Grains Grains Grains at Jackson-Via

Posted by on Nov 21, 2019 | Comments Off on Grains Grains Grains at Jackson-Via

Grains Grains Grains at Jackson-Via

Humans have grown and milled grains such as corn and wheat for thousands of years. For most of those years, the task was accomplished with hand tools. As part of the Kindergarten Social Studies unit Long ago and Today, three classes at Jackson Via learned first-hand to make flours from whole corn and wheat, while wondering what everyday life was like more than 100 years ago.

Students used mortars and pestles, a tool that was commonly used by Native Americans, as well as a hand-cranked grain mill. After grinding the grains, we sifted them through a sieve to separate out the coarse grind from the fine grind. Coarser cornmeal is often used for polenta or grits while finer cornmeal is often used in baking. Some students chose to give the coarser corn or wheat to students who were using the mortar and pestle and grain mill in order to make it finer.

Although a mortar and pestle and a hand cranked mill would have been good to have, tedious tasks are often made easier by larger machines. Gristmills, powered by water and work animals, were also common to have in communities. The first recorded North American gristmill was built in Jamestown, VA in 1621. Back then, it would have been common for farmers to bring in small batches of grain to have ground for themselves or for sale.

Throughout the lesson, students were asked if they could imagine grinding grains every time you wanted to have bread – it’s a lot of work! After all that hard work we sat down to taste cornbread with apple butter. The cornbread was made with corn and wheat flour.

As students ate their cornbread and apple butter, they looked at pictures of what is was like to make apple butter over 100 years ago. Back then, apples would have been cooked in a copper kettle over a fire all day and all night. There are still communities around Charlottesville who practice this tradition in the fall.