George Woodham, the original owner) was the first person to provide electricity in this area,” Sizemore said. “He was one of those early-to-bed guys. So he would give the power a little flip at a quarter to nine each night, warning people that in 15 minutes the lights were going to go out.”

The mill changed hands several times over its history and had fallen into severe disrepair when Fred Schulz first became a volunteer in 1980.

“It was pretty rough, the floor kind of sagged into the hillside, it didn’t look like you could ever fix this place,” said Schulz, who still mills for tour groups and does some of the mechanical upkeep.

Back in 1980, when Schulz worked in a machine shop, he and some friends pulled the turbine, which had been around since the late 1800s when Lynch first installed it.

“That’s the whole heart of the operation,” Schulz said. “I wanted to see if we could fix it, so I took it to the machine shop, and my boss was kind enough to let me rebuild it in the shop after hours.”

Volunteers rebuilt the wooden floors, glass windows and several other structures in the building, including the turbine. In 1989, the mill was finally operational again and opened as a historical museum.

“It’s been so worthwhile to do this,” Schulz said. “People don’t realize how rewarding it can be to get off the computer, get out and do something hands-on like this. And the food from here — I make pancakes out of our soft white winter wheat, and let me tell you there’s nothing finer.”

Grist Mill Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes 5 or 6 servings.

2 cups soft white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1¼ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs, unbeaten

2 cups cultured buttermilk

¼ cup melted butter

Sift dry ingredients together, then add remaining items and stir lightly to just moisten dry mix.

Mixture will be thick and lumpy.

Drop by spoonfuls onto lightly greased griddle, spreading batter with spoon. Turn cakes as soon as browned and cook underside until browned.