How to Make Your Own Cornmeal
It’s easy to ask why bother going through the trouble of milling your own corn to make cornmeal instead of just buying some at the store. Commercial products can have a similar shelf life if they are stored properly, and buying in bulk is relatively inexpensive. However, most of the products for sale have been prepared in a way that removes a lot of the nutrients from the kernels through the process of de-germination. One of the reasons this is done is to extend the shelf-life of the product. However, the trade-off may not be worth sacrificing the nutritional value of the corn and ending up with a finished product that is little more than a starch.
Making your own cornmeal involves a few important steps along with some type of grain mill and a dehydrator. However, these items are very important to have on hand, particularly if you are storing grains in your emergency stockpile. Investing in a good grain mill will pay big dividends over the course of time if you enter into a period of prolonged self-sufficiency, so now is as good a time as any to get one that suits your needs.
Choosing the Right Corn
The first step is to choose the right kind of corn to use for your meal. There are dozens of different varieties to choose from, but three represent the most common and popular options for making meal. They include popcorn corn, sweet corn and hominy corn. You can also use field or dent corn, as it’s the most common variety out there, but it is also the least nutritious. Sweet and hominy are probably the two best options to consider in terms of nutrition, but popcorn comes in at a close third.
Once you’ve chosen the right corn, you want to dehydrate the kernels when they’ve reached their peak of freshness. However, the good news is that you don’t have to wait until fresh ears are in season because you can also use frozen as well as kernels that are already dry for this recipe. However, again, for maximum nutrition, we recommend using fresh corn whenever possible.
Dehydrating corn is very easy, but it can also take a bit of time for the water to be removed form the kernels. The first step is to peel the ears, remove as many fibers as possible, and blanch the corn for about 3 minutes in a stockpot filled with boiling water. Remove from heat and place the kernels on the counter until they are cool enough to handle. Next, scrape off the kernels into a bowl or baking sheet, but try to trim them carefully in order to keep the amount of fibers from the cob to a minimum.
Next, spread the kernels on a dehydrating or baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven or dehydrator and set the temperature at 120 degrees. It’s important to avoid higher temperatures as we’re not trying to cook the corn, rather evaporate all of the excess moisture. Certain enzymes and other nutritious compounds can also be destroyed at higher temperatures. If you are using an oven, set it at the lowest possible temperature, keep the door cracked open and periodically check the temperature with a thermometer to ensure it’s not too hot. Adjust the width of the crack as necessary to keep temperatures in check.
It can take up to 12 hours for the kernels to fully-dehydrate, and it’s important that they are bone-dry before processing and storing them. You can grind down the corn and dehydrate the flour, but you run the risk of uneven heating as well as killing off the nutrients. So, be patient and allow time to for the kernels to fully-dry.
Follow the same principles when working with frozen or canned corn kernels as well. However, these items may take longer to dehydrate than the blanched ones because they will have generally absorbed more water.
Processing and Storing
All you need to do now is run the dried kernels through the grain mill until you achieve the desired level of “fine-ness”. Store them in an airtight container in a cool and dark place after removing as much excess oxygen as possible. You may also want to consider throwing in an oxygen absorbing packet as well to help maximize shelf-life. If you plan on using the meal in the near future, you don’t have to worry as much about air as you do keeping it from pests and insects. Make sure that you store them in containers that can keep opportunistic critters at bay.
We understand that this isn’t a viable or practical option for everyone, but dehydrating and milling grains is a skill that we should develop, just in case. Corn meal provides you with a delicious staple food that can be used as part of a million and one different recipes, and making your own gives you greater control over the quality of the corn being used.