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The Resilient Gardener

Youcanheatsomeup(inthemicrowave)andadd brownsugarorjamormaplesyrupand/ormilk, cream, or butter. My favorite polenta dessert is Maple-GoldPolentamadewith‘CascadeMapleGoldPolenta’corn.ForthisIuseleftoverpolenta, extrabutter,andpuregrade-Bmaplesyrup(which is much darker and more flavorful than grade A). My variety ‘Cascade Maple-Gold Polenta’ is named both for the color of the pericarp and endosperm of the corn (maple-brown overlyingrich,deepgold)aswellasforthisparticular dessert,forwhichitistheperfectvariety. To grind polenta meal, I simply grind the corn inmyhand-crankCoronamill.(Seethesection in chapter 4 on mills and milling.) My electric impact mill makes a meal that is too fine for polenta.Polentamealshouldbecoarsetogiveit themostappealingcookedtexture.Irunthecorn through the Corona mill initially on a setting justcoarseenoughtocrackthecorn.ThenIrun the cracked corn through a second time with theburrssetasfineaspracticalandexaminethe resulting flour, then open up the space between the burrs until the biggest corn bits are about 2 millimeterslong.Thisisascoarseatextureasone canhaveandstillhavethebiggerbitscookallthe waythroughwithmyrecipe. One cup of whole ground corn grinds into about1¼cupsofpolentameal.Ialwaysmakeat least2cupsofcornmealintopolentaatonce.You needthisamountormore,sincethefinalcooking depends upon the heat retained by the pot and thevolumeoffood.
Quick-Cooking Polenta

6cupsofwater 4Tbs.butterorotherfatoroil ½tsp.salt Toss the butter and salt into the pot with thewaterandbringittoaboil.Thenadd the cornmeal in three batches, whisking each in. After the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the cooking mush for 7 minutes, stirringwithaspatulatheentiretime.Then coverthepot,removeitfromtheheat,and let it sit quietly to finish cooking by itself. After 45 minutes, come back and give the polenta a final stir to stir in some of the waterthatwillhaveseparatedalittlebit.I liketoeatsomeofthepolentahotandladle therestintobread-loafpans,whichIcover andrefrigeratewhencooled.
Carol’s Universal Skillet Bread

2 cups of coarse-ground meal from a true flintcornofpristineflinttype

Ittookmemorethanadecadetodevelop a recipe for making cornbread that tastes great, that holds together well enough to make sandwiches, that doesn’t require any othergrains,andthatdoesn’tneedxanthan gum or other artificial binders. Here’s the primary trick: To hold the corn together, youaddboilingwatertopartofthecornmeal to make it into a sticky semicooked paste. Then you add most of the other ingredients to form a thick, gooey “prebatter.” You add the rest of the cornmeal (containing the baking powder) last. Both the sticky, cooked paste and the eggs help holdthebreadtogetherwellenoughsothat no other grains, milk, or artificial binders areneeded. Igotthebasicconceptofaddingboiling



Skillet Bread Ingredients
(For 2 large loaves of flint corn skillet bread, 6 cupsofcornmealtotal)(Seemodificationsatthe end of the recipe for flour and dent cornmeals aswellashowtoestablishamountsfordifferent varieties.) 3cups(halfofthe)cornmeal,placedinalarge stainlesssteelbowlandwhiskedtobreakup anylumps 4cupsofwater(inapot) 12Tbs.butterorotherfat(2Tbs.percup cornmeal),alsoaddedtothepot 3/4tsp.salt,alsoaddedtothepot 2cupseggs(standingby,tomakethepre-batter) Dryingredients: 3cups(therestofthe)cornmeal,inaseparate bowl,and 2Tbs.Rumfordbakingpowder(whisked togetherwiththecornmeal) Fordirections,seetext(page266). Forflour corn skillet bread,use1/3oftheflour inthepre-batterandcutthewaterto3cups.For dent corn skillet bread, use a pattern between that of full flour and full flint types, depending upon how floury or flinty the particular variety is.Forbuckwheatandteffflours,seenote12-7. Youmayneedtomodifyamountsofwaterand/ orproportionofflourormealinthepre-batter depending upon the specific variety and even themoisturecontentofthelot.Basically,ifyour breadistoodryitneedsmorewater.Ifitistoo moistitneedsless.Ifyourbreadfallsapart,you needalargerproportionofthemealorflourin thepre-batterstepsotherewillbemorepasteto hold the bread together. If your bread is gooey, youneedalesserproportionoftheflourormeal inthepre-batterstep.

water and using the resulting paste from some very old southern white cornbread recipesaswellasfromanoldScottishrecipe foroatcakes.Iraisedtheproportionofpaste andaddedthestainlesssteelbowlandoneminute waiting step as adjustments that resultinabetter-cookedpaste,thusenhancing the bread’s ability to hold together. I also grind my corns in the Whispermill, which gives the finest meal possible; this also helps make bread that holds together well. (One cup of corn makes about 1¼ cups of fine meal.)To my knowledge, this is the only cornbread recipe that produces

cornbreadthatholdstogetherwellenough to make sandwiches.The flour-corn cornbreads hold together even better than the flints; however, both can be used to make sandwiches. The ingredients for skillet bread in the sidebarareforskilletbreadmadefromtrue flintcornsofverypureflinttype.Forthese, Iusehalfthecornmealtomakethesticky pre-batterpaste,anduse2/3asmuchwater (by volume) as cornmeal. For pure flour corns, I use only 1/3 of the flour to make the pre-batter, and I cut the water to half as much water as corn flour. The pattern


The Resilient Gardener

The Dedicated Cornbread Skillet
IhavetwocastironskilletsthatIusefornothing exceptcornbread.Theseareordinaryskillets,not the skillets sometimes called “cornbread pans” thathavelotsofdivisions.Iboughtsuchaskillet, butitwastoosmall,andoilingandcleaningall thoseseparatesectionsistoomuchofapain.I usemycastironskilletsonlyforcornbreadpartly becauseIdon’twantfishorhamburgerflavorsin mybreadorcakes.(Onedoesnoteverwashcast ironwithsoap.Anythingfattycontributestothe permanentcureonthepanandsomewhattothe flavorforawhile.Soapisfatty.)Theothermain reasonIdedicatemycornbreadpanstocornbread isbecausethatwayIneverhavetocleanthem, not even in water. The standard way of cleaningcastironpansistowashtheminwateronly, thenheatthemgentlytodriveoutthewater,then re-oilthem.Here’swhatIdoinstead. WhenItakethecornbreadoutoftheoven, I turn each skillet upside down over a cooling racksothecornbreadloavesfallout.ThenIset thepansdownandpouradollopofcornorother vegetableoilintothehotpanandwipeitaround withapapertowel.(I’mcarefulnottotouchthe skilletswithmybarehandswhiledoingthis,as theyarestillveryhot.)Thenatsomepointlater, aftertheskilletshavecooled,Iremovetheexcess oilwithapapertowel,removinganycrumbsin the process, and giving myself pristine oiled pans.(Ileaveonlytheoilthatwon’tcomeoff.I removeall theexcess.) Istoremycastironskillets upside downon a shelf. They should be stored open to the air. Storingupsidedownpreventsdustfromsettling inthepans.Whenit’stimeforsomemorecornbread, I just pop the pans in the oven to heat them. They are already oiled as much as is needed.Inotonlydon’teverwashmycastiron skilletswithsoap,Ineverevenwashthemwith water.

for dent corns is somewhere in between. (For buckwheat or teff skillet bread, see note12-7.)Mostflourcornanddentcorn varietiestastebestwithsomesugar,about1 tablespoonpercupofflour.Southern-style whitecornbreadismadewithoutsugar. Forflintcornskilletbread,Istartoffbyputting halfthecornmealintoalargestainlesssteelbowl, onethat’sbigenoughtomixeverythingtogether. (Thestainlesssteelmatters,sincethishalfofthe cornmealneedstocookintoastickypastewhen theboilingwaterisadded.Aheavierbowlabsorbs

moreheatandcoolstheingredients.)Theother half of the cornmeal goes into a smaller bowl alongwiththebakingpowder.Iwhiskbothlots of cornmeal to break up any clumps in the dry ingredients and mix in the baking powder. Of courseIuseduckeggsintherecipe,butchicken eggswillworkfine. I set the oven rack on the lowest possible position and preheat the oven to 450°F. (I start preheatingthecastironskilletsatthesametime asIturntheheatontoboilthewater.)BeforeI make the pre-batter, I take the cast iron skillets outoftheoven.(Theskilletsarenotheatedtofull



temperature,whichwouldcausetheoiltosmoke andburn.Ifthebatterboilsandbubbleswhenput intotheskillets,theyaretoohot.) The amounts given are enough for two large cast iron skillets, which will produce two large round loaves. My skillets are 8½ inches and 9 inchesacross,measuredasinternaldimensionsat the base. (Everything around my house is individual.)Thetraditionalpreheatingoftheskillets givesanicecrustaswellasshortensthecooking timeandthusmakesiteasiertobakeacornbread thatcooksallthewaythroughanddoesn’tburn. Firsttossthesaltandbutterorfatoroilintoa potwith4cupsofwaterandturntheheatonto bringittoaboil.Meanwhile,intothepreheated oven go the two cast iron skillets. Bring the water-salt-butter to a boil and dump it into 3 cupsofcornmeal.Thenwhiskitaroundquickly asitcooksandthickensintoalmostasolidmass. Leave the steaming meal for a minute to let it cookfurther.Thenaddtheeggs,whisktoscramblethem,andincorporatethemfully,creatingthe pre-batter.Removethecastironskilletsfromthe hotoven. Dumpthedryingredientsintothepre-batter, whisk them together very rapidly (in about two seconds), and immediately pour or scrape (with theaidofaspatula)halfthebatterintoeachof thetwoskillets.Placethebatter-filledskilletsin the450°Foven. Icheckthebreadat25minutes.SometimesI take it out then. Sometimes it takes an extra 5 minutes.Whenthebreadisdone,thereisanice golden brown crust on top, and the bread has pulledawayfromthesidesoftheskillet. Turn the loaves out on a cooling rack and let them cool for at least half an hour. (The bread tastes good warm but doesn’t taste good hot. I

thinkitisstillcookinganddevelopingitsflavors asitcomesoutoftheoven.)Iletthebreadcool completely,cutoneendoffeachloaftoeat,and puttherestofeachloafinabigZiplocbag.(The wholeroundsdon’tquitefit.)Onebaggoesinto therefrigerator.Theotherstaysatroomtemperatureandiseatenoverthenextthreedays.When thefirstloafisgone,theothercomesoutofthe frig. The bread will keep without molding for onlyaboutthreeorfourdays,sinceitcontainsno preservatives. To make sandwiches, I usually cut the loaf in ½-inchslicesthatareabout1½incheswide,the thicknessoftheloaf,andImakesandwichesthat arelongrectanglesinsteadofsquares.Thesehold togetherbetterthansquaresandareeasiertoget mymoutharound.

Parching Corn My first experience with parching corn was in the living room of my friend and colleague, the irrepressiblerenegadegermplasmcollector,plant breeder,andseedsmanDr.AlanKapuler,otherwise known as “Mushroom.” That particular yearMushroomhadgrownsevendifferentHopi flour corns. When fall came, ’Shroom had ears of the varieties stacked all over his living room. EveryonewhovisitedtheKapulersgothandeda bag of corn and a container to shell into while they were visiting. By late fall, all the bags of earshadbeenturnedintobucketsofkernels,and Mushroom was trying to figure out how to use them.Sohetriedjusttoastingthedifferentkinds ofcorninadrycastironfryingpanandfeeding them(ortryingtofeedthem)tohisfamily. “Here,trythisone,”Mushroomsaid,carryinga