How do use corn meal?
July 11, 2008 10:53 AM   Subscribe

I've recently come into possession of two bags of corn meal. Now what?

I received two, two pound bags of "old style", water ground, self rising corn meal, "from selected white corn" as a gift recently. Apparently it comes from Suber's Mill in Greer, SC and is sought after north of the Mason-Dixon.

I'm by no means a cook, but I know this stuff can be used to make corn bread. I love corn bread, but I'm not clear on how to make it. I suppose I need a cast iron pan and some other ingredients...

So I guess my questions is, how do I start?

Also, what other uses does corn meal have?

posted by wfrgms to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
get some nice oyster mushrooms. dredge in egg or milk, then coat with cornmeal. deep fry in a pan of oil. sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy with your favorite condiment.
posted by gnutron at 11:01 AM on July 11, 2008

You can make corn bread in any kind of baking pan. Cast iron might be traditional, I guess, but the stuff I've cooked from corn mean in a glass Pyrex dish was just fine.

Throw in some fresh whole-kernel corn for added corn flavor and texture!
posted by caution live frogs at 11:03 AM on July 11, 2008

I've never heard of self-rising corn meal! Make sure you know if it has anything else -- like salt -- added to it too. The internets tell me self-rising corn meal sometimes does.

My cornbread recipe calls for two cups of stone-ground corn meal (but I use yellow), a cup of buttermilk, a third cup of vegetable oil, an egg, and a bit of salt. (It also calls for leavening, but you've got that.) Mix it up into a batter, it'll be about pancake-batter viscosity.

Pour into a well-greased skillet and put it in the oven at 375 for about 20 mins. So quick and so good!
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:03 AM on July 11, 2008

SImply put, you start with a cookbook. There are tons of things you can do with cornmeal besides make cornbread. You can make spoon bread or fried green tomatoes, dredge catfish or chicken with it, or sprinkle it on a pizza stone so the dough won't stick. Here's the Foodtv listing of recipes with cornmeal.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:04 AM on July 11, 2008

Oops, I got so excited about cornbread that I missed your part about not having a skillet. (Though you should get one anyway, they are cheap, useful, and will last past your lifetime.)

My grandmama sometimes makes her cornbread in muffin tins so she can freeze them and have cornbread whenever she wants it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:05 AM on July 11, 2008

SImply put, you start with a cookbook.

And you could do a whole lot worse than Crescent Dragonwagon's Cornbread Gospels. Highly recommended.
posted by box at 11:09 AM on July 11, 2008

You could make your own polenta (Alton Brown's savory polenta, for example). Also, Marcela Hazan's excellent cookbook has good recipes for home-made polenta, I believe.

Disclaimer: Personally, I hate the stuff, but apparently my boyfriend loves it and cooks it often when I'm out of town; at least that was his explanation for the giant bag of cornmeal in the kitchen pantry.
posted by halogen at 11:11 AM on July 11, 2008

(Beaten on preview, but continuing anyway) I this book, which is chock full of several varieties of cornbreads. Southern, Northern, Southwest, less sweet, more sweet, cornpone, johnnycakes, what have you. The main theme is cornbread, but it goes beyond into other "breads" that use cornmeal such as cornmeal pancakes. Also has several tasty sounding hush puppy recipes in 'em. Say yes to hush puppies.

Speaking of hush puppies, I personally like "flouring" my catfish in it for a fry. Other white-fleshed fish also taste very good fryed in a pan like this (OMG TROUT). Just needs salt and pepper on the fish (or mixed into the cornmeal, though people will argue about this technique) and fry in a pan/skillet with hot oil.

Also, if you like stuffing, you can bake your own cornbread to make cornbread stuffing. Homemade cornbread is so damn good.
posted by kkokkodalk at 11:13 AM on July 11, 2008

While it seems that what you're hoping to do is find things to do with your corn meal other than corn bread, I still would like to offer some advice on the corn bread front.

For best results when baking cornbread in a cast-iron skillet, you should use bacon grease in the pan instead of shortening or cooking oil or what-have-you. Put the bacon grease in the pan, put the pan in the oven to preheat and then when it's up to temperature pour in your batter. It should sizzle as it goes in.

I'm a generation removed from my Southern roots, but my mother has always told me that authentic southern cornbread should be made only with white cornmeal and should not be sweet. So when you're looking for cornbread recipes, avoid the ones with sugar added.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:17 AM on July 11, 2008

amigo pie delicious, easy, flexible
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you have wood floors, use a good dusting of cornmeal on the floor before your next dance party. It helps protect against scuffing and enhances dancing pleasure.
posted by quarterframer at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2008

It's not 100% responsive, but pancakes taste better if you substitute up to 25% corn meal for flour.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2008

I actually start the skillet on the stove on high, toss in a little corn meal into the fat and wait for it to smoke. Then pour in the batter and move it to the oven.

/also I agree that true southern cornbread should NOT be sweet
posted by jockc at 11:24 AM on July 11, 2008

Oh and since cherries are really good right now, you might try making these scones from Arizmendi. They are incredibly delicious.
posted by quarterframer at 11:27 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could make your own polenta

I was coming in here to say that, or grits, until I saw that it's self-rising corn meal. Don't do it. Polenta that tastes of bicarbonate of soda and tartaric acid would be nastorama.
posted by Stewriffic at 11:34 AM on July 11, 2008

Tamale pie and the like are great for when you get sick of just plain cornbread -- it's rich, piping-hot filling with a crumbly cornbread crust. You can also make it using your favorite chili or shepherds pie filling rather than the tamale ingredients.

I also second the hush puppy idea.
posted by vorfeed at 11:37 AM on July 11, 2008

True southern cornbread: (as made in northern Mississippi/southern Tennessee) (adjust for self-rising)

1 cup white cornmeal
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil + 1 tablespoon for preheating skillet

Put 1 tablespoon oil in cast iron skillet, and preheat skillet in oven at 500 degrees F.

Sift together cornmeal, flour, salt, soda, and baking powder into a bowl. Add egg, oil, and buttermilk until mixture is the consistency of thin cake batter. Pour into skillet which has been heating in oven. Be careful because it may splatter, but the high temperature is important because it creates the crust.

Bake at 500 degrees F until done (you can insert a toothpick in the middle, and it comes out clean).

Making dressing (again, southern dressing, which in other areas is called "stuffing"; this is good with not only turkey but also other meats)

Make cornbread as above, but use 2 eggs and add 1 small chopped onion. After baking, crumble cornbread into a large bowl, add 3 eggs, 1 heaping teaspoon sage, pepper, and enough turkey or chicken broth to make it soupy. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes.
posted by Houstonian at 11:59 AM on July 11, 2008 [6 favorites]

An Idea
posted by timsteil at 12:01 PM on July 11, 2008

Just cook the cornmeal, and some salt and water in a pan and you have a hoecake!

Known as "hoecake" because field hands often cooked it on a shovel or hoe held to an open flame. Hoes designed for cotton fields were large and flat with a hole for the long handle to slide through. The blade would be removed and placed over a fire much like a griddle.

Hoecake is notably the namesake of the cakewalk dance form. During the 19th century, slaveholders would hold dance competitions for their slaves, offering hoecake as a reward to the winner. Then known as the chalk line dance, the form became known as the cakewalk when it rose to prominence with the advent of ragtime music.

The hoecake is also known as the johnny-cake, the Shawnee cake, the ash cake, and the no cake.

posted by xammerboy at 12:12 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Vegan black bean cornbread pie! I'd assume you'd leave out the baking powder.

Uh, scroll down a bunch if you don't want to hear moral objections to the use of eggs. For the record, we make the cornbread part with melted butter instead of oil and skip the scallions and cilantro (laziness, the boy hates cilantro). It tastes pretty good and makes a couple meals for two people.

You could always get adventurous and improvise some kind of southwestern pot pie with a similar cornbread crust.
posted by giraffe at 12:29 PM on July 11, 2008

Mmmm cornbread. Now I'm hungry.

(Yes, this is seconding cornbread. Cornbread muffins are great with soup or chili too.)
posted by rokusan at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2008

Seconding hush puppies. Nom nom nom nom nom *drool*
posted by brain cloud at 1:39 PM on July 11, 2008

I believe this is from Deborah Madison's cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone Polenta Pound Cake
(one loaf serves 8 to 10)

1/4 lb. butter
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large brown eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup sour cream or yoghurt
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 cup a.p. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush a loaf pan with small amount of butter and dust with flour to prevent sticking.
Cream together the butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, then the flavorings and sour cream. Stir in the cornmeal, then the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Pour batter into the loaf pan, smooth top, and give the pan a sharp rap on the prep table to remove air pockets. Place in the center of the oven and bake approximately 1 hour or until top is golden and wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool and turn out of pan. Serve with a seasonal fruit compote and ice cream or whipped cream.
posted by hazel at 2:53 PM on July 11, 2008

Just a note, since you've got self rising cornmeal, it has baking soda, baking powder, and salt (I imagine) already mixed it. I don't think you'll be able to successfully substitute it for regular cornmeal, particularly in the sweet cake and pancake recipes above. It will have a notably salty taste (that would be ten kinds of gross in pancakes) and will mess with how much the baked item rises since the amount of leavening in the recipe is that for a reason.

Seems to me you're basically going to have to stick with cornbread and variations thereof. As a person from Southern Tennessee, Houstonian's recipe gets my seal of approval.
posted by mostlymartha at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2008

Whenever I make cornbread, I always chop some sliced jalapenos and add those to the batter before cooking. Trappey's is my favorite brand of jalapenos, thy are crispy, not mushy. I also add some corn niblets.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:06 PM on July 11, 2008

I want to thank everyone for the advice and suggestions. I cooked up some cornbread yesterday for a family dinner and it came out great.

Maybe I'll bring some to the next Chicago MeFi meetup? ;-)

Thanks again!
posted by wfrgms at 8:58 AM on July 13, 2008

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