Cornmeal is a traditional Southern food product. In case you’re not familiar with cornmeal, it’s dried corn that has been ground into powder, or meal. It’s similar to flour made from wheat, but cornmeal isn’t as fine in texture. Cornmeal is available in white and yellow, depending on the type of corn used. It’s also available in regular and self-rising meal. In many regions of the southern United States, cornmeal is also available in different flavors, including buttermilk cornmeal and spicy cornmeal.
Southern food and Southern recipes that use cornmeal
What are some traditional Southern food recipes and dishes that contain cornmeal? Cornmeal is the main ingredient in cornbread, corn muffins, hushpuppies, cornpone, dressing, and cornmeal mush. It’s also used as a coating for frying fish, shrimp, oysters, and vegetables. Cornmeal might also make an appearance in some pies and cakes.
When I first began posting recipes and cooking techniques online, the majority of them were Southern recipes. I was born and grew up in the Deep South, so I’m very familiar with Southern food. After posting several Southern recipes, I received emails from readers in other countries asking me what cornmeal was. I suppose I was taken aback a bit by this. It never dawned on me that not everyone on the globe is familiar with cornmeal. Had I really thought about it, however, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Corn itself is very American. Europeans didn’t even know what it was until explorers to the New World learned about it from the indigenous peoples who had been cultivating the grain for hundreds of years.
As the South began to be settled by whites, the European immigrants learned about corn from the Native Americans. Of course, the same thing was happening in other parts of what is now the United States, but it “stuck” with Southerners. Corn was easier to grow in the South than was wheat, so cornmeal was much cheaper than flour.
Grist mills sprang up all over the South to process the corn that was locally grown. Farmers would grind their dried corn to the mills, and it would be ground into cornmeal. Corn was also turned into grits at the mills. Many of these old grist mills are still in operation today.