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Local source for whole yellow or white corn? (dry, for making into flour)

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Cornbread made with freshly ground corn is amazingly flavorful. Whole kernel dry corn has always been difficult to find - even in places like Whole Foods - but now it seems to have disappeared entirely. The last time I purchased any locally, it was at the Newton Bread and Circus on Walnut Street - yep, back before the name change. It was also possible to get it mail order from King Arthur, but alas, it is gone from their catalog and website, too.

Poking around online has resulted in a few sources, but either you have to buy at least 25 pounds or you have to pay shipping charges that far exceed the price of the corn.

Now I have a hankering for that yummy cornbread. Does anyone know of a local (Masssachusetts, southern NH, RI) source of whole dry corn? Organic would be great but I will settle for conventional if that is all that is available.

Thanks!

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  1. I occasionally see whole large kernal corn (pozole) in bags at south american places eastie is a good example. Hard to find though. If I see some I will post again.

    How do you grind it?

    12 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      Heya StriperGuy!

      It seems I should have been more specific. I forgot about posole, aka hominy! (There is also dried sweet corn, which is yet another sub-category of dried whole kernel corn.)

      Posole, aka hominy, is dried white or yellow corn kernels that have been treated with lye. They can be cooked whole, typically in stews, or ground into meal that is used for making tortillas and tamales (and arepas...). To the best of my knowledge, the default for dried corn products used in Central and South American cooking is corn that has been treated with lye. So that is probably what you remember seeing. I used to see it at the Allston Super 88 (before its troubles started). I am pretty sure I have seen it at the Chelsea Market Basket too. (I never knew there were so many different kinds of small red beans... but I digress...)

      What I am looking for is plain untreated whole kernel corn. Treating the corn with lye definitely changes the flavor - substituting one form of corn for the other would not be a good idea in most (if not all) cases.

      Just to confuse things further, as I have perused various websites, I have found a couple of cases where the whole dried corn kernels were called posole corn but the description was ambiguous regarding whether it had been treated with lye or not.

      In any case, thanks ever so much for keeping an eye out. So far, the best deal I have been able to find online is 25 pounds from Lehmans and the shipping is about $10. I suppose I could vacuum bag it in small quantities and toss it in my freezer... but really, that much would last me for a good number of years.

      1. re: PinchOfSalt

        Yeah, I sorta knew the posole corn lye fandango. Though some of the South American corn does not say posole on the bag it may still be hominy.

        I still wana know how you grind the stuff.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          Ooops, sorry I forgot about the grinding thing. I was trying so hard to be clear about lye-treated versus untreated whole corn....

          There are any number of ways to grind whole corn. Short of having a real stone millstone, there are various household appliances that can do the job. Perhaps the best bang for the buck is a flour mill attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer (assuming you have a KA). That works slowly, but very well. If you are deep into grinding your own flour, you can get a motorized grain mill for a couple hundred bucks. If you only occasionally grind, and are willing to use some of your own elbow grease, you can get a hand-cranked grain mill. Check out the Lehman's website to see some. And, finally, if you have a Vitamix, you can get a container with "dry" blades that will positively pulverize corn or any other grain you may wish to grind.

        2. re: PinchOfSalt

          I don't know how you feel about the source of things you eat, but whole corn kernels or whole dried corn cobs are common bird foods. It is a fair amount of work to remove the kernels from the cobs, however.

          You could also buy whole corn and dry it yourself. I recall doing this a kid, but don't remember the process at all. I'm sure someone on home cooking could tell you what to do.

          1. re: tdaaa

            Yes, you can buy corn and dry it, but the variety of corn that is grown for eating fresh is different from corn that is used for flour. Actually, there are three kinds of corn, sweet, dent, and flint. The first kind is what we eat fresh. It is occasionally dried, but when dried sweet corn is cooked it is usually cooked whole. The second two kinds are dried and used for flour or animal feed. I don't think I have ever seen them sold retail.

            1. re: PinchOfSalt

              Just to be the food nerd that I am. The three above are of course U.S. commercially grown varieties. Can't even imagine how many heirloom/traditional varieties of corn there are in Mexico...

              Cool on the home grinding. I may just have to get a kitchen aid one of these days...

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Well, not varieties but categories of varieties. Sweet, flint, and dent corn are genetically distinct. It is somewhat analogous to red and white wheat, or looseleaf versus head lettuce.

                Now you have got me wondering about how popping corn fits into the corn taxonomy. I am pretty sure that it is used for popping because it has more moisture when it is dry and maybe its structure results in a better pop, but is it sweet, dent, or flint? Eeek, talk about food nerdiness.

                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                  Where do Indian corn, blue corn, and the thousand varieties originally consumed by natives to the Americas fit in? I bet there are many genetically distinct varieties of corn out there, just a few sub groups are found to be of commercial use to industry and agriculture in the U.S.

        3. re: StriperGuy

          Or StriperGuy you might also be seeing Mote Pelado in Eastie, which comes in even larger varieties, but is "peeled" and processed similar to hominy. There are some dried products (maiz morado/choclo, other types of choclo) which are simply dried (and degerminized likely), but different types of corn than what I think you are looking for and I think frozen is becoming more common. And popcorn from latin american countries, plus cancha.

          You can get some cracked corns and grits from latin sources, which are just dried and not treated/peeled, but I think usually hulled. Brazilian canjica (also called canjicao for a sweet dish, usually white), maiz trilhada (white/yellow), canjiquinha (yellow), and the Goya "coarse grits" (same as canjiquinha) are widely available. canjica is pretty large pieces and it is degermed, possibly useful for small scale experimenting. Home Brew stores generally have flaked corn maize, but I believe that is partially cooked, they might have cracked corn for enthusiasts of other types of mashes. Don't you want it hulled for grinding?

          Feed stores are overall your best bet as you can easily buy whole dried and cracked corn (in quantity, but for cheap). Here are some links to sources for organic feed and grains, which might help. For nondegermed corn, I think your only possibility might be through a grist mill in RI.

          http://www.nofamass.org/programs/grai...

          1. re: itaunas

            You are correct (as usual Itaunas) it was in fact Mote Pelado now that you mention it.

            I used it in some posole that I made and to my taste it was indistinguishable though did have the distinct hominy taste. Here is a neat bit on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hominy

            1. re: itaunas

              Dang, that is an interesting web page!

              1. re: PinchOfSalt

                Re Itaunas's suggestion of grist mills, you might try calling Gray's Grist Mill or Kenyon's Grist Mill - both in Rhode Island - to see if they would sell you some whole corn, or point you to their local suppliers. Further afield, you could try the same thing with Hoppin John's (in South Carolina) - I mail-ordered their cornmeal once and it was very good (although I liked Gray's cornmeal a little more).
                For extra literary inspiration, John Thorne writes beautifully about cornmeal and cornbread - including a bit on hand-grinding his own corn for bread - in the "Cornbread Nation" section of his book Serious Pig.

          2. Try Wayside Inn. They have a grist mill in use. I don't know where they source the corn.

            6 Replies
            1. re: trufflehound

              Interesting thought. Certainly they must buy it in bulk!

              1. re: trufflehound

                Nice suggestion.

                1. re: trufflehound

                  Can you buy stoneground cornmeal from them? I make do with my nantucket windmill cornmeal for special occasions, but don't make it out there often enough to keep up. It does come labelled "souvenir, not for consumption" but I have never let that stop me. I think it makes far superior baked goods, possible due to the variability in the grind.

                  1. re: tdaaa

                    I'd be more concerned about impurities that you may not want to ingest than baking quality.

                    Either of the aforementioned Rhode Island grist mills makes excellent NE-style cornmeal (Gray's and Kenyon's). Gray's sells only johnnycake cornmeal, Kenyon's sells cornmeal for johnnycakes and regular cornmeal for general purposes. If you have not tried johnnycakes (aka hoe cakes), they are the original New England pancake, no wheat flour involved.

                    http://www.graysgristmill.com/
                    http://www.kenyonsgristmill.com/home....

                    For people who are into heirloom-variety and -style food, try this source. Pricy, but reportedly very good:

                    http://www.ansonmills.com/

                    Anson Mills is in the South, so don't expect johnnycake cornmeal. Do expect corn ground for grits! Also there is the white versus yellow cornmeal regional thing.

                    By the way, the Anson Mills website has a nice explanation of dent and flint corn. To wit:

                    "Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling--it also makes phenomenal grits.

                    Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouthfeel when cooked. One type of American flint--indigenous to the Northeast--was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes. In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships."

                    1. re: PinchOfSalt

                      I would also add Carpenter's to your RI list and I swear I recently read an article (projo?) about a couple who had restored another old mill to make artesan meal and flour. At the very end of October there is a Johnny Cake related festival around Kenyon's.

                      1. re: itaunas

                        Thanks! Alas, they do not seem to have a website (let alone an Internet store front). Carpenter's is listed on farmfresh.org.

                        http://www.farmfresh.org/food/member....

                        A visit to Perryville RI would seem to be required to purchase their corn meal.

                        Here is another grist mill: Dexter Grist Mill, in Sandwich, Massachusetts:

                        http://www.farmfresh.org/food/member....

                        Now that Labor has passed and the tourists have gone, this has the makings of a fine foodie day trip. Surely one could visit both...