Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fried Cornmeal Mush

I have a really good memory. At least that is what family tells me. I can remember the tiniest detail of people and travels from years past. I get these sudden images that flash in my mind. Among them are memories of my grandmother. She made me this dish once - at her cabin in the Laurel Mountains. My mom also made it for me, along with that mysterious food "scrapple", reputedly containing all parts of the pig - even the squeal. I would eat it all for breakfast, but mush was my favorite. Delicately crispy on the outside, creamy warm on the inside and dripping with real maple syrup.

Mush used to come in these little tubs in the refrigerated section of the grocery. But why anyone would bother buying the pre-made stuff when it's so easy and cheap to do it yourself is beyond me. I was thinking of adding fresh corn to it also. You might call this stuff polenta. I call it delicious.

Fried Cornmeal Mush
4 cups water (set 1 cup aside)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
vegetable oil for frying

Combine cornmeal, salt and one cup of cold water in a bowl and combine well. Bring remaining three cups of water to a boil. While boiling, pour cold cornmeal and water into the boiling water and whisk to smooth any lumps. Cook on medium low to low heat for 20 minutes or until cornmeal becomes a thick smooth paste. Be careful with the heat as it cooks and stir constantly, because it can bubble like hot lava as it thickens.

Pour hot cornmeal into a Pyrex loaf pan and refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook the next morning, invert pan onto a dish or cutting board and cut 1/4 inch slices. Dredge in flour and fry in skillet with hot vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides.

Serve with butter or with your favorite syrup.

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  1. Hey Karen, this really brings back some Pittsburgh youth memories. My grandmother and then my father used to makes something called "jimishkes" -- who knows if this is a made-up word. There were a lot of words like this that came from my grandmother and I always suspected it was either her Slovak background or she needed a word for something she invented or remembered.

    jimishkes was white cornmeal cooked as a cereal and served hot at supper time, especially after having the normal large Sunday 12 noon dinner (the big meal of the day on Sunday). What I liked about this meal was the ritual: you would have two bowls placed in front of you. A larger one containing the hot white cornmeal with melted butter atop. A second bowl had cold buttermilk in it, sprinkled with salt and black pepper. You would take a large soup spoon of the cornmeal and dip it into the cold buttermilk. The butter on the cornmeal would congeal immediately. The experience was amazing-- contrast between hot, cold, sweet corn and tangy buttermilk, salty, liquidy yet solid. And it was a bonding between me and my father and our family. As far as I could tell *no* other family I knew ever ate this or even talked about jimishkes. And in my family, it was some of my fondest memories hanging with my Dad and sharing this meal.

    Well, anyway, inevitably, there would be leftover jimishkes. So for the Monday morning breakfast my Mom would fry them up. So good *sooo* good. Thanks for the memory.

  2. That is what it is all about. It's amazing the warmth of the memories that are attached to sharing a meal with our loved ones. Even the humblest food can do this when it was served with love. Pass on that memory - keep it alive!

  3. Grew up in central WV, and we had fried corn meal mush, made with corn that we grew and a local guy ground for us. I remember going with dad to pick up the ground corn meal, going into the cool smelling mill with "dust" every where. And mom making mush, that was so thin and crispy. That was some amazing stuff. Thanks!