The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Milling Corn (Maize)

charbono's picture
charbono

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.

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

I buy organic dent corn from the health food store in 25 lb bags.  I have a high impact Wonder Mill and the resulting flour is very fine, almost like all purpose flour.  And I like the fact that it is 100% whole ground and I get the benefit of the fiber, germ and oil.   This type of fine flour makes great corn muffins/corn bread.   I think the only reason these muffins/corn bread come out very well (without sifting) is due to the impact millbeing able to make a very fine flour.  The fine flour is my preference compared to the more granular types "corn meal" typically available in the stores as you get a softer cake like texture rather than gritty.   A courser grind has not given me nearly the same success.   Not to say that you cant get great results with other types of mills, just sharing my experience.  I am curious as to what type of mill are you using?  Very interesting article, thx for the link...

charbono's picture
charbono

I'm with you in prefering fine-grained corn breads.  However, some like a coarse or gritty texture.

I should have mentioned that I use a plate-type mill, the Retsel Mil-Rite.  For corn, I use the steel burrs.  It generates a range of granulation, suitable for sieving.  It handles dent well, but is not well-suited for flint or large kernels.

 

Crider's picture
Crider

I'm a lover of corn meal but have saved the flour fraction for another time, perhaps I'll some day add vital wheat gluten to it to make a loaf. I have #50, #30 and #20 screens. Once, I ran a test of store-bought corn meal and store-bought grits through my seives and found that the corn meal all went through the #20 but the grits did not. So if I want home-ground grits, I realize I would need to get something like your #11 sieve.

I find that the flour has a weaker aroma and color (and probably taste), so I don't use it in corn meal. We make 'corn bread' (the kind with wheat flour, eggs, sugar, etc.) and I really like how it turns out. I also occasionally make anadama bread and I scald the corn meal for that.

For grits I have, a couple of times, made wet hominy grits from freshly nixtamalized corn. I pass the amount of wet corn I want through a Corona hand mill set rather coarse. It's fabulous. But with the time-consuming nature of nixtamalizing corn, I suppose I haven't done it enough! I usually make tortillas from nixtamalized corn. Have never dried whole hominy corn for later milling. Although the label on Quaker Grits says "hominy", it's actually just plain de-germed ground corn — not nixtamalized. Very bland, doesn't have much flavor. True hominy grits are quite rare, especially out West where I live.

By the way, if you garden, there's a wonderful source of all sorts of heirloom/landrace corn seed called Native Seeds / SEARCH. They also have many old varieties of beans and squash if you want to grow a backyard plot of three sisters New World crops.

charbono's picture
charbono

I have a number of test sieves and strainers with different mesh sizes.  Commercial practice varies, but I separate corn meal from grits with the #20 sieve.  Sieving is one of the more interesting aspects of home milling.

I’ll soon be planting some Mandan Red Flour I got from http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/corn.html.

I think a lot of people are unhappy with their corn pancakes and johnnycakes.  They don’t realize the difference between floury endosperm and flinty endosperm.   Floury makes good pancakes; flinty makes good johnnycakes.  Vice versa won’t work, and a blend won’t work very well. 

Papist's picture
Papist

I mill blue or red corn.  Do I have to soak it in lime water before using it?  Is it possible to make corn tortillas from homemilled corn?  How about Indian Corn.  My friend told me about this Indian dish and said it is delish.  I have no idea where to start and I am fairly clueless when it comes to milling corn. 

charbono's picture
charbono

You must steep the corn in lime water as the first step in making masa.  You use masa to make tortillas.  All corn is Indian corn.  Some people use the term to indicate non-white, non-yellow flint corn.

 

 

Papist's picture
Papist

So mill the corn, soak in lime water, then drain it as best I can?  Sorry about the confusion, there is a dish called "Indian corn."  I think it is almost like bread.  I can't find much about it on the net, but it is big with the Indians.  Do I also have to soak ground corn in lime water to make grits?  Other than for a few dishes, can I jsut the unsoaked corn or is it best to always soak?  Thanks

charbono's picture
charbono

Lime, or another alkaline material, is used to make hominy, which can be coarsely ground to make hominy grits, or more finely ground to make masa.  Unlike most, I usually add a little lime for flavor and nutrition, when cooking regular grits (mush) or scalding meal for johnnycakes. 

Crider's picture
Crider

You take one pound of dry, whole corn in a large pot. Add six cups of water, and add two tablespoons of 'cal' (slaked lime or calcium hydroxide). Slowly bring to a boil and when it boild, turn off the heat and let it soak for 8 or so hours. Then rinse away the water and pericarp that has loosened. Then grind finely for tortillas or coarsely for grits or tamales.

I once wrote a blog article here about the Corona mill. It refers to a video from Alton Brown on the nixtimalization technique, but the links have vanished, so here are the links again for that show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFn3GKVLHnM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMLLuOvb7hQ