Cornmeal question

plllog

I promised to make cornpone for my mother awhile ago, but I wasn't feeling well enough to pursue it. There wasn't any coarse cornmeal at the stores where I shop (weird). I figured I'd just mill my own, and planned a meal around it, and the fresher the better, right? But I went to get the corn out of the pantry, and i don't have any dent corn (I don't usually keep it in large quantities, but I thought there might be enough left for the dinner)! There's popcorn, but I think it's not the right thing for the cornpone.


It's not like I can just buy some kind of rustic bread to go with the meal instead (I'm not chasing from store to store to find the right kind of bread, or any bread at all on a weekend), and there's not enough time to bake my own. It occurred to me that the meal would be fine with pan cornbread, but I needed a good recipe, so found one that Arley posted 10 years ago which sounds good.


This is all cornmeal with no sweetening, which is what we mean when we say cornbread (eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, cornmeal, salt), but Arley stressed that the cornmeal should be fresh. I have a box of fine cornmeal which has been in my baking drawer unopened for at least a year. I opened it this morning and it doesn't smell rancid. I tasted it and it didn't taste off in any way.


Do you think it'll be okay? I really don't want to replan the dinner, and don't really have time to experient, but if the consensus is that it won't taste good, I can punt, help the economy and order in.

Thanks!

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sheilajoyce_gw

Yes, go ahead and use it.

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party_music50

I agree that it should be fine. Btw, I haven't been able to find anything but fine grind here for years.

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plllog

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll try it.

So weird about the cornmeal. Coarse used to be a staple.



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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

If I have meal or flour or other grain products that sit around for awhile, I put them in the freezer for a few days to a week to kill any potential pests.

Obviously that wouldn't work right now, but if the cornmeal has no 'off' flavor or smell, I'm sure it's OK.

And I have the opposite problem with finding normal grind cornmeal - most places have only the coarse. I buy organic, so that might be why...

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party_music50

I've never had cornpone so did a search... The wiki entry says it's cornbread made without milk or eggs. It sounds like you're making cornbread without sweetener. Is that what you call cornpone?

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plllog

Arley's recipe is for a Southern style cornbread, which isn't sweetened and doesn't have wheat flour. That's what we, in my family, call "cornbread". It has eggs plus buttermilk/soda for rising, and is baked in the oven, so definitely a bread. The kind with more wheat than corn plus sugar, to me, is cake.

Cornpone can, technically, be baked in greased cast iron, but the grease is important. It's meant to be fried, though I don't turn it, so the bottom is crispy and the top is soft cooked, which isn't so different from baked. I think the baked kind are too hard and dry, but it's something that could probably be perfected if one cared to. Adding a steam element might help. Which feels silly for rustic, trail food.

The traditional way is to fry in cast iron over a woodfire. I use the pan, but just on the kitchen stove, whatever the fuel, and it comes out fine. Campfire, there might be a hint of ash or smoke. We don't miss those. :) It's a bit of a messy bother, so I don't do it often, but a small batch is easy, if a bit of a mess. You make little logs by squeezing a portion in your hand.

Here's the "recipe" I posted years ago. I don't have measures, but just do it like this (minus the commentary).

Cornpone

Ingredients

Corn Meal
Salt
Boiling water
Grease to fry

Notes / Directions

Pour boiling water over coarse yellow cornmeal and a little salt, and let it ... steep? Is that the word? Mature? Bloat? In real trailspeak it's more set it aside while you're doing a bunch of other stuff, but that doesn't explain anything, right? Melt too much fat in a cast iron pan (or shovel blade), make fat fingers of dough (or a wad in your fist), and fry 'em up. Some people put a little baking soda in, but I don't know enough food science to know what that does.

ETA--this is traditional cornpone. The words have all run together, however, and in the country in general, "cornbread" and "cornpone" can mean just about any kind of quickbread or cake that the speak cares to say. Like when people say "pound cake" and actually mean what the cookbooks usually call a butter cake, which has baking powder, whereas the traditional meaning of pound cake is what in French is called quatre quarts (four quarters), with equal weights ("pounds" which don't literally have to be 16 oz.) of eggs, flour, butter and sugar, and only rises by the whole eggs (i.e., not much. Some people can't stand that and whip the eggwhites or cheat by adding baking powder). But some people, especially in the South, I think, use "pound cake" to mean plain cake, and basic cake, like your standard layer cake (Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk, baking powder, vanilla), where the base weights can be equal, but there's more to it, including the baking powder. It gets confusing when all the words don't mean specific things.

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

Similar to fried mush and sauteed or baked polenta, IMO.

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plllog

Carol, I've never had fried mush, but the flavor is really pretty different from polenta. It's sour.

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

Maybe it's fermented a bit? How long does it sit? Is that at room temperature?

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plllog

It's the unsweetened yellow cornmeal that has a sour (good sour) flavor. I've made it from fresh ground as well as boxed, and it has that same flavor. Bad sour comes from the meal being rancid. Polenta is a different color so I assume it's a different kind of corn. It's sweeter. It has a different texture, too. The cornmeal and water doesn't sit that long. An hour? A little more? Just so that it soaks up all the liquid. I think it must cool to room temp because I don't remember it being particularly warm to handle.

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ediej1209 AL Zn 7

DH refuses to eat cornbread that's been sweetened, that it's not bread, that's cake. I have known people who use regular whole milk and add sour cream for the tang. Never made it that way but I would imagine they would still have to use baking soda or it would be a big corn pancake. My favorite part of traditional Appalachian cornbread (which, b-t-w, is made with WHITE cornbread) is that fantastic crust. Oil the cast-iron frying pan, yes, not too much, about 1/4" at most, we go more for 1/8", put it in the oven to get screaming hot. You hear that sizzle when dough meets pan and it's hard to let it stay in the oven long enough!

Anyway by now I'm sure you've had your dinner and everything was fine!

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lindac92

Polenta cam be any color corn....the polenta I had in Italy was yellow.
Only whole grain cornmeal will quickly get rancid The Quaker stuff in the round box keeps nearly forever. Bib's red mill makes a stone ground corn meal that is likely what you are remembering what you are describing as pone is what I know as hoe cake....because they tarted out being cooked on a hoe near the fire. Hoe cakes are baked dry....hush puppies are fried.
Baking soda softens dried grains....aids on cooking things like dry beans and peas.
I like the New England version of corn bread....with flour as well as corn, whole wheat flour and served with molasses. When made with raisins and steamed it's called Boston Brown Bread.

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plllog

Well, obviously our cornpone is not your hoe cakes because it is generally fried. My family don't do hush puppies, and the ones I've seen around here are deep fried, rather than pan fried, and more like fried dumplings. As I said, the words are completely imprecise. Another name is corn dodgers. The cornpone discussions don't have the vitriol that cornbread does. There are often discussions, but it's more about yes or not to baking soda, bacon grease or lard or oil, whether it should have a drizzle of butter or honey, or completely unadulterated except for mopping up your plate. But, that's for the hot water, corn meal, salt, fried kind. Some people use the word for the quickbread/cornbread.

Interesting about the polenta. What I've had both here and in Italy has been more beige, and definitely has a different flavor. I've never used Quaker or Bob's cornmeal. I don't think I've ever seen a package of the Quaker. There are a couple of popular West Coast brands that have been sold locally my whole life. It's a pantry staple, and I always have some. I was off grain for awhile and did little baking, which is why the old new box. I usually get Albers (blue and orange), but I also like the yellow box.

Thank-you, Linda for explaining the baking soda! I've tried several times to find the answer to that. Also for the whole grain comment. I didn't know that that was an issue with corn. When I mill my own, I'm using whole kernels and haven't noticed a qualitative difference from boxed (which is why I've been sticking with the box, most of the time). I'll have to pay more attention when I get my bag of dent corn, and learn more about corn processing.

I've heard the term Boston Brown Bread before, but didn't know it had corn in it! Nor have I heard of molasses on cornbread. That sounds good! Here, people often use honey. I like the flavor of honey on cornbread, but it's too sweet.


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plllog

I got so caught up in the cornpone discussion, I forgot to report on the cornbread. It was a success. Good recipe. I used a cast iron frying pan because it's the only thing I had that size that I felt comfortable heating up to 450° F. My oven really means it at a given temperature, and even though I set the timer for the minimum, between the cast iron and the accurate heat, it was just a bit over. Still good, but next time, I'll use a lower temperature. I've also found a square aluminum pan with a commercial style big rolled edge and a plastic lid on Amazon. To carry my cornbread, I had to put it in a cheesecake pan, into my pie carrier (or I could have used a cardboard box). I just wanted the pan, but the lid is a bonus.

On the first bite, one person said, "You can taste the butter," which made me blink. :) The only fat is the two egg yolks (to 2 cups cornmeal and 2 cups buttermilk) and whatever is left of the natural corn oil in the cornmeal.

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annie1992

plllog, that sounds good, I like pretty much all cornbread, from cornmeal waffles with cheese to hoecakes to corn muffins. I like it best baked in a cast iron pan with a bit of bacon grease, I put the pan in the oven until it's hot and the grease melts, then pour in the batter and it makes that nice crunchy crust. Served with sorghum molasses, rather than my plain old baking molasses, yum.

Elery's sister did lecture me on cornbread when I first met her, she told me if it wasn't white cornmeal and it had sugar, it wasn't cornbread, it was cake. I just shrugged and told her I liked it all. I like the corn muffins with yellow corn and a bit of sugar for a breakfast muffin, I like corn waffles with ham and cheddar cheese mixed in for breakfast topped with a fried egg. I like plain unsweetened cornbread with a pot of beans or a bowl of chili. I've eaten the yellow cornmeal my whole life, Grandma called it "johnny cake", so I've been making yellow cornbread (unsweetened) for as long as Elery's sister has been making white cornbread, and I refrained from pointing that out, because she was obviously set on telling me the "right" way to do it. Whatever, although I'm not quite sure why she thought the Native Americans didn't grind corn. As I said, I like it all, so I happily ate it, with a second helping of pinto beans. After I enthusiastically entered into a conversation about field dressing a deer, which was obviously meant to put me off (thus the enthusiasm), Elery's cousin looked him in the eye and said "I don't know where you found this one, but she ain't no Yankee". LOL I had to gently break it to him that I was, indeed, a Yankee and that not only have I spent my life gutting deer and baking cornbread, I was even growing a couple of rows of the beloved pink half runner beans. And so I passed the "test", LOL.

Elery says his mother used to bake a "pone" of biscuits, but all that meant in his part of Tennessee was that it was baked in a square pan, like a cake, instead of in individual biscuits.

I can get white, yellow, finely ground and coarsely ground cornmeal here from the local Amish store, as well as corn kernels dried to grind my own.

Annie

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lindac92

Corn meal from your own whole corn kernals is heaven. I had a friend who would supply me with some from her field of field corn....but they they started with that Round-up ready stuff and she said she didn't want to eat it ( but fed it to the pigs and steers that we are going to eat!!!) also love sorghum molasses.....and I think my jar is nearly empty. I also use it in bread sometimes.

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plllog

When the world gets unweird I'll have to get some sorghum molasses. :) I graped my little avocado honey bear to go with the cornbread if someone wanted sweeter. Some was used. I don't have bacon grease, so the pan had brown butter. Nice crust but not super crunchy.

I've made cornpone once from freshly milled corn from the bulk bin (which is usually fresher than the packages). It tasted just like made from the boxed cornmeal, but fried might hide the difference. When my 15# of organic corn from the farmer comes, and my new pan (on socially responsible no rush from Amazon) I'll try it and compare.


Here's the link to the thread with Arley's cornbread recipe--and everybody else's! https://www.gardenweb.com/discussions/2471862/cornbread-anyone#n=15

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2ManyDiversions

plllog, how did I miss this? I'm so glad your cornbread was a success : ) I'm utterly impressed you mill your own cornmeal!!! Here, we can buy cornmeal in several forms (well, not right now, mind you, but in unweird times), including coarse.

I've never made traditional cornpone. DH refers to cornmeal (not sweetened, not fried unless you count getting the fat in the cast iron screaming hot in the oven, the sizzle that occurs when I drop in the batter before putting it in the oven) as pone. As in cornpose : ) I made hoe cakes once, and either it was a bad recipe, or not to my tastes, as I disliked it - too dry, very little taste compared to cornbread.

Chuckled about the butter comment.... but perhaps their taste buds did taste butter! I do like butter on my cornbread.

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plllog

Well, this cornbread was fine cornmeal from the box. The kind one scatters under bread or pizza, and wanted a new box of coarse at Thanksgiving and my regular stores just aren't selling it. I don't know why. Probably sold the shelf space to some kind of mix, like you need a mix to make cornbread. It's way easier to make than cake!

I sometimes mill corn as a flavoring for bread, and did do it once before for cornpone. I have an inexpensive (for what it is) electric mill with an adjustment for size, and one for speed. It doesn't do superfine, but goes from flour to coarse using a combination of the two settings. Just dump the grain in, put on your ear protectors and it does all the rest. I mill my own wheat for whole wheat bread. Grainlady turned me on to it. My hard red wheat tastes sweet because it's fresh. It can start to go rancid as soon as it's milled. Red wheat is bitter to begin with and my own sense is that this likelihood of going off is an additional reason that so many people put sweetener into whole wheat bread.

Grainlady also said there were three components to the bitterness in red wheat and that some hybrids only have two, and thought that my sweet wheat might be that. Could be, but I did the supertaster tests for three compounds (not necessarily the ones in the wheat) and found all to be bitter (only a quarter of the population can sense any one of them, and fewer can sense all three), so it's not scientific (about what's bitter) or even factual (that bitterness is the reason for the honey/sweet), but I'm sticking to my story (even while I'm telling you it's bogus). :)

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dallasannie

A cornpone is a basic cornmeal mush with salt and it is fried in a skillet with bacon grease. It is something that was not eaten because it was a delicacy or it was delicious. It was eaten because it kept a body fed and filled the hole in the belly and it was cheap. Depression era folks down south would make cornpone. My mother was one of those kids who was fed cornpone. You need a pot of peas or greens to wash that stuff down with. I suppose one could develop a taste for it but I don't expect real cornpone to find it's way onto an urban brunch menu alongside the biscuits and gravy that seems to have become popular with the young urban adults. It's appeal is more limited.

Hush puppies or a good cornbread is much preferred.

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dallasannie

Hint for that cornbread.

After you get you cast iron skillet with the oil in the bottom of it really hot, sprinkle in a thin layer of cornmeal into that hot oil before you put your batter in. Then, after it has baked always turn it out upside down so that the crusty bottom (crusty bottom, heh, heh) will be on the top. You will have nice toasted corn meal and it will be not only beautiful but delicious.

You can also fry up some onions in the skillet before you bake your cornbread. Either leave the fried onions right there in the bottom of the skillet and put your cornmeal right on top, or turn them into the batter. You could also chunk up some red peppers or any kind of chilies and add that to it, as well as some fresh or frozen corn.


I just heat my skillet on the stovetop.

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party_music50

Thanks for explaining the origin of cornpone, dallasannie. That makes a lot of sense.

I never understood the desire for crusty cornbread until my sister gave me one of those cast iron pans that makes a bunch of individual corn-shaped cornbreads. :)

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plllog

Thanks for the tips, Dallasannie. I'll try to remember to try them. :)

I'm in California, so the heritage of cornpone here is more about trail food (i.e., like Johnny cakes, if the derivation I've often heard that that's a spelling to go with the pronunciation of "journey cakes".), but same dif. That's how it came to be fried in a shovel blade, the way hoecakes were cooked on a hoe blade, but the shovel was a necessity of travel, and held the fat, where a hoe was a tool of field work. Agreed, it's a way of making cornmeal palatable to fill the tum. As Annie1992 said up topic, she likes cornbread any way it comes but has literally gone hungry rather than eating mush.

If it's not overcooked, and has been allowed to soak up the water prior to cooking, cornpone doesn't have to be dry. And, yes, people develop a taste for peasant food and "poor" food, because it's often very good. We like cornpone with chili, though Arley's cornbread was nearly as good.

PM, my mother tried some of those pans when I was a kid. They shed enough iron to give me a stomach ache, and I think they do better with a fine cornmeal cornbread recipe than cornpone, which is what she did. I think they're still in the back of a cupboard. :) Perhaps I should try using them for cornbread sticks. :) But I think I'm using up my corn before it even gets here!

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