Monday, January 14, 2008

Stone ground heirloom cornmeal

By the time our corn is ground into cornmeal it might not look like anything out of the ordinary, but there’s hardly a step from the selection of the seed to the grinding that isn’t markedly different from the modern norm. We first grew this variety of corn cooperatively with our friend Larry on his mountaintop farm. The seed is an heirloom from that farming community, which means it has been grown there for many years and seed has been saved over from each year to the next, a tradition we’re now continuing. Heirloom corn, like most heirloom crops, has a well-deserved reputation for exceptional flavor and quality. Unlike most conventional corn, which is yellow, this variety is white (although about one in fifty ears is red.) Because we didn’t have access to any land to grow the corn again ourselves this past year, we arranged for another friend, Jake, who lives near our new farm, to grow an acre for us. Jake grew the corn without the use of any synthetic fertilizers, and instead of using chemical herbicides to control weeds, he and his sons scraped out the weeds with the tractor and then by hand with a hoe. We stored the corn in our crib until it was dry enough to grind, but before we could grind it we sorted out any less than perfect parts, shelled it through a hand crank sheller, and winnowed it to blow out anything that wasn’t corn. We grind the fresh cornmeal more or less weekly using a granite stone grist mill. We hope you’ll enjoy the product of everything that went into this very special cornmeal. Once ground, cornmeal is best used promptly or stored in the freezer.

Buttermilk Corn Bread

2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon bacon fat or butter

Preheat oven to 375. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the buttermilk and honey and beat in the eggs. Melt the fat in a cast-iron skillet. Pour in the batter and bake in the skillet for 20 to 25 minutes, until risen and browned.

Cakey Corn Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
1 cup milk
¼ cup butter or lard

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add honey, eggs, milk, and fat. Beat until just smooth. Pour into greased 9x9x2 pan. Bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes.

Corn Griddle Cakes

Melt a couple tablespoons of fat in a cast-iron skillet. Mix cornmeal and a bit of salt with enough honey and water to make a sloppy batter. Spoon into hot fat and cook on one side until solid enough to flip. Cook on other side until done.

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