‘Tis the sea­son for Old Wye Mill

Record Observer - - Community - By CHRIS POLK cpolk@star­dem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ chrisp_s­tar­dem. Email me at cpolk@star­dem.com.

WYE MILLS — ‘Tis the sea­son for rare treats, and for those who love to bake, there is a spe­cial treat in the wa­ter­driven, stone-ground flours and corn­meal that will be for sale at the Old Wye Mill.

Vis­i­tors can pur­chase a wide va­ri­ety of items, but the em­pha­sis is on things that a cook would love.

Items in­clude lo­cal East­ern Shore and Maryland pro­duced food­stuffs, uten­sils, din­ner­ware, cook­books, aprons and more.

There are also or­na­ments, vin­tage pho­tog­ra­phy, note­cards, prints and paint­ings.

The real stars of the show are the stone-ground flours that are pro­duced by wa­ter­power at the mill, just like the colo­nials did there more than 330 years ago.

The Old Wye Mill was built in 1682 and has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the old­est con­tin­u­ously op­er­at­ing grist mill in the United States.

Dur­ing colo­nial times, hun­dreds of wa­ter-pow­ered mills thrived in Amer­ica. Only a few sur­vived, and fewer still have been in con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion.

Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, the Wye Mill and oth­ers on the East­ern Shore shipped flour and grain prod­ucts to Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s con­ti­nen­tal army.

Over the years, his­to­ri­ans have dubbed Maryland’s East­ern Shore the “Bread­bas­ket of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion.”

Many think of the mill as a his­toric site for lo­cals and tourists, but it still re­mains a work­ing flour mill, with a miller hard at work two Satur­days a month, May through Novem­ber.

The stones used back in colo­nial times have been re­placed sev­eral times by now, but the prod­ucts are vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal. Flours are sold as they are ground or put in a deep freezer to re­tain fresh­ness.

“Corn­meal is our best-sell­ing flour,” Rhonda Corder said, who is the mill’s cu­ra­tor. “And buck­wheat flour, which is hard to get.”

Buck­wheat flour is gluten­free, she said. One of the millers drives all the way to the Lake­view Or­ganic Grain com­pany in Penn Yan, N.Y., to pick up a truck load each year for grind­ing, and it’s ground on sep­a­rate stones to re­duce con­tam­i­na­tion with wheat.

The whole wheat flour pro­duced at the mill is usu­ally ground from soft red winter wheat that farm­ers bring in from Mid-Shore fields.

Sea­soned bak­ers will find that wa­ter-driven stone grind­ing pro­duces a flour that brings out the tex­ture in baked goods, Corder said.

But even if a per­son is new to cook­ing, Corder and her as­sis­tant Mary Alice Casey will be on hand with ad­vice and free recipe cards. Corder says their bread ma­chine recipe for whole wheat bread is “dy­na­mite.”

The mill shop is also sig­nif­i­cant source for lo­cal­lypro­duced treats. Buck­wheat honey from Tuck­a­hoe Api­aries in Greens­boro, Caro­line County, is a fa­vorite, along with jams and jel­lies by Emily’s Pro­duce in Church Creek, Dorch­ester County.

Emily’s Pro­duce “Christ­mas Jam” and “Frog Jam” is fresh and on the shelves. “Frog Jam” is a fa­vorite with grand­chil­dren, Corder said.

Two of the Mill’s best sell­ers, Maryland maple syrup from Cor­ri­g­anville in Al­le­gany County and JO spices from Bal­ti­more, a fa­vorite in Mid-Shore crab houses, are in sup­ply.

The shiny, pewter Old Wye Mill hol­i­day tree or­na­ment was pro­duced from a de­sign on the mill’s sta­tion­ary that goes way back, ac­cord­ing to Corder, and there is a new crop from Sal­is­bury Pewter this year.

That same de­sign has been stitched on aprons for sale, pro­duced by seam­stresses at the Bene­dic­tine School in Ridgely.

There are wooden Canada goose or­na­ments for sale, and tiny repli­cas of the Old Wye Mill done in wood to hang on Christ­mas trees by mill vol­un­teer and lo­cal wood­worker Jim Casey, and vin­tage pho­tog­ra­phy from the col­lec­tion of Michael Kader.

Pro­ceeds from last year’s hol­i­day shop helped sup­ple­ment a grant to put a new roof on the mill and other ma­jor im­prove­ments. The build­ing also has a fresh coat of paint.

Friends of the Mill, the fundrais­ing arm, af­ter many years, were able to hook up the build­ing’s fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem to wa­ter and make work eas­ier for the miller and do­cents by adding wa­ter sys­tem con­trols next to the build­ing this year.

Corder said that be­fore, to start grind­ing or do a wa­ter demon­stra­tion, they would have to cross the street and walk sev­eral yards to turn the wa­ter on or off at the millpond.

This year Friends of the Mill are hop­ing make enough money to con­tinue to pay for the new roof and to re­place much-worn brass fit­tings that con­trol pul­leys and belt sys­tems for grind­ing.

The mill’s spe­cial hol­i­day shop is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Satur­days, Dec. 10 and 17.

Vis­i­tors can en­joy ex­hibits, stroll the grounds and read about the his­tory of the mill while sip­ping free hot cider and sam­pling cook­ies and baked goods made with mill flours while they shop.

PHO­TOS BY CHRIS POLK

Vis­i­tors can stroll the grounds, en­joy free hot cider, cook­ies, and ex­hibits at the Old Wye Mill while do­ing some hol­i­day shop­ping. The mill’s an­nual hol­i­day shop is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Satur­day with lo­cal food­stuffs, wa­ter-driven stone-ground flour, and other unique gifts. Pro­ceeds ben­e­fit im­prove­ments and on­go­ing main­te­nance at the mill.

Tom Cal­la­han, right, stops in to pur­chase some buck­wheat flour in Novem­ber, be­fore the open­ing of the hol­i­day shop at the Old Wye Mill. Mill cu­ra­tor Rhonda Corder, left, is among the cooks at the Mill who give bak­ing ad­vice and free recipe cards for bak­ers who want to use wa­ter-driven stone-ground flour, just like the colo­nials did who pur­chased flour from the mill over 330 years ago.

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