A new shipment of winter squash has arrived from South Carolina. Otherwise, the local food scene this week is not much different from what we found in December. Apples from Hendersonville, NC, ginger from Alabama, and fresh herbs and sprouts from Nashville. Sweet potatoes from Georgia and Grainger County, TN, and as always delicious locally baked breads to go with cheeses from Locust Grove and Sweetwater Valley Farms.
The find of the month, however, has been sitting there on the shelf waiting for me every since last fall. White paper bags containing four pounds of organically grown, stone ground, one hundred percent Hickory King corn meal.
If you are not familiar with Hickory King corn, you should be. It is a "flint" type corn, with far less sugar than the sweet corn varieties most people grow in their gardens. It has been a southern favorite for a long time, since before 1875 according to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. (This company has one of my favorite catalogs of heirloom and organic vegetable seeds.) Not only does this corn make great roasting ears, it is preferred by many for hominy, grits and corn meal. Unfortunately, it is a bit unwieldy for the home garden. The stalks, which typically bear two ears each, grow up to twelve feet tall. Thus, I will leave it to Lakeview Farm in Bean Station, TN, to continue producing Hickory King corn meal. It makes the best cornbread I have tasted since childhood. The recipe that is printed on the bag from Lakeview Farm might be a little hard for inexperienced cooks to follow, so I have included some additional instructions.
Hickory King Corn Bread
2 cups stone ground Hickory King corn meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well with a wire whisk. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and melted butter until thoroughly blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, dump in the liquid and whisk to make a uniform batter. Grease a 10 inch diameter cast iron skillet. Pour in the batter, place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 30-35 minutes.
Leftovers (if any) make delicious dressing, I discovered. Next, I am going to use this meal to prepare cornbread according to my old recipe, which calls for self-rising corn meal mix. Ever since the local White Lily Milling Company retired its "Three Rivers" brand of cornmeal mix, I've been looking for a replacement, without much success.
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Hickory King corn meal
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for the skillet
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pour enough oil in the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron skillet to coat it well. Place the skillet in the oven to heat while you make the cornbread. In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and whisk to produce a uniform mixture. Whisk the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl until they are well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Whisk just enough to fully incorporate the liquid. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter into it. The skillet should be hot enough that the batter sizzles. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the cornbread has pulled away slightly from the sides of the skillet, about 30-40 minutes.