Making cornmeal from dried corn (or how I saved the corn from the compost.)

Earlier this year, we purchased cobs of corn from the farmer’s market. When I shucked them, two of the pieces were almost completely dried out. Most certainly too far-gone to boil that night and eat. My husband’s famous line of “Why don’t we throw it in the compost?” rang through the house. No way! I bought this corn, I was going to use it! Zero waste doesn’t only count for no trash in the bin, it means not wasting, period. I wasn’t about to feed the compost good corn. Popcorn ran through my head. Which got me to thinking….the Native Americans dried corn to make a type of cornbread…why couldn’t I?

I left the corn  on a baking sheet for at least two months to completely dry out on the back porch. My husband checked it constantly. “It hasn’t molded yet,” he’d say. I wasn’t sure about the time frame, but I knew it shouldn’t mold for a while.We pulled the dried kernels off and placed them in an air tight container to deal with later.

A few weeks later, I opened it to discover a bit of mold on the very ends. “Augh! I should have done this weeks ago,” I thought. But I threw it all in the food processor anyway, and thought about not telling my man. I do that sometimes when I drop food on the floor and I figure he won’t know the difference. I worked in restaurants for years. (Spoiler! They do it there too.) Lifting the lid, a dusty swirl made me cough. Great. I probably inhaled mold spores. That was my punishment for attempting to feed my husband moldy corn. I convinced myself the small amount of mold now hung in the air, not in the cornmeal. Ah, but I didn’t get sick or die the next day, so all was good.

The two corn cobs worth of kernels didn’t make enough for an entire mess of cornbread, but it did give me almost one full cup!

The one at the top is cornmeal from the package. The cornmeal at the bottom is from dried corn I bought at the farmer’s market. A little less processed and a bit more dense.

I created this recipe as I went along , taking a few steps off the internet and a few from the cornmeal package I normally use to make my cornbread:

1. I mixed  the cup of “homemade cornmeal” with 1  and 1/4 cups cornmeal out of the package (stone-ground cornMEAL, not cornmeal MIX). The packaged cornmeal was much softer, more like flour.  The homemade corn meal was more like sand. It didn’t want to process much more than that.
2. I added 1 and 3/4 tbsp baking powder,  a little more than 3/4 tsp salt, and 1 and 1/2 cups 2% milk.
3. I added two lightly beaten eggs to this, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup olive oil.
4. Oiled the pan and poured it in.

25 minutes later, I had a look…

It tasted a tad dry, but otherwise spot on with my normal cornbread. And I could pronounce every single ingredient!

What I’d do differently next time:
1. Use buttermilk instead of regular milk. It creates a moister corn cake.
2. Not dry the corn out for months on the back porch. I’m pretty sure it was as dry as it was going to get within two weeks.
3. I’d hang the corn in order to dry it faster.
4. I wouldn’t wait so long to throw it in the food processor. Because it was fresh, without all the preservatives, it did begin to mold toward the end.
5. AND the next time I do it, I’m going to dry out 5 to 6 pieces of corn and try it COMPLETELY homemade. This time I just wanted to see if it worked.

Well, it did. If making your own food is so darn easy, I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this all along. The only time-consuming part was waiting for the corn to dry out. Next time, I’ll look for older corn. Fresh corn on the cob is sooo much cheaper than buying the meal/mix.

I figured something out all by myself AND it worked. I feel like I won the lottery!

Now how pretty is that?


32 responses to “Making cornmeal from dried corn (or how I saved the corn from the compost.)

  1. indeed you won the lottery with this adventure in retro-culinary art…
    it is so satisfying to feel the textures and unsweetened taste of homemade foods. bravo on the conserving end of the food spectrum..

    careful with cereal molds, they can be rather the black rye one which can send you into fits of burning sensations and nerve damage..(St Vitus dance?)

    i hang corn, mushrooms, berries and fruit slices to dry in front of a fan, or in a drafty place, in winter above the stove or vents. (oven if already warm from baking.)

    • Nadine, how long do you let your fruits and veggies hang to dry out? And how quickly do you have to use them up once they dry? Will be super careful on the mold! Now I’m freaked out! Yikes!

      • no freaking necessary –head for library or, better yet, a mycologist’s site..hunt for the minor molds and mildew sub genus..fungal foes..and you’ll see what to avoid. i just sniff and tell if danger lurks in the grain.

        now..mushrooms must be air dried as fast as possible to avoid cross contamination of whatever makes them melt and disappear in a disgusting mass of gunk. got your attention? ok, string with fishing line or thread. hang above a source of heat and ample draft. 2-3 days till shrunken and brittle–wait one more dry day..feel the flakes, store in clean dry jar..keeps forever.
        fruits same, but make sure each slice is separate from others. apples and pears dry in 2-3 days this way..i like fans, they are economical and cut the drying in half. and keep flies off your dinner too.

        if peaches pears or banana seem too ripe to dry, make fruit leather..mmm!

        carrots, celery, parsnips turnips all dry well in 3 days thin sliced. squash same, but pick young..they make great chips for snacking.
        tomatoes, curl your toes..full sun or oven @ 200 for 2 hrs. use nylon mesh or cotton muslin to keep little friends off the preservation project.
        nadinesellers at gee male dot …for further detail if needed.

      • @ nadinesellers – fruit leather??? sounds interesting…
        @ Jennifer – isn’t it awesome to make your own food (or an ingredinet) and see that it works. I love it. Next time you might want to ask those people at the farmers market if they are willing to sell you an older cobs for even cheaper than the good ones.
        and that part where you talk about not telling Matthew about the mold or food that fell on the floor… I do exactly the same. Once my husband told me that he stopped watching me working in the kitchen because he doesn’t want to see how I make stuff (because he would want to eat it). He is a food freak, if something falls on the floor even a spoon or a napking he won’t use it again. if a spoon has a small spot (for water) he won’t use it. If for example there is a basket with sliced bread that everybody can eat from he won’t eat that bread if there was somebody before him who touched the bread – it doesn’t matter if that person didn’t touch any other slice only the one that she/him took. He won’t eat it. He shares food with my and our daughter but with nobody else! Period. So having a guy who is that serious about his food I would have to throw a half of the food I make because I always drop something or use a spoon that previously lied in the sink. I don’t care, I know I’m not going to die from it… but he’s something else… 😉
        Anyway, I need to try this recipe for cornbread. I have never baked a cornbread… one of those things that’s new to me since living in U.S.

  2. I’ve never dried my own food before! This is so exciting! I have two turnips left and am about stewed out. Turnip chips sound fun!

  3. We found an old fashioned grinder at a farm sale and we grind our own corn for ourselves and our chickens. Kids love to turn the handle. We also have a corn sheller (same sale) that takes the corn off the husk for grinding. It’s a treat for visitors, so we hardly ever have to turn it ourselves anymore.

  4. Thanks for the link. You put my feeble efforts to shame. Sounds utterly delicious.

    • Kitchen Slattern, are you kidding? If it weren’t for you, I would know NOTHING about white corn meal. I didn’t even know that existed. I wonder if I could make it from white corn….see, here we go again! This is not normal behaviour on my part. This whole lifestyle is a real experiment. I mean, I’ve always been cheap as hell, but I never, EVAH cooked. Hated it. What a pleasant surprise to discover I really could survive if I got lost in the wood….in Oregon! 🙂

  5. @ Ewa—(I’m not calling you Polish Mom Photographer anymore. It’s too long to type!) LOL.
    I LOVED the story of your husband. SO funny! I wonder if some of that is due to the military. Everything has to be spotless and just so.
    If you keep the recipe—be sure you use buttermilk instead of normal milk. It makes all the difference. It will come out too dry and I want you to like it. If it’s too dry the first time, you might not want to make it again.
    Good to know I’m not the only one that drops food on the floor and still eats it!

    • just keep those floors clean girls! germs are good for you, well the ones that don’t kill you–it is true that children (and parents) who are TOO clean never become sufficiently inoculated against a variety of harmful bacteria.
      so, wash your paws and keep making great food.
      i totally sympathize with ewa; same here..and mine was never militarized.
      so it’s a cultural adjust to with love.

    • oh, Dear! clean and spotless!? not in his case, that’s the irony. when I met him he was using paper plates and plastic untesils so he could throw them away after each using. can you imagine?!
      The thing is that he got really bad stomach probles while being abroad(s) in the military (he still has it) and that’s why he is so picky about his food and the cleaneness around it. He can get REALLY sick from food but I know that it’s not from the piece of carrot I dropped on the floor and then cooked all the bacteria out of it… but still he is stuborn and I am stuborn. We’ve compromised: he doesn’t watch me cooking 😉

      For the buttermilk I’ll remember. It’s a thing that it’s always in my fridge as it helps me to fight with my heartburn and I crave it A LOT these days.

      Nadine… you should see what I was eating and from where… I’m still alive, with zero allergies (the same all my siblings). I keep my house cleen but it’s not spotless, and if something falls on the floor I let my daughter to pick it up and eat… she even ate doggy food from our dog dish at the same time as the dog was eating, and I think it was hilarious 😉

      • Ohhhhh. So it’s not a military thing. I hate to hear about your husband’s tummy troubles. That’s frustrating.
        I plan on letting my kid eat dogfood too. I hear it’s really nutritious. The baby I used to nanny for always got into it. I would have to pry it out of her mouth, she refused to give it up. I was so afraid I was going to get fired, but her mother would just laugh.

      • water is still cheap so you can rinse whatever has fuzz on it, right? buttermilk does settle the stomach if you are not lactose intolerant
        herbal tricks work well in a digestive aid tea..–mint, cloves, ginger and chamomile .
        laying hands on stomach, your own or his..while thinking gentle thoughts works wonders.
        i am going to take a few days to organize my desert book and try to put up some posts that need airing as they are mildewing in my files. so if you want, write to my e address. i’ll check that. ns

      • @Jenn, I was an AuPair to a family that wouldn’t let me give to the kids food that fell off on the floor (even if it was there for a few seconds).
        The only issue I had while my daughter was eating from that doggy dish it was that our dog would snap at her or do something worse, so I watched her from very close distance. Our dog is the most loving creature but who knows when it comes to food, before our daughter she didn’t have to deal with anybody stealing her
        They both did good, though.

      • @ Nadine,
        buttermilk or milk, both work great. Lately I prefere buttermilk just for the taste of it.
        As for the tea, they gives me hearburn if not sweetened (but I hate sweet teas). I crave teas, though so I have to drink them with honey or maple syrup. They are not that bad but after I’m done carring that baby of mine I definitely will stop drinking sweet teas again!!!

  6. @ Ewa—Dogs are so amazingly gentle with babies. It’s like they just know.

  7. Where’s the “love” button?
    I’ve recently started grinding a lot of my own flours. I’m done with white flour, so I’ve been experimenting with everything from oatmeal flour to black bean flour. I find a coffee grinder is great for small quantities (I never need more than a few cups for a recipe anyway) as the food processor leaves too many gritty bits.
    Do you make your own buttermilk? All you have to do is add some lemon juice or vinegar (google for how much based on your amount of milk) and let it sit for a few minutes. Voila! Buttermilk. You can do it with any milk from skim all the way up to full fat. Saves us a bundle.

    • to make your own buttemilk you need to use 1 Tbsp of lemon juice (I prefer that over vinegar) for 1 cup of milk. I like to use it in baking but for drinking I need to have the store bought. It’s just taste different and have a different consistency. But Lesley is right, to make your own saves a lot. It would be even better if you could get a raw milk straight from the farmer. Then you could make the best buttermilk ever – the real one 🙂

      • I had no idea it was so easy to make butter milk! Ewa, you have to check out Lesley’s blog. She does a lot of the same stuff we do, is super crafty, makes her own food and is a fantastic photographer, besides the fact she’s painfully honest! If we keep running into people like this, I’m telling you—we could have our own t.v. show! LOL!

    • Lesley, thanks for the “love!” I had no idea making your own food was so darn easy. Your site has been a huge inspiration to me. Bean flour? That is awesome. I didn’t even know that existed. Made from dried beans?
      Is it working/helping with the tummy troubles?
      My tummy has been doing so well lately, I can’t believe it. The only thing I’ve cut out is the sugar. And I noticed the past two weeks, my hair isn’t falling out anymore either! (Which is weird because I’m even more stressed this month than I have been so it has to be something with the food, don’t you think?)

      • The extra fiber (especially soluble as opposed to insoluble) has been a blessing. Unless I mess up and eat something I know I shouldn’t, my tummy is perfect. I don’t even need the prescription stuff anymore.
        Yes, the bean flour is just from dried beans. I made awesome black bean brownies (with canned beans) that were just as good, if not better than regular brownies. I haven’t used the flour in any breads yet, but it works great as a thickener in soups and gravies.
        I’m experimenting a lot with different things to grind into flour, because I can’t stand rice flour, and that’s the most common gluten free flour. I just don’t see how refined and bleached rice flour is any better than refined wheat flour. That and I just don’t like the flavour. Grinding oatmeal so far is my favourite. (bean brownie recipe)

      • new follower of Lesley I am, then 🙂

  8. @ Nadine, you make me laugh! I promise I rinse stuff off!!
    As they say in Brazil, Nadine is “submerging” as if heading under water to write and create. Will be pinging you by email! Write away!

  9. The cornbread looked really good…you are so brave to try these things out..guess that is how new recipes are discovered.

  10. @ Lesley–I tried making black bean brownies before out of a cook book and they tasted like poop. Not that I know what poop tastes like, but it had to be pretty darn close. I’ll try these! Maybe I’ll have better luck. I’m not giving up on the black bean brownie. I saw them on the Dr. Oz show. They looked sooo good!

    @ Donna—Experimenting is more fun than I thought it would be. BUT I’m not working full-time. That would be a totally different story! YOU taught me to think outside the box!

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  14. Try popcorn to cornmeal better than store bought any day. With the whole germ it’s better food you too. I also only grind what I need at the time, so I don’t have cornmeal hanging around my cabinets. I try to make what I can when ever possible and it really comes through in the finish product. I use a coffee grinder or a vitamix.

  15. Try popcorn to cornmeal better than store bought any day. With the whole germ it’s better for you too. I also only grind what I need at the time, so I don’t have cornmeal hanging around my cabinets. I try to make what I can when ever possible and it really comes through in the finish product. I use a coffee grinder or a vitamix.

    • Cole, I appreciate this information! It’s so helpful. That way I won’t have too much and only what I need per recipe! Thank you!!

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