Although corn gets a bit of a bad rap because of it’s over-use in animal feed, particularly on mono-culture farms (think endless miles of corn and soybeans in the midwest…), it’s actually a bit of an oddity in the Manitoba organic world. Because organic farms do not use chemical inputs, a crop like corn that requires high quantities of nitrogen is calculated carefully. Adding fertility to a field is difficult in an organic system, relying on many years of green manures or animal manure applications, and so, it’s very difficult to find organic corn (non-gmo, no chemical fertilizers, etc.). For this reason, we were particularly excited to learn that Doug Unrau has been growing corn on his mixed organic farm near MacGregor Manitoba. Without any market for milling corn in Manitoba or Western Canada, he has been growing corn to feed to his own animals, but has been generous enough to part with some to enable our milling experiments 🙂
Although I had never used much cornmeal before, i’m now finding that it is one of my pantry staples, and I use it regularly for cornbread, muffins, polenta, pizza crusts, and anything battered and fried (zucchini fries anyone?). We’ve been impressed with how the flavour and texture of this cornmeal is so much more interesting than the “regular” stuff!
After harvest in late fall, the corn is brought to our farm, and is milled with the equipment that we have for milling our oats, ensuring that the end product is gluten free, and has no possible cross-contamination with wheat/barley/rye.
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
2-3 Tbsp cold water
pinch of salt
Combine cornmeal, flour and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry knife. Add cold water a drizzle at a time. Stir until mixture clings together, but just barely. Roll out on a floured surface or between parchment paper to fit a 9″ pie plate.
Layer 2 cups of chopped veggies over the crust (green seems best – spinach leaves, steamed broccoli, zucchini slices with green onions, or anything else you have on hand!)
For a meat-y dish, you can also add 1/2 lb of cooked bacon or crumbled sausage, adding it on top of the veggie layer.
For the filling, combine:
1 cup milk
2 tbsp flour
dash of salt, pepper, and paprika
2 cups grated cheese (cheddar or mozza works fine, but swiss, gouda, or parmesan bumps it into the gourmet category) (save 1 cup for sprinkling on the top)
Beat together, and pour over the veggie layer. I like to save half the cheese to sprinkle on the top, but this is just a personal preference. Wherever you toss your cheese it’s sure to taste great 🙂
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.