Saturday, November 17, 2007

Farm Bulletin: More on Corn

Since corn seems to be a hot topic these days at GoodStuffNW, I'm passing along our friend Anthony's most recent musings on the subject, along with a couple of the Boutard's favorite recipes. As always, you can find these fine folks at the Ayers Creek Farm stand at the Hillsdale Farmers Market every first and third Sunday of the month from 10 am till 2 pm.

Here is what we should have Sunday:

Dry Corn: Roy's Calais Flint & Nothstine Dent - Fine meal, grits & polenta meal. Polenta meal is sifted only once to pull off the coarsest fraction, the samp, and is roughly 50% meal and 50% grits. Shelled and stone ground on the Wednesday before market, assuring the freshest meal.

The dent corns are easily distinguished from the flints by the prominent dent at the top of the kernel. In these kernels, the skin (aleurone layer) is thinner at the top, appearing lighter in color, and the stuff inside (endosperm) is starchier. As the endosperm dries and shrinks, the dent is formed. Nothstine dent produces a beautiful yellow meal which is distinctly stickier than the flint, and "cornly" sweet. This type is from the area around Nothstine, Michigan, and is a traditional variety from the area. The history is sketchy, but it is probably a landrace [old seed strains that have been domesticated and modified by native farmers - KAB] for that part of Michigan. Ripening around 90 degree days, it is one of the shorter season dents, which typically need 100 to 140 days for ripening.

The dent corns are the genetic pool from which the high yielding modern varieties were developed. Nothstine, however, shows its ancient heritage with smaller ears, eight inches long with a mere 12 to 14 rows, lousy yield on par with the flints and a propensity to form fingered ears. On fingered ears, the main cob has three or four smaller branches at its base. According to Zenón, in Oaxaca these are called "Queen Ears," and considered a sign of a field with good fortune. Both Roy's Calais and Nothstine will produce kernels on their tassels as well, and sometimes the ears will develop a tassel above the husk and silk, untamed and unruly varieties that they are.

The meal and polenta may be used in any recipe calling for ground corn.

The Renewing America's Food Traditions (RAFT) project was conceived by Gary Nabhan, University of Arizona, and is now a Slow Food USA project. Both Nothstine Dent and Roy's Calais Flint are traditional varieties identified for preservation by the project. Pennsylvania Dutch Butter (Amish Butter Popcorn) is also on the list.

Regarding popcorn, we had a very good crop of "Amish Butter" this year. However, it needs to cure thoroughly, and will not be available until the New Year. We will have some "Pink Beauty Popcorn" from Glenn and Linda Drowns curing as well. We tested some last weekend and instead of popping, the kernels spin around in the pan like a "whistling jack." Funny, but not much of a snack.

Cornmeal Cookies

There is a Slow Food Presidium (Mondoví) devoted to polenta (corn meal) cookies. Cornmeal cookies deserve a whole lot more respect...instead it's chips, chips, chips. Here is another reprise of "Holly's Cornmeal Cookies" posted many years ago on AllRecipes and repeated with earnest regularity in this newsletter. Perfect cookies for maizophyllic sorts. The lime is a nice addition, though Italians use lemon. The glaze is a dainty gesture but not really necessary. Caroline used to bake these cookies and serve them, unglazed, with frozen raspberry cream. Dabbing a bit of raspberry preserve on the cookies works in a pinch.

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar for decoration
2 Tablespoons lime juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets.

Beat the butter and 2/3 c. sugar together until creamy. Mix in the egg and lime juice (to taste) and 1 tsp. lime zest. Blend.

In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and flour. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Drop teaspoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Press gently to flatten slightly. Bake for 10 to 12 min. or until the cookie bottoms and edges are lightly browned.

To make icing: Combine the lime zest, confectioner's sugar and enough lime juice to make a spreadable glaze. Spread over the top of cooled cookies.

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Joy of Cooking Corn Meal Pancakes

Our friend, Katherine Deumling, recommends the Joy of Cooking cornmeal pancake recipe. A simple and tasty recipe. Ellis will love his Sundays with corn meal pancakes.

Put 1 cup corn meal in a bowl. Add 1 tsp. salt and 1-2 Tbsp. sugar. Stir in slowly 1 cup boiling water. Cover these ingredients and permit them to stand for 10 minutes. Beat 1 egg with 1/2 c. milk and 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Add these ingredients to the corn meal. Sift together 1/2 c. all-purpose flour and 2 tsp. baking powder. Add to corn meal mixture with a few swift strokes. Fry until golden in a cast iron pan.

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