Some time back, I won a Wondermill Junior Deluxe grain mill in a giveaway. I was super excited at the thought of being able to grind rice into flour, peanuts into peanut butter, and popcorn into cornmeal.
When it got here, I opened the box and the excitement left me, only to be replaced by intimidation. I was literally afraid to put this thing together and do anything with it.
I have no idea why I felt that way, but I did. So I put it back in the box, closed it up, and slid it under the bed.
I was thinking about making cornbread one night with dinner, but I didn’t because my wife is supposed to be doing the gluten-free thing. I didn’t want to make something she really likes when she’s not supposed to eat it — and that motivated me to break out the grain mill.
I put the thing together, then just looked at it for a minute. I was determined not to let it scare me again. I clamped it to the counter and reached for the popcorn.
“But corn has gluten!”
Yes, but according to GlutenFreeLiving.com corn is alright to eat:
Foods made from grains (and grain-like plants) that do not contain harmful gluten, including: Corn in all forms (corn flour, corn meal, grits,etc.). Rice in all forms (white, brown, basmati and enriched rice). Also amaranth, buckwheat (kasha), Montina, millet, quinoa, teff, sorghum and soy.
“But corn is prone to being genetically modified!”
Yes, but I used Jolly Time popcorn, and according to their website, theirs isn’t GMO:
14. GMO (Genetically modified organism): The American Pop Corn Company plants NO genetically modified organism seed. Our total inventory of pop corn has all been grown under contract in the United States and under our supervision.
Good gluten and non-GMO? Let’s rock!
Grinding Your Own Cornmeal
I poured 2 cups of popcorn into the hopper, grabbed the handle, and……..
MAN, is it SUPPOSED to be this difficult?!?
The grinding stones are adjustable so you can go from coarse grind to fine grind with the twist of a knob. So I loosened it a bit and tried again. It turned! But let me tell you, it was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Dried corn is tough to grind. It took me almost 15 minutes to grind it up, and when I was finished, it still wasn’t as fine as I wanted it. I sifted through what I had with a wire mesh strainer and poured the big stuff back through for a second grind… then a third.
All the while, “the boss” was having her Goldfish and watching with a tilted-head smile.
Finally, I was satisfied that I had enough cornmeal to make the 30 minutes of arm-killing grinding worth it. I still had a good bit of larger chunks left over.
Not super big, mind you… almost as small as… GRITS!
I knew grits were stone ground from corn, but to be sure, I did some research. Sure enough, what I had left over was grits!
So after 30 minutes of grinding 2 cups of popcorn, I had yielded 2 cups of cornmeal and about a cup and a half of grits!
Being a good southern boy, I’m well aware that you cook grits at a ratio of 4:1 water to grits, but to be quite frank, I’d never cooked “real” grits before. Luckily, the websites I was looking through told me 30-40 minutes is pretty standard. Boil the water, add the grits, reduce the heat, cover and simmer. One site specifically said NOT to remove the lid except for one time during cooking to stir.
Making Homemade Stone-Ground Grits
In order to cook the grits, I put 2 cups of water in the pot, added a little salt (probably a teaspoon or so), and brought it to a boil. I added the grits, stirred, and reduced the heat. I put the lid on and cooked the grits for 30 minutes. They were still a little hard, so I did 5 more minutes… then 5 more… then 5 more… so 45 minutes total before they were done. I added another teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and a tablespoon of butter. They were good! They were a bit large, still, but good, nonetheless. If I had ground them down a little smaller, they would have probably cooked faster and been perfect.
Homemade Cornmeal Mix
Now, what about the cornmeal? It can be used for polenta, which is kind of like grits. I’ve never made it (yet), so we won’t go there right now. What I set out to do was be able to make sure I’m making good, gluten-free cornbread for my wife. We use cornmeal mix when we make our cornbread, so that’s just what I did.
Did I have to use the cornmeal I made? No, but I wanted to use the grinder, so I did. Also, it’s nice to know it’s non-GMO. Since I had 2 cups of cornmeal, I made double the recipe. We use 2 cups of cornmeal mix at a time, so this will be enough for 2 pones of cornbread. I haven’t made cornbread with it yet, but when I do, I’ll edit this post to let you know how it went.