Great Ciao

The Best Little Polenta Mill in Italy

For the Mulino family, making great Polenta is a family affair.  Felice Mulino grew up in Cassano Belbo, a small farming village in Piedmont an hours drive fromTurin.  His first job was carrying grain from his family’s farm, to the town’s hundred year old mill.  In 1955 at the age of 33, word got to him that the miller was going to retire.  Felice seized the opportunity, leaving his family’s farm to purchase the mill from the aging miller.  Today, three generations of the Mulino family work together to produce some of the finest polenta and specialty flours inItaly.

When Felice initially bought the mill, he was one of nine artisan polenta mills in the region.  Today his mill is the last one standing.  The milling is done using two heavy stone wheels that are stacked horizontally on top of one another.  The bottom stone doesn’t move but has a series of grooves that force the corn to slowly work its way out from the center.  The upper stone spins at roughly 150 rotations per minute, which is slow compared to industrial polenta mills that spin at 600 RPM.  The two stones have just enough space between them to cut the grain – rather than smash it.  Once a month the mills have to be disassembled, the stones inspected, and the grooves re-chiseled.  Purely from a mechanical standpoint, its not hard to see why the old-way of milling polenta has been replaced by faster, and cheaper alternatives.  But corn is to polenta what grapes are to wine, and in addition to using a very special mill, the Mulino family starts with only the best raw ingredients.

The Mulinos are best known for their “Otto File” Polenta.  Otto File is an heirloom varietal of corn that is a close relative to whatColumbusbrought back with him from theNew World.  Its name literally translates to “Eight Row” and the kernels are much larger and starchier than the ubiquitous “Yellow Corn #3” that dominates today’s market.  Otto File also takes longer to grow, and has much smaller yields than most corn.  After harvesting, the Mulinos sun dry their corn to bring out its full sweetness.   Felice insists that the Polenta has a fuller flavor when the germ is left intact.  The germ contains the majority the corn’s flavor compounds in the form of oils and proteins.  Leaving the germ intact makes for more flavorful polenta, but it also makes his polenta prime for spoiling if left unrefrigerated.

For the Mulino family, milling polenta is a labor of love that extends to every part of the process.  When you taste this polenta you’ll understand why.  The corn flavor is sublime; it is so sweet you would think sugar was added to it.  The texture is rich and creamy in a way that would be impossible for a quick-cooking polenta to ever attain.  It goes well with a meaty ragu in the winter, and equally well simply garnished with a few beautiful summer tomatoes, a bit of basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar in the summer.  Slices of firmer set polenta dredged in dry polenta and fried are always a favorite.

(As a side note:  Good polenta takes longer to cook than its industrial counterpart.  But the length of its cooking time seems to have greatly exaggerated particularly in the Twin Cities region.  The coarse Otto File polenta needs two hours – but not nearly the rumored three or four hour cooking time.”

We have several wonderful grains and flours from Mulino Marino:

  •  Otto File Polenta (coarsely ground) 1K bag
  • Taragna Flour 1K bag (course ground) 70% whole cornmeal, 30% whole buckwheat
  • Buckwheat Flour (fine ground) 1K Bag
  • Chestnut Flour (fine ground) 500g. bag
  • Sapori Antichi Flour (fine ground) 1K bag – Whole wheat flour with four ancient grains: farro, rye, camut, and enkir

Sources

Weinzweig, Ari. Zingerman’s guide to good eating : how to choose the best bread, cheeses, olive oil, pasta, chocolate, and much more., pgs. 146-152,Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

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