February 18, 2013

Ancient grains for 21st century tastebuds

Westport mill produces variety of grains, seeds, flours


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Sam Sherman can help you get your freekeh on in the kitchen.

“Freekeh is produced from two different grains,” said Sam Sherman, co-owner of Champlain Valley Milling, located at 6679 Main St. in Westport.

“The German production is made from a grain called spelt, which is harvested in the green stage. And then the outer shell, the hull, is flame roasted off of that unit. In the Middle East, it’s more grown from a hard wheat called durum wheat, and the process is basically the same.”

Freekeh isn’t the grain but what the product is called after the manufacturing process.

“We have a farmer in Central New York who is of German descent. Our freekeh is made from spelt. He produced it and needed to figure out how to now market it,” Sherman said.

Sherman’s wife, Derinda, brought home a grain mix from Texmati.

“We thought about putting a blend together,” he said. “We put a blend together of the freekeh, emmer, which is an ancient grain, and we used basmati-brown rice and rye. So it gives it a very unique flavor.”

Freekeh’s taste is hard to describe.

“When you first bite into it, you can taste some of the flame-roasted pieces of the freekeh. And through the process, you can get some of the basmati-rice flavor in there, and at the end, you can taste the rye flour. So it’s kind of like a unique blend of grains — nice, wholesome whole grains.”

Established in 1985, the mill produces a variety of whole grains and seeds, whole-wheat flours and white flours.

Whole grains and seeds include yellow corn, hulled barley and buckwheat. Whole-wheat flours include pumpernickel rye, old-fashion cornmeal and millet. White flours include Mt. Marcy, creamy-white pastry and meadow white.

Grains and seed mixes are seven grain, freekeh and six-grain. Specialty items are cracked-wheat sifted, cracked-rye sifted and bran.

“At the mill, we’ve always been interested in trying to do things with local crops, and (we are) always experimenting with different things that come along (to) see how we can, one, enhance what a farmer can diversify into and help us on our end to sell something more diversified,” he said.

Emmer is an ancient grain.

“Emmer and einkorn, another ancient grain, are native to the Middle East,” Sherman said. “They were native at the time of the Last Supper, so either emmer or einkorn or a mixture of them were probably the grains that were used to make the bread at the Last Supper. If you’re making whole bread and you want an ancient grain to do it with, emmer would be the product to use.”

Champlain Valley Milling cleans and processes a variety of grains and seeds.

“We brought these up mainly because the spelt is produced in New York. The wheat is produced in New York as well as here closer in Essex County. The pastry flour is also from New York,” he said.

The seven-grain and seed mix is used by bakers to make seven-grain bread.

“Actually, it’s a very nice hot cereal in the morning. We’re augmenting by bringing some of these other things in like the millet, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, U.S. grown, not Chinese,” he said, adding that they carry flax seed as well as quinoa items. 

The products are 100 percent organic and sold wholesale or direct to bakeries and bakery distributors. Clienteles range from local bakers to New England Flatbread, Whole Foods Bakery and Vermont Bread Company.

“We do have a little ... retail outlet that has some of our flour as well as the freekeh mix at the mill,” Sherman said. “Most of the time, people call in if they want flour or larger amounts of flour. They call in and order, and we will do it up for them.”

Email Robin Caudell:

FREEKEH STIR FRY Ingredients ▶ 4 cups water or broth ▶ 2 cups Freekeh Mix ▶ 4 tablespoons olive oil ▶ 1/2 green pepper, diced ▶ 2 stalks celery, diced ▶ 1 medium onion, diced ▶ 3 cloves garlic, diced ▶ 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional) ▶ 1/2 teaspoon tarragon ▶ 2 teaspoons curry powder ▶ Soy sauce to taste ▶ Salt and pepper to taste Directions Boil water or broth, add Freekeh Mix, reduce heat and simmer. In a wok or saute pan, heat olive oil then add green pepper, celery and onion. When the vegetables are almost tender, add garlic and mushrooms. Add Freekheh Mix, tarragon, curry, salt, pepper and soy sauce. Heat thoroughly, and enjoy. Contact Champlain Valley Milling is at 6679 Main St. in Westport. For questions, call 962-4711.