Nose to the grindstone
Historic nearby mill offers grains of all types
Earlier this month I was searching out local ingredients to include on the menu for a fundraising dinner. I was surprised to learn that Hodgson Mill is located in Effingham, just 75 miles southeast of Springfield. This family-owned business has been milling grains and flours for five generations, and continues to grow and thrive in southern Illinois.
I’d been using Hodgson Mill cornmeal and flour for years, and it was exciting to discover that one of my favorite brands was being produced right down the road. I decided this was as good an excuse as any for a mini road trip, so I set off under a bright afternoon sky through the cornfields to meet with Erin Goldstein, marketing manager at Hodgson Mill and daughter of mill owners Bob and Cathy Goldstein.
In 2014 the company opened The Mill retail store and education space modeled after the original Hodgson Mill, with its hand-hewn white pine exterior. Native prairie flowers nodding under the weight of heavy bumblebees lined the walk up to the store entrance. The shop itself is a cook’s and baker’s delight. Not only do they sell a variety of Hodgson Mill specialty baking flours and mixes, but also available are a global assortment of cooking grains, including pearled sorghum, Kamut and black quinoa. In addition to their proprietary products, the Mill store also features products from other local producers and artisans: Boos Block products are on display along with cheeses from Marcoot Jersey Creamery, handmade pottery, goat’s milk soaps and lotion, local honey, maple syrup and preserves.
Classes are also on offer, and are available for both children and adults. Topics include Flavorful Salads, Grab & Go Granola, and Variety for Breakfast. A large function of the retail center focuses on educating consumers on the huge variety of whole grains available, and how to prepare them. I was excited to pick up some pearled sorghum to take home and try out. Prepared similarly to brown rice, the sorghum cooked up light and fluffy, with a nutty taste and texture. It also froze well, making it a good candidate for make-ahead meal planning.
Milling is an ancient trade, and mechanically very little has changed in the process of transforming whole grains into soft flour. The flour and cornmeal is still stone ground by giant granite millstones, just as it has been done for generations. The facility is modern, with safety precautions to prevent the outbreaks of fire that plagued millers for centuries. Dense amounts of flour floating through the air can be more explosive than TNT!
Hodgson Mill is a family business, steeped in tradition. However that has not prevented them from moving with the times. Driven not only by their values as a company, but also by market demand, Hodgson Mill carries over 100 non-GMO products, and plans to add 10-15 more in the coming year. Last year Bob’s brother Mark Goldstein began growing certified non-GMO corn just down the road from the company headquarters to help meet the growing demand for non-GMO products.
Consumers’ recent attention to gluten has prompted the folks at Hodgson Mill to expand their operations. The company has been selling gluten-free products since the 1990s, but due to increased consumer demand they have built a dedicated gluten-free facility within their manufacturing plant, complete with separate entrances and air handling, for their gluten-free product operations. “We have a love-hate relationship with gluten,” Erin Goldstein told me. “Many of our longtime favorite products are whole wheat, but we have really also expanded into the gluten-free market.” Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s what gives bread shape and structure and can cause gastrointestinal distress in individuals with specific gluten-related disorders, such as celiac disease. It’s increased consumer interest in and demand for alternative grains and flours, such as quinoa, almond and coconut flours. However, many people are confused about what gluten actually is and whether or not they should avoid it. Celiac disease is relatively rare, affecting only about one percent of the population.
Whether or not one suffers from gluten intolerance, it’s wonderful to have such a variety of products available from a local Illinois business. The folks at Hodgson Mill have graciously shared some of their favorite recipes, and more are available online at www.hodgsonmill.com
Coconut Almond Jam Thumbprints
Yield: about 40 cookies
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup Hodgson Mill Coconut Flour
- 1/3 cup Hodgson Mill Almond Flour/Meal
- 1/3 cup Hodgson Mill Tapioca Flour/Starch
- ½ cup raspberry jam (or your favorite flavor)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Preferably in an electric stand mixer, combine the oil, maple syrup, applesauce, egg and vanilla. Mix until blended, then add coconut flour, almond flour and tapioca flour, and mix again. Roll dough into one-inch balls and place on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Use your thumb to create a shallow indentation in the center of each cookie, and fill it with about a half-teaspoon of jam. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned on edges.
Lemony Chicken Soup with Sorghum
Yield: about 8 servings
- 1 cup Hodgson Mill Pearled Sorghum
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup leek, quartered, thoroughly rinsed and white part thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
- 4 cups chicken broth, hot
- 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup baby zucchini, diced
- 2 1/2 cups cooked roast chicken, shredded
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium sauce pot, combine the sorghum with the water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the water has been absorbed and the sorghum is tender, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside.
In a large soup pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat and sauté the leek and carrots for five minutes or until the carrots are crisp-tender, and the leeks are becoming transparent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the herbs de Provence and hot chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the peas, zucchini, chicken, lemon zest and juice. Cover and allow the vegetables to become slightly cooked and crisp-tender, about four minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place helpings of sorghum in individual bowls (1/4 cup or more of sorghum) and ladle some of the soup over top. Add a sprinkle of fresh basil to each bowl and serve immediately.
Ashley Meyer is the executive chef for genHkids, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering individuals and families to live healthy, vibrant lives through improved nutrition and increased physical activity. Food and fitness are necessary partners, and this weekend she’s looking forward to trying out a new cookie recipe to take along on a family bike ride with her husband, Cory, and 3-year-old daughter, Maddie.