Monday, April 30, 2012

From Grist Mill To Loaf Pan: Florida Style

There's nothing like baked bread made with freshly ground wheat. Steve Melton a Dade City, Florida, farmer knows all about this. He has a 1918 grist mill in his machinery museum that he uses to grind wheat and corn into flour for bread making.

Back in January, the day before AgriTunity (an agricultural show), I went on a tour with a group of Central Florida farm enthusiasts. The day had been organized by AgriTunity staff.

The first stop was at Melton's farm, for a tour of his machinery museum and a demo of a working grist mill. He mentioned something about possibly giving away free flour samples at the end.

With the help of an audience member, Melton climbed on top of the grist mill and poured in scoopfuls of winter wheat. Then he walked across the museum to his "hit and miss," gas engine.

"It has a unique sound because it is the earliest gas engine ever made," he told us, as he put on a pair of leather gloves. He explained it had an open piston system which meant you could right into the engine.

Steve Melton starting oldest grist mill's gas turbin engine,
Melton's Machinery Museum, Dade City, Fla.

He then grabbed the fly wheels, one per hand, and rotated them towards himself. Nothing happened.
He did it again, and again. On the fifth try, the engine sputtered and Melton said, "It might go this time," and he was right.

The engine roared to life, the fly wheels spun, the belts tugged, and the grist mill stones turned, grinding the wheat into flour.

1918 grist mill grinding wheat at Melton's Machinery Museum,
Dade City, Fla.

Melton walked back to the other side of the mill where a large sieve was suspended over three bins. Above the sieve was a wooden ramp, and opening with fresh flour pouring out.
Flour falling through sieve to bins below of 1918 grist mill
at Melton's Machinery Museum, Dade City, Fla.

With a large brush, he pushed the flour over three grades of mesh on the sieve, explaining they helped seperate the wheat germ from the flour.

Half-way through, Melton grabbed a handful of flour and showed it to the audience. The tour guide suddenly called out for everyone to return to the bus, we were out of time. So, no free samples of flour to take home.

The next day, at the AgriTunity Show, Melton said he had something for me outside at his interactive museum display. I followed him and he handed me three paper bags.

Three grades of flour from Steve Melton's 1918 Grist Mill,
Dade City, Fla.

Each was filled with a different grade of flour. He decided to finish grinding the bag of wheat from the day before. He asked me to make a loaf of bread at home and write a review of it. I thanked him, and said I would.

A week later, my husband, the bread maker in the family, made a loaf of bread out of Melton's flour and Melton's cane syrup. It was delicious with a sweet, earthy, chewy texture.

Now, it is hard for me to eat any other bread without comparing it to that amazingly loaf made with freshly ground wheat. I hope the next time I visit Steve Melton, I can get some more flour from that old grist mill.

To find out more about Melton's Machinery Museum, go to

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