Grinding Our Own Corn Meal

Life at Longleaf Breeze is a languorous journey toward subsistence, and nobody enjoys the trip more than Amanda and I do.


We took another delightful step on that journey this weekend when our friend Jonathon Meeks helped us convert our own corn to corn meal. We started with dried ears of dent corn about 4:30 in the afternoon and enjoyed corn bread from them for supper by 7:00.

Jonathon is better at growing corn than we are, so he had a larger crop to contribute. He also contributed the all-important corn sheller, a 150-year-old hand-cranked beauty that’s been in his family for decades, from a company called “Red Chief.” We mounted the sheller on Scamp’s cleaned-out bucket so the kernels of corn would be caught in the bucket, and started cranking. If you’ve ever torn your hands up trying to shell dent corn by hand, watching the sheller work is magical. We ended up with a few dozen cobs ready for the compost pile and 2-3 quarts of exquisitely multi-colored corn kernels. We took turns pouring them slowly in front of Adrian’s “Blizzard” fan, so that the chaff blew out and the corn kernels fell into the wheelbarrow below.

After most of the chaff was deposited on Oddie’s back and on the floor of the barn, and we had isolated most of the kernels in a bucket, we let the Whisper Mill grain mill have its way with them. Even on the coarsest setting, the Whisper Mill produces corn meal that’s finer than we would have liked, but it got the job done. We finished with slightly more than a gallon of corn meal. Even though Jonathon contributed the sheller and more corn than we, he graciously allowed us to keep about half the corn meal. While he and Amanda were packing it for storage, I was inside mixing up corn bread from the resulting meal. We don’t own a range, but our little Cuisinart toaster oven is just right for a batch of corn bread. Jonathon declared it the best corn bread he’s ever eaten, and I don’t disagree with him. Soft and tasty, with just a hint of sweetness.

The video is unusually long by our standards, more than six minutes. It takes you from our cobs of corn and the sheller to the corn bread ready to eat. Our recipe for corn bread appears below the video.

Basic Corn Bread

2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups milk or buttermilk
2 cups corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place dry pan or skillet in oven to heat.

Add all liquid ingredients to small bowl in order. Add all dry ingredients to larger bowl in order. Pour liquid into dry and mix just enough to combine all ingredients. Pour into hot pan and bake 20 minutes or so. Makes one 9-inch pan or 8-12 muffins.

Finally, here’s the write-up Jonathon found about his corn sheller:

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