Harvest: Pressing and Seasoning

With the end of summer comes the harvest. This harvest season I have begun learning about two old forms of of food processing: wine pressing and stone mill seasoning.


The earliest vineyard in Santa Cruz was located in the river bottom behind the Mission de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz in what is now called Harvey West Park. Those grapes would have been harvested and pressed in a wooden basket press, which was pressed down with a screw. This was a common type of press in the 17th Century.

A few nights ago, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a few friends pressing some cabernet grapes in that very method at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. So, late on a Monday in their tasting and barrel room at the Swift Street plaza, I got to see a screw press in action. Below are photos showing the sequence of the process:

At the end, we were left with a hard and dry block of grape skins, which we threw some elbow grease and good cheer into breaking down:



I also recently attended a seminar related to another one of the crops I am researching: wheat. Learning this process is important because without a properly seasoned stone mill, you cannot properly mill your grains.

Community flour milling has been a common process for centuries, and like much of our food heritage, has been lost in the last century, since the industrialization and de-localization of the food system.

One key piece of the whole process was keeping the millstones sharp. Millstones become dull after prolonged use, and a smooth millstone will produce course, “cakey” flours. In step with the happy resurgence of grain growing on the Central Coast, this workshop brought together a small group of impassioned advocates from around the state.

The full post and photo essay are linked through the image below.

grist for the mill

Happy Harvest season!

— Liz Birnbaum


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