KAYTE YOUNG: Production support comes from: Bloomingfoods Co-op Market, providing residents with locally sourced food since 1976. Owned by over 12,000 residents in Monroe County and beyond. More at Bloomingfoods.Co-op. And Elizabeth Ruh, Enrolled Agent, providing customized financial services for individuals, businesses, disabled adults including tax planning, bill paying, and estate services. More at Personal Financial Services dot net.
(Earth Eats theme music)
From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, This is Earth Eats. I’m your host, Kayte Young.
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: Bread is more than food, it connects people
KAYTE YOUNG: This week on our show we talk with a miller and a Farmer at Janie’s Farm and mill, about flour scarcity and the value of short supply chains.
And I’ll share the sourdough bread baking method I’ve been using for years. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to bake some bread.
Stay with us.
Renee Reed is here with the News. Hi Renee,
Hi, Kayte. It’s great to be back.
Small-scale farmers haven’t qualified for loans from the Small Business Administration (or SBA) for the past thirty years. That changed last week, when the SBA opened an application for an ag-specific Economic Injury Disaster Loan, including up to 10 thousand dollars that doesn’t need to be repaid, and up to 150 thousand dollars in loans. The move came after bi-partisan advocacy for small-scale producers from both the House and the Senate.Historically, SBA has deemed “agricultural enterprises” as ineligible for most SBA loans, leaving small-scale producers to apply for assistance through the Farm Service Agency, which doesn’t give out aid for economic disasters. While small-scale farmers and their advocates are thrilled to be eligible for SBA aid, they’re skeptical about the new program and its ability to solve the increasing problems of small-scale agriculture operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout.Jordan Treakle, policy director with the National Family Farm Coalition told The Counter that he’s worried the program is going to run out of money Treakle also expressed concern that independent, diversified, or organic producers who sell directly into local and regional markets could be left out of relief funds. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition released an impact assessment in March, estimating local and regional food markets will face a total loss to the economy of more than 1 billion dollars from March to May of this year. The CARES Act passed by Congress earlier this year provides 24 billion dollars in emergency aid for farmers and ranchers, but doesn’t specify how the aid will provide direct assistance to small-scale producers.Congress is expected to pass the HEROES act this week, which includes funding for the Farm and Ranch Assistance Network and additional funding to support local farmers, farmers markets, and other local food outlets impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions. The HEROES act also includes support for beginning farmers and ranchers with financial, operational, and marketing advice.With supply chains still badly disrupted from the pandemic, farmers have been forced to euthanize livestock, let crops rot in fields, and dump thousands of gallons of surplus milk each day. Meanwhile, unemployment has surged and demand at food banks and school meal programs appears bottomless. On the surface, the disconnect between these two problems is maddening.But getting food waste reclaimed, processed, packaged, shipped and delivered to those in need is no simple task. Last week President Trump said the US would start buying 3 billion dollars in surplus dairy, meat and produce from farmers to help stanch hunger. Back in April the USDA said that it would purchase 3 billion dollars of ag products for the so-called “Farmers to Families Food Box Program.” The USDA plans to work with local distributors to package the food into boxes and deliver them to food banks and other hunger relief groups. The agency said on its website that the program would include fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat. Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation said that the food purchases would help the hungry while providing income to farmers and ranchers who have seen some markets disappear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initial contracts will distribute food from May 15 through June 30.Meanwhile, as reported in The New York Times, the White House has rejected some of the simplest ways to feed those in need, such as expansion of school meals and food stamp benefits, or waiving workrequirements needed to qualify for benefits.The USDA has issued waivers to states to give more flexibility to food assistance programs. Those moves include allowing online food stamp purchases and extending benefits to more working poor families, while keeping those most in need at the same levels. Many of those waivers will expire at the end of May, despite Congress having given the department the ability to issue waivers through September. The agency has also turned down pleas from states asking for waivers on the 20-hour weekly work requirement for college students who apply for food stamps.Congress rejected a plan to increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent, and on May 12 the government announced it would appeal a court decision that blocked more stringent work requirements for food stamps. Those requirements would have taken effect last month, and taken SNAP benefits away from 700,000 people. For Earth Eats News, I’m Renee Reed
KAYTE YOUNG: If you like to bake a home, whether it’s cookies, banana bread, biscuits, or even just pancakes...how’s your flour supply holding up? Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, flour has been difficult to come by in the grocery store.
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: This large food supply chain is not equipped to deal with the surge in demand for, like, five, ten pound packages of flour. They were supplying huge amounts to huge bakeries or facilities and when everyone wanted to bake at home, because they needed to stay at home, and they needed food they couldn’t just adapt quickly to creating more small packages for the consumer.
KAYTE YOUNG:I spoke with Jill Brockman-Cummings, and Harold Wilken of Janie's Farm and Janie’s Mill in Ashkum Illinois, about an hour and half due south of Chicago.
HAROLD WILKEN: We’re really one of the only mills of scale in the midwest.
KAYTE YOUNG:Harold is the Farmer, founder and CEO, Jill is the head miller. At Jaine’s farm, they grow organic grains like wheat and rye. they also grow corn and soybeans, but they’re grown for food,
HAROLD WILKEN: One of my goals when I went organic was to feed people.
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: And Harold is one of the few farmers in the Midwest that does produce food to feed people rather than what’s commonly grown in this region is crops for ethanol and to feed animals. So to feed people grains, healthy grains, is unique in this region
KAYTE YOUNG:The mill is located just down the road from the farm. It’s the newest part of the operation. They sell whole grains to other mills in the midwest, and for the past 3 years they mill their own flour as well. I’ve been hearing about Jaine’s grains and flours from local baker Eric Schedler of Muddy Fork Bakery. Janie’s uses stone mills to grind their grain.
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: All of our flours are considered whole grain--it has, then all three parts of the grain in it, the germ, some of the bran and endosperm, which is the white fluffy part.
KAYTE YOUNG:When you use a stone mill, you can’t remove the germ, that’s the center of the grain with the oils, and nutrients. To produce a lighter variety of whole grain flour, they sift it to remove some of the bran.the bran is the outer part of the kernel, with all the fiber. But they never remove all of it.
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: All those things the bran, the gern, those bring flavor. And that’s one of the reasons that people really love our flour, they’re just so much more flavorful.
KAYTE YOUNG: Since the Coronavirus hit the US, Janie’s experienced a huge shift in their sales
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: We were focusing on wholesale bakeries and restaurants up in the Chicago area, and in this midwest region. And then when the corona virus pandemic hit and we had an amazing rise in retail sales and everything kinda got turned upside down, and we were, well we still are, focusing mainly on our online retail orders. For a week we were at well over five hundred orders a day, whereas prior to this we were, on average, ten orders a day. So yeah, the increase was unbelievably steep.
KAYTE YOUNG: They’ve had an average increase in retail flour sales of three thousand percent. So what’s happening here? Why such a dramatic change, and what does it say about our food system?Jill and Harold have some thoughts on that:
JILL BROCKMAN-CUMMINGS: People are thinking more about the supply chain and how Americans get food on their tables. I think the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light that the long global food supply chain failed. And that a simple supply chain, like the one at Janie’s Farm and Janie’s Mill can withstand pandemics or weather problems that might occur in our system and I think people are appreciative of that and I think that people are thinking more and more about where their food comes from and that’s been reflected in other areas as well. I think a lot of people arel looking at CSAs for their fruits and vegetables this summer. I think finally that consumers are realizing that the food system we had was not the best.
HAROLD WILKEN: We take our soybeans and our wheat out of the bins, we clean ‘em, and then they go right away to be made into food. Whether it’s milling flour or making tofu, ya know people can eat this. The don’t have to rely on going to walmart, they don’t have to have somebody from a thousand miles away mill grain so that they can bake. It’s right here...and we can adjust to what they need.
KAYTE YOUNG: Janie’s mill has managed to keep up with the increased demand. They’ve hired new employees, they are now running both of their mills around the clock, and they purchased new packaging equipment to increase efficiency.
I was wondering about the grain supply itself. Did they grow enough?
HAROLD WILKEN: We have plenty of grain. We had planned ahead so that we would have enough grain. A wise miller once told me have at lease half of your next year’s needs in grain in your bins, so in case something happens you were able to keep customers taken care of. And that was good advise.
(soft strummy guitar music)
KAYTE YOUNG: I asked Jill and Harold if there was anything else they wanted to say about the unprecedented consumer demand for flour during the pandemic. Harold thought there might be a mental health aspect to it, too.
HAROLD WILKEN: A lot of people find comfort in baking. When other things are uncertain, they feel like they’re doing somethin’. Some of ‘em were sneaking loaves and putin’ ‘em on their neighbor’s porch--or cinnamon rolls or whatever. And the human instinct is to take care of one another, and by doing baking they are able to give back to other people.
I think bread is more than food and it brings people together and it is the staff of life. And I think in these uncertain times it’s been our honor and our privilege to supply the good food.
KAYTE YOUNG: That was Jill Brockman Cummings and Harold Wilken of Janie’s farm and Janie’s Mill. Find out more about their grains and flours at Earth Eats Dot Org
(Earth Eats Production Support Theme)
Production support comes from:Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio, architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at griffy creek dot studio.And Insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage, in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected. More at 812-336-6838.
Bloomingfoods Coop Market, providing residents with locally sourced food since 1976. Owned by over 12,000 residents in Monroe County and beyond. More at Bloomingfoods.Coop.
(bright piano and strings music)
KAYTE YOUNG (narrating): Okay, so maybe you got your hands on some flour. What about yeast? Commercial yeast has been scarce too. The good news is, you don’t need commercial yeast to make bread. You can make sourdough bread with wild yeast.I learned how to make sourdough from Alex Chambers. Alex has been a producer on our show, and he’s really good at making bread. He’s really good at teaching, too. If you don’t have an Alex Chambers in your life, there are a lot of great bread tutorials out there right now. Youtube videos, instagram. When it comes to bread making though, there is no substitute for experience. You just gotta get in there, and make some bread. If you can’t handle failure, this might not be the hobby for you. You will fail. But usually the failures are edible. Butter on freshly baked bread is almost always tasty, and you’ll learn from those less-than-perfect loaves. Trying and failing is the only way to find out what works, what doesn’t, what fits with your lifestyle and schedule, and also, what kind of bread you like, I prefer what is known as a lean bread, rustic and crusty. My bread has 3 ingredients: flour water and salt. Okay 4 if you count starter-- it’s made from flour and water and wild yeast gathered from the environment. Here is my step by step. We’re going to assume that you already have a starter. If you don’t, not to worry. I’ll post instructions for how to make one. It is not difficult, it just takes time. I start with one of the things I love most about this method:
KAYTE YOUNG: The starter is tiny. It’s a tablespoon. You can keep in your fridge for about two weeks without doing anything to it, but I can tell you that I have left mine in my fridge for months and taken it out and it’s fine. So, I’m gonna do that right now. (sound of going into fridge) And I keep it in a small jar, like a little jelly jar. It smells (sniffing sound) it smells really yeasty. Acidic is a word I think I would use. Sometime I feel like it smells a tiny bit like glue, like Elmer’s glue. Not so much this time (sound of jar and spoon) it smells pretty good. And now I am just going to add a tablespoon of whole wheat flour, a tablespoon of white flour and a tablespoon of water. And then you just want to mix it up really good. And then to cover it. I have one of these really small showercap type things that you can put over bowls, like an old fashioned bowl cover, it looks like a little shower cap. If you don’t have one of those you can just use saran wrap (sound of crinkling plastic) or even just put a towel over it, would be fine. I’m going to leave it out for a few hours, I’d going to check on it to see how it’s doing.
(bright piano and strings music, sound of ticking timer, then ringing timer)
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay so it’s time to check on our starter. I’ll admit it’s been more than two hours. But that’s fine, this is a very flexible process. So I’m taking off the shower cap (sniffs) it’s always good to smell it. The other thing I’m doing is I’m looking at the jar, I’m seeing air bubbles on the side, and then I’m gonna take a spoon, and kinda (sound of stirring) I think you can kinda hear those air bubbles in there and that means it’s alive! So it’s doing its thing, it’s growing, now we officially have a starter. I basically built a starter by adding little bit more flour and water, feeding it. So now I have a starter and now I can make the next stage which is called the levain. And that requires a half a cup of whole wheat flour, half a cup of white flour and half a cup of water, plus this starter (sound of stirring, spoon, glass clanking). So I've scraped all of that starter out of the jar, and I’m putting in to the bowl with the water and I’m gonna add half a cup of whole wheat flour and a half a cup of white flour. I’m just gonna mix it up really well in a medium sized bowl and once again I’m gonna cover it and we’re gonna let this sit out for a few more hours.
(sound of ticking timer, mellow music, then a timer rings softly)
Okay we’re back with our sourdough and we’re at the stage of the levain. We want to see if it has sufficiently fermented.So the way I’m gonna test this, I’m just gonna pull back on the bottom of the dough in the bowl. If you’re seeing lots of air bubbles and it’s starting to look kind of loose and webby on the bottom then that means your dough is alive it is fermenting and you are probably ready to move onto the next step. The first thing you want to do with this levain is you want to take a tablespoon of it out and you want to put it in your starter jar and stick it back in your fridge.
Now you are ready to make your dough. Take your levain that you’ve let rise, start by adding about a cup of water to the bowl that the levain is in. You just want to mix that up really good until it’s nice and soupy. And you’re gonna mix your dry ingredients in a large bowl. You can do whatever mix you want. I like to do five cups of white bread flour, and one cup of whole grain flour, sometimes I’ll do half and half--very flexible. And I have some special flour, some whole grain flour that I got from Muddy Fork Bakery, and they got it from Janie’ Mill. This is stone ground, high protein whole grain flour. I think this particular whole grain flour has been sifted, to extract some of the bran. So it’s going to be a little bit lighter than your typical whole grain flour and I’m excited to try it.
So you got your 6 cups of flour one tablespoon of salt, and then the levain that you’ve mixed with the water and then two more cups of water. Gonna mix all that into one bowl. And that is going to be your big shaggy mass, as Alex calls it, and that’s gonna be your dough. And it’s not gonna look like a shapeable bread dough at this point it’s just gonna be a kinda wet shaggy mass. And that’s fine. Once it’s mixed, you’re gonna cover it with some plastic wrap or a damp cloth, and we’re gonna let it rise some more. You’re gonna wanna set a timer. Every half hour, forty-five minutes, you’re gonna wanna fold this dough. Which basically means pulling up a corner and folding it over and spinning it a corner turn and pulling up folding it over, spinning it a corner turn and doing that four times and then covering it back up and leaving it and setting another timer. You want to keep doing this. You don’t want to forget, so set a timer.
(jingly piano music, timer ticking, then soft ringing of timer)
And then when you are ready for your final proof you’ll want to dust your surface in front of you, your countertop with some flour. And then dump your dough out onto that surface. And then you want to divide your dough in half. This recipe makes two loves, and again you’re just gonna wanna do some folding to shape it. Shaping is hard to explain.
Press your dough out and then pull up an edge, the edge furthest away from you. And fold that into your dough, and then pull up the edge closest to you, fold that into the middle of your dough and then do that with the right and the left as well, then turn the whole thing over, and kind of hold it in your hands and kind of move it around on the surface to create sort of a tension across the top of your dough. The tension is really important. It really helps with the oven spring.
KAYTE YOUNG (narrating): For the shaping, I strongly recommend that you watch people doing this. You can’t learn this from a description on the radio or from a book. I’ve found that either watching people in person, or watching videos of people shaping bread is very useful. Just pick one you like and watch it over and over. Then get to your dough and try it out for yourself.
KAYTE YOUNG: And then you’ll want to set that on a piece of parchment paper that is lightly dusted with flour. And let it rest for twenty or thirty minutes. You’re gonna wanna be getting your oven heated up and you’ll want to heat up a dutch oven. This is a dutch oven process. And then shape your second loaf and set that on your parchment and make sure you get your ove heated up. You want to preheat your oven to five hundred. That’s as high as mine goes. If yours goes higher than that, go for it. And then you want to put the dutch oven into the oven. (sound of oven door and metal clanging). I just leave the lid on. And then just let that preheat. Make sure your press start (three oven beeps).
(sound of ticking timer, mellow music, then a timer rings softly)
Now that your shaped loaf has risen, you’re ready to get it into the preheated oven i’m using a dutch oven which is a cast iron pot, this one is enamel-lined and it has a lid and it’s a really great way to bake bread. It creates a miniature steam oven. That allows your loaf to get a really great oven spring, to really rise and get that nice crusty exterior.
KAYTE YOUNG (narrating): This recipe relies on the use of a dutch oven. If you don’t have one, it makes this method harder, but not impossible. I’ll share instructions on the website, for how to get steam in your oven to help with the oven spring and the crusty crust.
And now I’m ready to get the loaf into the dutch oven. The problem is the dutch oven is very hot and it’s heavy. So you need to be really careful for this step and you need to kind of set everything up. So what I do is I set up some kind of a trivet on my countertop that I can set the dutch oven on and then I bring my loaf over. My shaped bread loaf is now ready on my countertop next to my trivet. And I now have two very thick pot holders, and I’m gonna pull that dutch oven out of the oven (sound of metal rack and oven door). Okay so now I’m gonna carefully lower this shaped loaf into the dutch oven (sound of paper and the next step, the final step before getting it into the oven is scoring the top of the loaf. This honestly is not necessary in the dutch oven. It will be fine if you don’t score it. But it can be a fun extra step. So you want to take a very sharp knife or razor blade and just quickly and decisively just slash across the top of your shaped loaf, being careful not to touch the sides of the dutch oven and not to get burned. Once you have lowered the shaped loaf into the cast iron pot, grab your very thick potholder and put your lid back on (sound of lid going on pot) Make sure you have two potholders ready, open your oven and get that dutch oven back in.
KAYTE YOUNG (narrating):Once it’s in the oven reduce heat to 450. Set your timer for 35 minutes. About half way through, remove the lid from the dutch oven. (sound of timer, soft music under voice)
Once your timer goes off, remove the dutch oven, and dump the bread onto a cutting board or cooling rack.
[Thump thump thump sound]
And then you want to thump it, and see if it has a hollow sound. You want it to have a nice golden brown crust, you do not want a pale loaf of bread, you want it to have a really nice browned exterior. This is the hard part--leave the bread out on the counter, on a cooling rack for about an hour before cutting into it. This is tough because it smells incredible and it has this kind of crackling sound when it first comes out that’s really nice. It’s very tempting. But you need to understand that the bread is still cooking and if you cut into it at this point it’s gonna be doughy and it’s gonna gum up your bread knife and it’s just a mess. Really try to wait that full hour. And then cut into it. What I like to do is just cut straight down the middle of the loaf. I find that it’s just easier to deal with the loaf when it’s in half. Plus you get a really good look at the center of your loaf and you can see if it’s got those nice air bubbles that you were hoping for. And you can really inspect the crumb. (soft music) As far as storage goes leave it out on the counter until it is fully cooled. After that you’re gonna wanna store it either in a paper bag or in a plastic bag. Once you get it in a plastic bag you are gonna get rid of some of that crunchy crust, but it will also possibly stay fresh longer.
KAYTE YOUNG (narrating): That’s my method. I hope it inspires you to bake some bread. even if you don’t try my method, I hope you’ll find a recipe or a youtuber, or someone to follow to get you started. It truly is a satisfying hobby.
You can find my instructions at earth eats dot org.
That’s all we have time for today, thanks for listening. Stay nourished, stay safe.
(Earth Eats theme music)
RENEE REED: The Earth Eats team includes Eoban Binder, Chad Bouchard, Mark Chilla, Abraham Hill, Taylor Killough, Josephine McRobbie, Daniel Orr, the IU Food Institute, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.
KAYTE YOUNG: Special Thanks this week to Harold Wilken, Jill Brockman Cummings and everyone at Janie’s Farm and Mill.
Production support comes from:Elizabeth Ruh, Enrolled Agent, providing customized financial services for individuals, businesses, disabled adults including tax planning, bill paying, and estate services. More at Personal Financial Services dot net. Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio, architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at griffy creek dot studio.And Insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage, in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected. More at 812-336-6838.