On a cold December morning, I ducked out of my pizza business long enough to accompany Brandon Jaeger to Chesterhill Ohio see some “Dent corn” stripped off the stalk by our Amish friends. This same corn was used by the Fort Ancient Native Americans, and kernels have been found in several burial mounds right in this region. Brandon would process it, and I will have a chance to make a non-gluten bread with it.
The horses bring in the corn, and the (slightly) modified “Farmall M” is ready to strip the corn off the stalks.
I met Brandon last summer, when I trekked to Joe’s farm to get some Northern Ohio Spelt for my Purple People Eater, a combination of 20% high-gluten pre-ferment, (poolish) with 70% spelt flour and 10% stone ground whole wheat. This bread has similarities to those annoying but delicious Christmas cookies that stick to your teeth, especially as I put a sticky blueberry, mango, apricot compote on top before the bake.
Purple People Eaters, and the Goon (Sounds like a new Harry Potter movie) in Chesterhill.
Brandon and his partner Michelle Ajamian have dedictated themselves to the long-forgotton growth, production and use of local high-nutrition bean, grain and seed crops.
Michelle Ajamian prepping soil for buckwheat planting. Brandon and Michelle’s field of amaranth.
Through Appalachian Staple Foods Collabrative (ASFC) they’ve forged a new way for small businesses like mine to offer these local, fresh, foods. Plus, they keep the money local at the same time. This team has a laser-beam focus on bringing local sustainable grains and beans to the people and businesses in the area.
That summer, as I approached the Hirshberger acreage, Joe was on his 4-horse binder contraption that looked like it was from the 18th century. This machine cut the spelt, gathered up the stalks and bound them with string. As my eyes followed this wild rig driven by Joe in his buttoned up white shirt, black overcoat, black hat, rolled up pants and bare feet, I saw someone following him who was not Amish. It was Brandon, grabbing the bundles and stacking them in the hot late-day steam.
Brandon Jaeger stacking spelt after Joe cuts it the old-fashioned way.
“That job sucks,” I said to myself as I watched both men work toward the horizon. I walked into the field of spelt, hoping that they wouldn’t ask me to help, and introduced myself to Brandon and waved to Joe. He looked familiar and I remembered that I’d read about him in the newspapers. Ever since, he had tweeked my interest in using local grains in my day-to-day menu mix.
Summer harvested spelt, and Brandon stacking the spelt bundles for drying.
As you can see in the video, it was winter now, and I was watching the corn being stripped off the stalks by an ingenious contraption that takes the stalks right up to the top of the barn for use later. This is done with the engine of a “Farmall M” and alot of back-breaking work, which is par for the course for these guys.
When we got back to Michelle and Brandon’s mill, he took me on a quick tour of his new milling equipment and showed me some of the corn he was going to turn into flour.
I am truly grateful for Michelle, Brandon and all the people bringing back locally sourced grains for small businesses to choose to serve their customers. Soon I’ll have some recipes using this local corn flour for pizzas and breads. Yum.
From raw corn kernels too usable corn flour.