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Cornmeal facts for kids

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Polenta uncooked
Cornmeal

Cornmeal is a meal (coarse flour) ground from dried corn. It is a common staple food, and is ground to coarse, medium, and fine consistencies, but not as fine as wheat flour. In Mexico, very finely ground cornmeal is referred to as corn flour. When fine cornmeal is made from maize that has been soaked in an alkaline solution, e.g., limewater (a process known as nixtamalization), it is called masa flour, which is used for making arepas, tamales and tortillas. Boiled cornmeal is called polenta in Italy and is also a traditional dish and bread substitute in Romania.

Types

There are various types of cornmeal:

  • Blue cornmeal is light blue or violet in color. It is ground from whole blue corn and has a sweet flavor. The cornmeal consists of dried corn kernels that have been ground into a fine or medium texture.
  • Steel-ground yellow cornmeal, which is common mostly in the United States, has the husk and germ of the maize kernel almost completely removed. It is conserved for about a year if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
  • Stone-ground cornmeal retains some of the hull and germ, lending a little more flavor and nutrition to recipes. It is more perishable, but will store longer if refrigerated. However, it too can have a shelf life of many months if kept in a reasonably cool place.
  • White cornmeal (mielie-meal), made from white corn, is more common in parts of Africa. It is also popular in the Southern United States for making cornbread.

Regional usage

Caribbean

  • Cornmeal porridge - a popular meal served for breakfast in Jamaica.
  • Cou-cou - part of the national dish of Barbados, "cou-cou and flying fish".
  • Funche - a typical breakfast in Puerto Rico cornmeal cooked with coconut milk, milk, raisins, butter, cloves, vanilla, ginger, sugar or honey and topped with fruit and cinnamon. There's also a savory funche made with cornmeal, coconut milk, chicken stock, sofrito and other ingredients. These are usually served with fish.
  • Funchi also known as fungi/fungee - a cornmeal mush cooked and cooled into a stiff pudding, sometimes eaten with saltfish and/or pepperpot. It is consumed on the island of Curaçao and is part of the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda.
  • Mayi moulen - a cornmeal dish in Haiti often cooked with fish and/or spinach. Can be eaten with avocado.

East Asia

  • Tie Bing (貼餅 sticking bread) - This product can either be fluffy like a mantou or more flatbread-like. It is traditionally stuck around the outer rim of a large wok while meat or fish is being cooked. Generally, an alkalizing agent such as baking soda is added to increase the nutrient value. It is also found in northern China.
  • Corn congee (棒子麵粥) - A porridge made from plain cornmeal. It is normally thinner than grits or polenta and is often eaten with Chinese pickles.
  • Wo tou (窩頭 nest head) - Shaped like a hollow cone, this cornbread looks like a bird's nest, after which it is named. It is commonly eaten in northern China, and may contain dried jujubes and other flavoring agents.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nsima Relishes
Southern Africa's Nshima cornmeal (top right corner), served with three relishes.

Europe

  • Arapash or harapash - Albania (similar to the Romanian style but often combined with lamb organs, or/and goat cheese)
  • Farina di granturco - Italy (not the same as farina, which is made from wheat)
  • G'omi (Georgian: ღომი), mchadi (Georgian: მჭადი), tchvishtari - Georgia (g'omi is similar to polenta, mchadi - cornbread, tshvishtari - cheese cornbread). Known by different names in local languages (Abkhaz: абысҭа abysta, Adyghe: мамрыс mamrys, Ingush: журан-худар juran-hudar, Nogai: мамырза mamyrza, Ossetian: дзыкка dzykka or сера sera), it is also widespread in other Caucasian cuisines.
  • Kachamak (качамак) - Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Serbia
  • Mălai - Romania (the cornmeal itself; prepared as mămăligă)
  • Polenta - southern Europe, especially Italy
  • Banusz - Ukraine (the dish prepared from cornmeal with added śmietana, topped with pork rind or mushrooms and bryndza etc. The dish is popular in the Carpathian region of western Ukraine)

Horn of Africa

East Africa

  • Ugali - Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania
  • Cornmeal is a staple food in the East Africa region. It is used to make Ugali and Uji.

Indian Ocean

This is a local dessert dish made from maize flour in which milk, sugar, dried sultanas and cardamon powder are cooked together. The cooked paste is poured on a tray and coconut powder is sprinkled thereon and left to cool. This dessert is often cut into triangular shapes and can be bought from food vendors in the streets of Port Louis and also in market fairs around the island.

South America

Mingus-mill-interior1
Grindstones inside Mingus Mill, in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Corn is placed in a hopper (top right) which slowly feeds it into the grindstone (center). The grindstone grinds the corn into cornmeal, and empties it into a bucket (lower left). The grindstones are turned by the mill's water-powered turbine.

North America

Dunkin-Donuts-Corn-Muffin
A corn muffin.

South Asia

  • Makki di roti - a traditional Punjabi bread often eaten with saag in Punjab province of northern India and eastern Pakistan

In parts of northern India and Pakistan ground corn flour is used to make thick slabs of bread which can be eaten with a wide variety of curry dishes or it can be coated in clarified butter or ghee and eaten with yogurt or lassie which is a yogurt based drink especially in summer.

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Cornmeal Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.