While not a traditional southern recipe, polenta has worked its way into our dining vocabulary for good reason. Like grits, it is the traditional “peasant” food of Europe. At Woodson's Mill, we get a lot of questions about polenta: what is it, anyway, and can it be made with Woodson's Mill products? The answer is, "Yes!" But, contrary to popular belief, polenta is not just hard yellow grits (more on that later…)
Polenta is really a catch all term referring to this traditional porridge-type dish Americans frequently associate with Italy. Historically, polenta was made from a variety of grains including semolina wheat. But, today, it is most commonly made with yellow corn.
So, if you want to make a great water-powered, stone-ground polenta for a taste of Italy via Virginia, use Woodson’s Mill Yellow or White Cornmeal instead of grits. You can make it with milk or cream instead of broth and add all sorts of flavoring – herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, etc. Serve it with fish, chicken, or vegetables the same way you would grits. Or let it cool, cut it into squares and reheat it on the grill or in a pan.
Recipe for Stone-Ground Polenta
4-1/2 cups of chicken stock
1-1/2 cups of Woodson’s Mill Cornmeal
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring the stock to a simmer and add the cornmeal very slowly, stirring constantly with a wisk. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until quite thick.
Season with salt, pepper, and butter. You can also add herbs (parsley, sage), grilled onions and peppers, or cheese to your liking. Serve hot.
Another option is to let the polenta cool to at least room temperature, then cut into thick slices, bush with butter, and grill or broil until lightly seared on both sides.
Any way you cook, you will end up with stone-ground polenta with that smooth, creamy texture that is indicative of this Italian dish. Enjoy!
(Photograph: try it with local lamb and wild asparagus)
Oysters are a traditional delicacy enjoyed around the holidays in Virginia, so it’s a good time to think about some good fall fried oysters and hushpuppies. Both can be made with our new Hushpuppy & Batter Mix
featuring water-powered, stone-ground cornmeal. To make hushpuppies, just add egg and milk to the mix and deep-fry in hot oil until they are golden brown. You can add chopped jalapeños or whole corn kernels to the batter before frying to spice things up. The mix also works perfectly for oysters, as well as fish or shrimp. Just coat food with the mix and fry away. For a thicker batter, coat your oysters with lightly beaten egg before frying. Add a little pepper or hot sauce for more kick. With the winter holiday season approaching, your options are endless - the best fried oysters and hushpuppies make great hors-devours on Thanksgiving Day, give new life to leftovers, and are perfect for a crowd at a holiday gathering. The best part? They’ll be great all spring and summer too!
Good news! Our long wait for local buckwheat has ended. This Saturday afternoon, we will grind buckwheat into flour at Woodson’s Mill. This will reintroduce buckwheat flour and our famous three-grain pancake mix to our lineup. We will grind this Saturday, spend the week mixing, and make our finished pancake mix available October 20th.
Why the long wait for this popular pancake mix? We are committed to sourcing local grains, and buckwheat has proven to be one of the more difficult to find in the region. Our first batch will come from the Shenandoah Valley, then a continual supply will come from our friend Brian Walden at Steadfast Farm in Red Hill, Virginia. Pictured above is his field of buckwheat ready to be harvested!
So, if you are in the neighborhood this weekend, stop by in the afternoon as we grind a variety of grains the only way we know how; with our ca. 1840 water-powered stones.
Using water-power to grind Woodson’s Mill grains takes advantage of the lessons learned by generations of Virginia millers, but the process is also inherently environmentally sustainable. We strive to extend this commitment to the environment to all aspects of the products we sell, including packaging.
According to the EPA
, about 31% of Municipal Solid Waste generated in the US in 2008 was containers and packaging, or 76,760 thousand tons. Only 43.7% of that was recycled. Excessive food packaging has been greatly reduced in the UK due to consumer demand, but here in the US, large food companies continue to make use of multiple layers of packaging and materials that are not recyclable or compostable.
In order to do our part to reduce excess food packaging, we use a kraft-paper bag that is made of 40-100% recycled content. In addition, the liner of the bag is made of a plant-based material called PLA (polylactic acid). PLA is a corn-based film product and along with the kraft paper is 100% compostable. This allows us to use only one bag as opposed to a plastic liner and cloth or paper outer bag. It allows you the opportunity of composting or recycling the bags when you finish your grits. To-date, this it the best alternative we have found for packaging our products.
At Woodson’s Mill, we are committed to doing our part to help protect the environment all while providing the freshest, locally-grown, stone-ground products possible. If you know other ways we can meet these goals, let us know. In the meantime, be on the lookout for excessive, non-recyclable packaging at your grocery store!
The recipe included with Woodson’s Mill All Natural Grits can really be viewed as a starting point for all that is possible when cooking with grits. Every chef has her individual take on how to prepare the best grits. Some use broth, others add milk or cream. We have found that the best way to get truly creamy grits is to use milk during the cooking process. For really creamy stone ground grits, use 3 parts milk to 1 part grits. Or, choose the middle-ground and use 1 ½ parts milk and 1 ½ parts water to 1 part grits. This foundation works whether you are cooking for breakfast, lunch, or supper.... Some of the finest dinner tables in the south serve creamy grits alongside anything and everything – not just shrimp. If you are not a grits aficionado or have had a bad experience with them, try using milk to bring out their creamy texture and find out what you have been missing. And, if you have a unique recipe for Woodson’s Mill All Natural Grits, please share it with us. In the meantime try this recipe for creamy grits by cooking your grits with milk.
Every visit to Woodson’s Mill is a unique experience, but grinding days are a special time when the 200-year-old building really comes to life. We grind as often as possible to insure that our stone-ground, all-natural meals and flour are perfectly fresh. And, we try to coordinate our grinding schedule with days we are open so that visitors can see their grits, cornmeal, and flour made right before their eyes.
We will be grinding at Woodson’s Mill this Saturday, August 11. The best time to see the mill in action is mid-morning, around 11 o’clock, or mid-afternoon, around 2 o’clock. Come watch as fresh, local corn and wheat are ground into quality grits, cornmeal and flour – the same way they have been since 1794.
For regular updates about what’s going on at Woodson’s Mill, including future grinding dates, sign up for our newsletter on our home page
, or check our Facebook
page. All Woodson’s Mill freshly ground products are available for purchase Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (except during winter months). Of course, they are also available 24/7 at woodsonsmill.com
At Woodson’s Mill, we are committed to sourcing only the highest quality local and natural grains, which is why we work with local farmers like Brian Walden. Brian is a graduate of the University of Vermont’s College of Agriculture. He is from Virginia originally, and he couldn’t wait to get back to home to start farming. Today, he lives with his wife and son in Albemarle County, where they are eagerly awaiting their second child.
Brian’s Steadfast Farm is located in Red Hill, Virginia, just south of Charlottesville. In addition to the black beans and cattle he raises, Brian grows a non-GMO variety of hard red winter wheat called “New East” to organic standards, using no chemicals or pesticides. We grind the beautiful, all-natural wheat Brian delivers to Woodson’s Mill on our ca. 1840 water-powered millstones for our Woodson’s Mill All Natural Whole Wheat Flour.
Working with farmers like Brian makes Woodson’s Mill products the best locally grown and ground flour and meals available. When we know exactly where and from whom our grains come, we can guarantee that they are grown under the most favorable conditions and that we place the least strain on the environment to get them here. This also allows us to obtain grains, like buckwheat, that are not otherwise commercially grown in Virginia.
Speaking of buckwheat, we have high hopes that Steadfast Farm will be providing us with fresh, local buckwheat for grinding this fall to make our famous Three Grain Pancake Mix, as well as Buckwheat Flour.
If you know of a local farmer growing grains that would be suitable
for grinding at Woodson’s Mill, drop us a line and let us know. And, please be in touch if there is a grain that
you would like to see ground. We will either
add it to our lineup or work on finding a farmer to grow it.