Thursday, December 03, 2009

Knock-your-socks-off cornbread

We have been enjoying the most delicious cornbread EVER. Baked in a cast-iron skillet, the texture is scrumptiously crumbly, and the flavor is more similar to roasted corn vs. the cake-like or, conversely, hard-as-a-rock "essence of cornbread" that I am used to. It is divine! We have been groaning in delight about it for days.

The recipe is a "little more work" than the average cornbread recipe, but mostly in the fact that one has to plan ahead. But since that is the direction I am moving within the realm of the kitchen, it doesn't phase me. I am actually beginning to think it is easier.

It involves soaking the cornmeal in [pickling] lime water for 7 hours -- the flour in buttermilk or yogurt for 24 hours. Other than that, no different. Not more work, just a different approach to food preparation -- one that I am growing to love.

Soaking cornmeal with lime is a traditional practice, one that releases the full spectrum of B-vitamins; and arguably, fuller flavor as well. Soaking flour dissolves the phytic acid, rendering it more digestible, unlocks the full nutritional qualities, and adds to the light-fluffiness of a baked good. (Baking powder is unneccessary, thank you ma'am!)

Before making the recipe, one has to make the lime water.

  • 1 quart canning jar
  • 1/2 inch pickling lime
  • Filtered water to the top
  • Shake jar
  • Let sit overnight
  • The resultant clear liquid is your lime water
  • Pour carefully when using
  • Store at a semi-cool temp

Pickling lime is caustic, so handle carefully.

Once that is taken care of, you're good to go. Even better, instead of mixing up a batch 3 days before making a pan of cornbread, simply keep a jar of lime water on hand. That way, planning can take place a mere 1 day prior to the actual meal vs. several days.

[hee-hee . . . I realize how utterly outrageous that sounds to someone who isn't used to cooking this way . . . it must seem so looney]

The recipe is adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Truly, this cookbook has been a radical influence on my understanding of food: as nourishment vs. hunger-filler, traditional ways of preparation, vital nutritional fats, etc. It has given me a sense of direction, not to mention form and substance, to my whole foods gut instinct. (Which is, basically, "If it doesn't occur in nature, or you can't create it in your own kitchen, don't eat it.") And because traditional diets are based on seasonal and local food resources, this is emphasized throughout the book. I really appreciate that.


  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups lime water
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour*
  • 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

~ Stir in flour and buttermilk or yogurt and let stand in a warm place for 24 hours. (Those will milk allergies may use 1 1/2 cups water plus 2 TBSP whey, lemon juice or vinegar in place of undiluted buttermilk or yogurt.)

~ Soak cornmeal in lime water for approx. 7 hours.

~ When it comes time to make your cornbread, blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into a buttered and floured 9X13 inch pyrex pan (or even better . . . a 12 inch cast-iron skillet). Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. (FYI: it cooks much quicker in cast-iron)


*The recipe calls for 1/2 cup spelt/wheat/kamut flour and 1/2 cup unbleached white flour, but I accidentally used only the 1/2 cup spelt/whole wheat twice and LOVED the way it turned out.


KamaLee said...

LOVE this recipe & can't wait to try it; essentially, you've turned the cornmeal into masa! It sounds so good and intriguing. Having spend 6 yrs writing The Cornbread Gospels ('s unusual for me to see something really new in this line but you, Rain Garden, have done it - my sox are already knocked off. May I ask my publisher to send you a comp copy of the book? If so, please e me w/ your snailmail address, at crescentATdragonwagonDOTcome and I'll see they get one off to you. Thanks for this fascinating spin. CD

a. borealis said...

That's a will-do! I'm up for a good cornbread gospel any day. :)

ms said...

yum, and you are a rockstar!!

Nicole said...

Do you drain the lime water and rinse the corn or just incorporate it into the recipe? Thanks so much!!! Nicole

a. borealis said...

Hi Nicole - the cornmeal soaks up all the lime water, so there isn't really anything left to strain. Just dump 'er all in! :)

a. borealis said... case you are getting email follow-ups to any comments on this post...did you make this recipe for cornbread? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

Unknown said...

In researching this kind of process and the Sally Falon recipe, it seems there should be more than a half cup of flour, any comments please? Has anyone made this cornbread from this recipe?

a. borealis said...

"Unknown", I've made this recipe quite often over the years and you can use a whole cup or a half-cup of soaked flour, either way. It is a bit more crumbly and "corny" tasting with just a half-cup, but still very pleasant.

Unknown said...

thanks, I am learning how to post, not sure of what to do yet, so wanted to thank you for answering my Q about the flour in the cornbread. Unknown is Margo