Hudson Cream is a short patent flour primarily used for making biscuits and pancakes.
Hudson Cream Flour
Being the only wind-powered flour mill in North America isn’t the only unique aspect of Stafford County Mills’ business strategy. It also is one of the few mills in the United States to produce short patent flour for its Hudson Cream Flour brand.
Hudson Cream is not a blend of hard and soft wheat flours, as most all-purpose flours are, but is made entirely from hard red winter wheat. The high protein content of winter wheat creates a strong network of gluten strands to trap more carbon dioxide bubbles as the dough rises, which results in higher, lighter bread. The strong protein also withstands long kneading without the gluten breaking down so the finished loaves have a rich flavor and a uniform, picture-perfect crumb.
Reuel Foote said “short patent” refers to the low percentage of the wheat kernel used in milling the flour. Hudson Cream flour includes 62% of the kernel while the industry standard is 80%. The result is a more refined product, almost like cake flour.
“We pull the low-grade flour out, which is called clear, and sell it separately,” Reuel Foote said. “We also make patent flour and whole wheat flour. Our short patent flour is more silky and light in texture because we pull the low-grade flour out.”
Reuel Foote, who has been with the company for 40 years, said as far as he knows Stafford County Mills has always produced Hudson Cream Flour since it was founded in 1904 by Gustav Krug, a German miller who immigrated to the United States and settled in central Kansas.
He said Hudson Cream Flour is the “closest thing you’re going to get to soft wheat flour from hard wheat.” He said carving out this niche has served the company well for many years.
“We have always felt that we needed to have a quality product at a fair price and that if we’re the same as everybody else on the shelf, then what’s going to make people buy our product instead of theirs,” Reuel Foote said. “We’re a small company. We can’t put millions of dollars into advertising. We feel we have to have a quality product that stands out from the rest. We do that in everything we make. That’s why we use white wheat in our whole wheat flour because we feel white wheat is better for whole wheat flour than red wheat.”
Hudson Cream Flour is primarily used to make pancakes and biscuits.
“People in the Appalachian states say they can’t make biscuits unless they have it,” said Reuel Foote, adding that Hudson Cream Flour is also sold to retail outlets in Kansas, Texas and Missouri.
“We sell our 25- and 50-lb bags to restaurants, bakeries, prisons, mix companies and tortilla companies,” he said. “We also have one bulk customer in Colorado.”
Stafford County Mills is fortunate to have ample amounts of the right type of wheat, essentially in its backyard, to make its Hudson Cream Flour. It contracts with local farmers in the surrounding four counties, paying them a premium for hard winter wheat with specific characteristics. Having a local supply of raw material for its mill pays off in a number of ways, Reuel Foote said.
“One, we know the product we are getting,” he said. “Two, even though we are paying them more than the elevators around us are, it is still economically feasible for us. We’re carrying some of that wheat for quite a while, but we feel it safeguards our quality. If you buy from elevators, you are going to get a blended product most generally, so you get some of what we want but also some of what they want to get rid of. By getting our wheat directly from the farmer we feel we have a better raw material to make our product. Different varieties of wheat don’t all bake the same. There are certain areas out in western Kansas that raise a lot of TAM wheat varieties, but those aren’t good milling and baking wheats.”
Stafford County Mills owns three elevators within close proximity of its mill. In all, the company has 4 million bushels of grain storage — 1.4 million in Maxwell, Kas., 600,000 in Sylvia, Kas., and about 2 million bushels on the site of the mill in Hudson.
“We have three entities to our business: we sell fertilizer to the farmers; we take in the grain from the farmers; and we make flour,” Reuel Foote said. “In our opinion it’s kind of hard to want the farmers to haul their wheat to us and not take care of the rest of their crops, so we handle their corn, sorghum and soybeans. We see it as a relationship with them, not just a business.”
The only wheat that Stafford County Mills uses that doesn’t come from the four nearby counties is organic wheat.
“We’ve been doing organic for about 10 years,” said Reuel Foote, noting that its organic wheat flour is sold to large retail chains and tortilla companies throughout the United States. “We typically get it from western Kansas and Nebraska, but one year those areas weren’t able to produce quality organic wheat and we had to have it shipped in all the way from Argentina.”