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.
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