On Flavor

The idea for the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project (NCOBFP), the grant-funded project that led to the launch of Carolina Ground, L3C, came in the wake of the 2008 spike in the price of wheat, where at its worst, the cost of the baker’s most essential ingredient rose as much as 130%. What was later termed the Wheat Crisis was, at the time, a rude awakening for the baker who was hit with a flour price that far exceeded what could be passed along to the consumer for a loaf of bread. It became all too clear that the disconnect between the baker and farmer was unsustainable and that closing the gap between the farmer and baker was the necessary next step in (re)building a sustainable food system in the Carolinas. And so, centered upon the growing consumer demand for local (a demand that has proven itself recession-proof) we plowed ahead and NCOBFP was set in motion with funding from the NC Tobacco Trust Fund and Santa Fe Tobacco. 

Fast forward five years-- Carolina Ground is milling Carolina grown bread wheat, pastry wheat, and rye-- connecting the farmer with the baker. And we are part of a growing movement.  But local grain to flour is different from a local tomato when it comes to appealing to the masses, as a recent article in Slate entitled, Going Against the Grain states, “Local produce has found a market beyond hard-core environmentalists because of its taste...whether rice or wheat comes from across the ocean or across the road has little impact on its flavor.”

It’s an interesting point, and there is some truth to it, but there’s more of the story to tell.

Hand-in-hand with this burgeoning regional grain movement has been the resurgence of stone milling. Rewind 100+ years and one would have seen our county’s landscape dotted with stone-burr gristmills. For thousands of years grain was processed into flour between stones, up until the late 1800s when, as Thom Leonard, baker and author of The Bread Book explains, “the stone age[ ]at last ceded to the age of steel.” The advancement of milling technology-- from stone-burr gristmill to roller mill-- a technology which employs steel rollers that strip away and separate the three components of the wheat berry-- germ, bran, and endosperm--  not only brought speed and efficiency to the processing of grain to flour but it made for a shelf stable product, as it is the oils contained within the germ that causes rancidity in flour, and in the roller milled product, the germ is completely removed; hence, the centralization of the milling and growing of wheat. But what was also removed with this method of milling was FLAVOR. 

The very fact that we are local enables us to process our grain to flour in a method that preserves the nutrients and emphasizes the flavor of the wheat. Because we are local, we have little concern with shelf life. We stone grind our flour and we embrace the idea that a local loaf of bread can carry the flavor of our region. 

from the ground up, 
jennifer lapidus