Recipe: Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

Blueberry cornmeal cake.

Blueberry cornmeal cake.

While the star relationship of this blog is the one between corn and alkaline substrates, the star pairing in this recipe is between the blueberries and lemon zest. The sweet cornmeal cake makes a great, full-bodied delivery for these two, letting them shine slightly brighter than a regular flour cake would. As always nixtamal makes a wonderful substitute for the regular cornmeal, and also makes for a softer cake.  Continue reading

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Recipe: Jonnycake Bread (The Bryant House Restaurant)

I’ve yet to tackle cornbread or jonnycakes on this blog, and for good reason: this is an area of great contention. Everyone has a great cornbread recipe they righteously defend, and the same is true for jonnycakes. For many, love of the latter even extends to the right kind of cornmeal to use. Perhaps one day I’ll have an informed opinion on jonnycakes (while, on the other hand, I’m no exception to the cornbread rule!), but in the meantime, this cake recipe from The Bryant House Restaurant, courtesy of Bon Appetit, will have to do.  Continue reading

Perspective: The Cultural (and Emotional) Side of Food; or, “if they complain, I’m never cooking for them again.”

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Food is often exalted as an important aspect of heritage, of culture, and even emotion. Yet, many times, underlying this exaltation is an assumption that food, and especially taste, is inherently biological, that what I think is good to eat is the same for all people. What taste good to me, what looks good to me, tastes and looks good to everyone else. Since I like chocolate and milk and bacon, all others must. These things taste good to me, so they must taste good to you. As such, we are quick to call attention to those foods that are strange or seem even inedible to us as disgusting or gross, and we never think twice about it. By viewing food and taste as inherently biological, we treat these negative words as facts, and not what they are–judgements. Continue reading

Recipe: Sweet Cornmeal Pie

Sweet cornmeal pie, with a homemade crust.

Sweet cornmeal pie, with a homemade crust.

With the days growing shorter, the leaves beginning to change, and the temperature beginning to drop, one of my favorite times of the year approaches: roasting and baking time. This marks the first of what I’m sure will be numerous recipes to follow that deal with various ways hominy and related products can be incorporated within these two culinary methods. This recipe for a simple sweet pie is made with cornmeal, not hominy, but I’ve substituted the 1/2 c. cornmeal for a 1/2 c. finely ground nixtamal and it worked just fine. I also enjoy adding both cinnamon and nutmeg, giving the pie a more seasonal flavor. Continue reading

Homemade Hominy

close up, mexican posole, hulls removed, 3

Whole kernel, nixtamalized hominy.

Let us be clear–this post is about making your own nixtamalized hominy, your own boiled maize kernels that have been soaked in an alkaline substrate, which will not only make processing them easier, but will also enhance their flavor. If you simply want to soak your dried corn in water then grind/cook it, this is not the post for you. You may argue that this is hominy just the same, but I’m taking a historical perspective–for centuries, hominy was nixtamalized, maize and alkaline treatment married in a prolific foodway. This may not be the hominy you know, but this is the hominy you will soon learn to make if you keep reading. Continue reading

Food History and Recipe: Hominy Muffins (Rufus Estes, 1911)

On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes's book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.

On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes’s book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.

Despite recent misinformation regarding Rufus Estes (he was, in fact not the first African-American cookbook writer, but he was the first African-American railway cookbook writer), this recipe for hominy muffins, as well as the life and occupation of its author, provides a fascinating snapshot of the social and cultural associations attached to hominy during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Continue reading

Buying Specialty Corns

Like most fruits and vegetables, there are hundreds of varieties of corn, each with its own peculiarities and nuances. However, I’ll bet that unlike apples or tomatoes, your local grocery store doesn’t carry several varieties. In fact, for most varieties of corn, you’ll have to grow it if you want to eat it.

What follows is not a list of all corns known, but instead specific varieties I’ve been able to source on the Internet. (Most generalized hominy or heirlooms corns, such as “white hominy corn” or “yellow cornmeal” are not included.) Some are from seed companies, where a pound may run $25 or more. Some, though, are more economical. Most of those listed under cornmeal are already ground, and to date, none indicate they were nixtamalized. Continue reading

Soured Corns (1922, 2015): A Tale of Two Fermentations

Sour sweet corn, from Garden & Gun.

Sour sweet corn, from Garden & Gun.

Many people are surprised when they find out that the native groups who lived in the prehistoric and early historic Eastern Woodlands did not make their own fermented, alcoholic beverages. This wasn’t for lack of suitable materials–corn, as many know, makes a fine beer and liquor. History and culture are likely the culprits. Continue reading

Ode to Maize (1952), Pablo Neruda

Chilean, Pulitzer winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Pulitzer winning, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

While Pulitzer-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda is well-known internationally for his love poems, he also wrote many odes which were celebrations of ordinary things–an artichoke, salt, a large tuna in the market, his socks. Some of the odes are dedicated to important influences in his life, such as the poet Walt Whitman, or the act of aging. Continue reading