Life is complex. I say that often, but no truer words have been spoken.
I have long-held an ambition to make flour. Let me explain.
I have long-held an ambition to make wheat flour. I don’t mean buying a grain mill and some wheat and grinding it. I mean growing the wheat, harvesting the grain, thrashing it, grinding it and making a loaf of bread with it.
You have made it on the self-sufficiency credibility scale, if you can say you have done that. But even in my wildest dreams, I really couldn’t see myself growing wheat. Even in my dreams, I knew to be less ambitious. So I planted two chestnut trees. “I will make chestnut flour,” I thought. And so I have.
Back to the complexities of life. Why does a sensible, financially secure woman need to make chestnut flour? If she wants some chestnut flour, why doesn’t she go out and buy some?
Before I made my chestnut flour, I had never bought any nor had any desire to buy any. I had never seen any recipe that I wanted to make that required home-made chestnut flour as a key ingredient.
So what is the need? We need to go back a step. The need to make flour has something to do with the abhorrence of working in an office tower and being part of the rat race. What is the point of winning the rat race? You are still a rat.
I never craved a big house or a European car. I don’t like posh restaurants or five-star hotels. I can’t see the point in designer label clothes and consider $1,000 hand bags immoral. (Though, I do see the point of vet bills, fine china, cookbooks and kitchen gadgets.)
I like to make things. I like to grow things.
Instead of moving, along with my colleagues, to the western suburbs (if you are from Sydney, think North Shore) we bought a block of land in Bridgetown and grew two or three of every variety of fruit tree we thought would grow in the climate. We mapped out an area for a chook pen and a vegie patch and dreamed of being semi self-sufficient.
Now, the hypocrisy of the last statement is not lost on me. We are far from self-sufficient. The fact that I am writing this on a computer is proof enough. But, so is my pantry with its commercial condiments, flours, sugars, spices and multitude of other middle class delicacies. All of our furniture (actually, most – Maus has made some) has been purchased, along with loads of other things. All purchased from the money we earned from our participation in the rat race.
Our life is nothing like the life of a person who is really self-sufficient. They have to toil away, no matter whether they feel like it or not. Our life is not like our grandmothers’ lives. They, typically, had four plus children and every day had to cook from scratch for them, make them clothes, clean the house, do the washing and ironing, tend the vegetable garden, feed the chickens and, sometimes, even milk the cow. All without modern conveniences.
But, still, what a dream! What a silly dream!
The reality is, we don’t get around to fertilizing and mulching those fruit trees we lovingly planted all those years ago. So many have stopped fruiting. We prefer to buy two nectarines than to worry about what you are going to do with five buckets of nectarines. In any event, any fruit we did grow, the birds beat us to it.
But the dream to make flour has not subsided. My two chestnut trees produced enough chestnuts this year to make it a reality. And with my middle class toys – a dehydrator, a food processor and a Vitamix, it was very, very easy.
- Cut the chestnuts with a serrated knife across the domed side of the shell and pop them in boiling water for 8 minutes. Peel them.
- When they are peeled and cool, put them in a food processor. Pulse a few times to chop them. (This is to make drying easier).
- Lay out the chopped chestnuts in a dehydrator and leave to dry completely.
- Take small amounts of the dried nuts and put them in a high-powered blender and blend until very fine.
- Sift through a fine sieve and return any coarse pieces to the blender and blend again.
- If storing, store in your freezer.
To really live the dream, you will have to make your flour without any of these toys. Chop the cooked nuts and lay them out in a sunny position until very dry. Grind the dry nuts in a pestle and mortar, a little at a time. Sieve through a fine mesh and return any coarse pieces to the mortar for more grinding.
Now what did I do with my flour? I made bread, of course: four loaves of bread which taste great but were too dense for a photo or a post. I will try, again, when we have finished this lot (I made enough flour for two tries) and if I get better results, I will write a post.
“Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”