Cornmeal is coarse flour obtained by grinding dried maize or American corn. The corn kernels along with the germ are ground to obtain a fine, medium or coarse flour. However, it is not ground as finely as wheat and hence, termed as cornmeal instead of corn flour. Cornflour on the other hand is a term used for very finely ground cornmeal, which is even more finely ground than wheat. It has a soft and gritty texture. Cornmeal is also known as maize flour, polenta, polenta flour or makki atta.
Corn is known to have originated in Central America and was first developed by the Native Americans around 2,000 B.C. Columbus found corn in Cuba and took it back to Europe. Later, corn was found everywhere from Canada to Chile and also all over Europe. It was considered the main food item of the Maya, the Aztec and the Inca Indians.
Preferred Methods of Cooking
Cornmeal can be kneaded into dough or mixed with water and other ingredients to form a batter. Both the dough and the batter can then be baked, steamed, fried, grilled or boiled to make a variety of popular dishes, spanning across different cuisines of the world.
Cuisines and Popular Recipes
Cornmeal is widely used in almost all the cuisines of the world, to make a variety of delicious and nutritious dishes. Some of them have been enumerated below –
- Indian and Pakistani Cuisine – Makki ki roti is tortilla like bread made on the griddle and then the naked flame, which is eaten with ‘saag’.
- Caribbean – Cou-Cou is the national dish of Barbados and funchi is like a cooked pudding.
- North American – Corn bread, corn fritters, hushpuppies, porridge, mush, cheezies, corn chips, breakfast cereal and as batter for fried foods like fried fish and corndogs.
- South American – Tortillas, tamales, arepas, fuba and polenta.
- East Asian – Wo tou which is a hollow cornbread cone, corn congee which is like a porridge and tie bing.
- European – Polenta, farina di granturco, arapash, malai, kachamak and g’omi.
- African – Nsima, nomadi, sadza, ugali, bwali, mielie-meal or mealie pap and fofu.
Cornmeal is rich in carbohydrate and fiber. It also contains protein, vitamins like thiamine, niacin and folate and minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, iron, manganese and magnesium.
Buying and Storing
Cornmeal is easily available across grocery stores and kitchen supply stores. One should look for securely sealed packets or boxes to ensure that the cornmeal has not been exposed to air or contaminated by insects. It should be stored in an airtight container and stored in a dry and cool place. While steel ground yellow cornmeal has a long shelf life, the stone ground yellow cornmeal is more perishable and has a smaller shelf life. However, if refrigerated, it can be used for months.
Steel Ground Yellow Cornmeal – This is prepared by grinding the maize kernels without the husk and the germ. It is most commonly used in the United States. This type of cornmeal is less nutritious than other cornmeals.
Stone Ground Cornmeal – This type of cornmeal is prepared by grinding the maize kernels with some of the hull and germ, which makes it more nutritious than other types of cornmeal. It also lends it more flavor as compared to other cornmeals.
White Cornmeal – This is made by grinding the white corn and is more commonly used in Africa and the southern parts of United States. This is also used for making cornbread.
Blue Cornmeal – This is prepared by grinding the whole blue corn. This type of corn may be blue or violet in color and it lends a sweet flavor. It is usually ground to a fine or medium texture.
Cornmeal has several other uses than as a cooking ingredient. Some of these are –
- Disease Control – Use of horticultural cornmeal works as a disease fighter for root and soil borne fungal diseases.
- Algae Control in Water – The cellulose in cornmeal helps to collect excess phosphorus in water. This balances the water chemistry and kills off the algae in ponds.
- Mild Fertilizer – Horticultural cornmeal acts as a mild fertilizer and a soil builder.
- Compost Stimulation – It helps to fasten up the composting process.
- Human Fungus Solutions – Cornmeal controls and helps cure organic fungal problems in humans, for example, in cases of skin problems, toenail fungus etc.
- Hushpuppies got its name from a southern traditional dish made with pieces of fried cornmeal batter which is also called Hushpuppies.
- Corn is the second most widely grown crop on earth.
- Corn is the largest crop grown in United States.
- United States alone produces seven billion bushels of corn each year, which is approximately half of the total corn produced across the world.