‘Tis the season for Old Wye Mill
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.
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.