Milling Corn (Maize)
I’ve come across the best reference I’ve seen for milled corn cooking and whole corn parching, and it’s in an unlikely place: Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener, 2010. She emphasizes that flour corns and flint corns are best in different applications. Ideally one would use one or the other, not dent (a flour/flint cross). However, she admits that certain dent corn can make a decent cornbread. Unfortunately, my flour and flint corn options are not good.
Milling dent corn presents a challenge. The endosperm of dent has a hard, flinty, horny, or vitreous part and a soft, floury, mealy, or opaque part. On average, about 55% of dent corn endosperm is flinty and about 45% is floury. The flinty part is higher in amylose and protein than the floury part, and the parts have different granular structures. Floury endosperm is always white. Not surprisingly, these two parts have different chemical, textural, and cooking qualities. Even at the same granulation, the hard endosperm takes more time or heat to swell with water.
If one could separate the flinty endosperm from the floury endosperm of dent corn, one would have two basic products, instead of a jumble. Because the floury endosperm breaks more easily, simple granulation classification using sieves will accomplish the separation to some extent. However, the separation can be improved by sieving an initial, coarse break(s), as mentioned in this commercial website:
http://www.bealldeg.com/introraw.html. Beall calls flour from flinty endosperm “sharp”. Beall’s info is virtually identical to that in Matz’s Cereal Technology, 1970.
With dent, I proceed as follows: Coarsely mill the corn. Sieve in the following order: #20 and #11. (Sieving is fastest using the finest mesh first.) I now have a very pale yellow floury meal fraction, about 25% of the starting grain. The floury fraction is suitable for pancakes and cornbread. If an initial, fine (say through #50) fraction was separated, it is particularly suitable for cookies, cakes, coatings, and gravy. I also have about 25% flinty grits and about 50% “overs” retained on #11.
Switching to a tight setting, I re-mill the “overs”; then sieve the result with #50, #20, and #11. There should be very little retained on #11 after this second pass. That which passes #50 is mostly floury and is added to the floury fraction obtained on the first pass. In addition to the floury fraction, I now have two mostly flinty fractions: a moderately yellow meal passing through #20 and deeper yellow grits passing through #11 but retained on #20. They include a little white endosperm attached to the yellow flint and some bran. The flinty meal is suitable for cornbread (with a portion scalded) and particularly suitable for johnnycake. The grits are suitable for mush/polenta. (I strain out some floating chaff prior to cooking mush.) Another sieve can separate a coarser fraction for classic grits.
Approximate final results:
30% floury meal
20% flinty meal
50% flinty grits
Both meals pass a #20 mesh, but the textural difference can be felt.