As my children have already posted, our family visited Loonsong Garden while we were on Manitoulin Island this past weekend. Loonsong is a farm that grows organic cereal crops and grinds whole flours. It also grows vegetables for a local Community Shared Agriculture program. My mother first introduced us to Loonsong at Christmas, when she brought us four of their flours as a Christmas gift. My wife, who has begun breadmaking much more seriously, has really enjoyed using them, particularly the Red Fife Wheat flour, which has a really beautiful flavour.
Red Fife, as the owners of Loonsong will tell you, has a story of its own that is well worth telling. Myth has it that Red Fife began as a single hat full of grain sent on to Canada from Glasgow, and that the whole first crop was destroyed by rust except for a single plant that must have been an accidental hybrid of some sort, and that this single plant was the parent of all Red Fife grown today. It was robust enough to thrive in the sometimes difficult Canadian climate, resistant to rust, and did not require nitrogen rich soil to grow, so it was used to breed many new variations. These newer strains and other wheat varieties were often bred for higher yields, however, so the original Red Fife was gradually replaced, until there was little of its seed remaining. Only in the last thirty years or so has it become used more widely again, especially by organic farmers for whom its resistance to rust and ability to grow without chemical fertilizers are highly desirable, despite its relatively low yields.
The flour that Loonsong makes from Red Fife is also distinct from commercial flours in that it is truly whole grain. Most flours include only the endosperm, the carbohydrate heavy part of the wheat seed that provides nutrition for the growing wheat germ until it can grow leaves and photosynthesize for itself. Commercial whole grain flours include the bran, the outer coating of the seed, which adds needed roughage but not much nutritive value to the flour. Loonsong’s flours, however, include literally the whole wheat seed: the endosperm, the bran, and the germ. The benfit of this is that the flour contains the many nutritious oils and proteins of the germ, but at the cost of a shorter shelf life, since these oils will make the flour go rancid more quickly, so whole flours do need to be refrigerated
Loonsong’s whole grain Red Fife flour is really beautiful. It is far more nutritious than most flours, and it is delicious, with a flavour that is mildly suggestive of nuts. It also makes great bread, though it is too heavy to be used in most bread machines. It works best in old-fashioned recipes, since many of these recipes were made with hand ground whole flours in mind. The following is one that we have been enjoying lately:
Mix 2 cups of stone ground whole wheat flour, 2 cups of rye flour, and 2 cups of unbleached white flour.
Warm 1 pint of buttermilk and 1 cup of water to about 30 degrees Celsius. Stir in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of dark molasses, and a dash of salt. Stir in 2 rounded tablespoons of dry yeast and let it proof.
Gradually add 4 cups of the flour to the wet ingredients to form a stiff batter. Add 3/4 cups of melted lard or shortening and knead until the dough is smooth. Let the dough rise to about double its size.
Knead in the remainder of the flour. Let the dough rise until roughly double its size. If the dough is too sticky, add unbleached white flour until it reaches a good consistency, as much as 4 cups.
Beat the dough down and divide it into three parts. Shape each part into a loaf and place in a loaf pan. Let the loaves rise to about double their size.
Bake at 350 degrees Celsius for about an hour. Remove the loaves from the pans and let them stand until cool.
The result is a heavy, nutty, whole wheat bead that is great for almost any purpose, but best, at least in my opinion, when sliced thickly, toasted lightly, and eaten with nothing but butter.
If you would like to know more about Loonsong and their products, you can phone them at <705-368-0460> or email them at <email@example.com>