Have you ever heard of "pellagra?" It is a nutritional deficiency disease. Here is a quote from Wikipedia about pellagra:
"Pellagra can be common in people who obtain most of their food energy from maize (often called 'corn'), notably rural South America where maize is a staple food. If maize is not nixtamalized, it is a poor source of tryptophan as well as niacin. Nixtamalization of the corn corrects the niacin deficiency, and is a common practice in Native American cultures that grow corn."
In order to "nixtamalize" corn and therefore make the vitamin B3 available to our bodies, the corn needs to be soaked in calcium hydroxide (pickling lime.)
Many of us have a wide variety of foods in our diets and will never run the risk of contracting pellegra. Nevertheless, it is a good thing, whenever possible, to prepare our foods to maximize the nutritional value and help to optimize our health. Not only is this a healthy choice, but it is frugal, making the most of what we have.
That being said, I've come up with a recipe for cornbread that is delicious and very nutritious.
First, you will need to make some "lime water." It is very easy. Just put about 1 inch of "pickling lime" into the bottom of a 2-quart jar. Fill with water, cover tightly and shake well. Then, let it sit on the counter all night and the lime will settle:
In the morning, carefully pour off the slightly cloudy liquid, leaving the lime in the jar. Save the liquid in a cool place, but there is no need to refrigerate it.
Here is my jar of lime water, 1 cup of whole grain cornmeal and a measuring cup:
I stirred 3/4 cup lime water into the cornmeal, covered it with plastic wrap and let it soak overnight:
I lined a wire strainer with a cotton cloth and set it in bowl and then poured the soaked meal into it and let the liquid drain out. Next, I added fresh water, stirred it up again and let it drain again.
Finally, I gathered up the cloth and carefully pressed as much liquid as I could from the soaked cornmeal and emptied it into a mixing bowl:
Then it was time to make the cornbread. This all can sound rather complicated, but it takes much more time to talk about it than to actually do it, and like anything else, after a bit of practice it becomes second-nature.
Wholesome Soaked Cornbread
1 cup whole meal cornmeal that has been soaked in lime water
1 cup freshly-ground whole wheat flour
3/4 cup raw milk
2 Tablespoons kefir whey
1 pastured egg
5 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder (Rumford)
1/3 cup Sucanat
2 Tablespoons melted butter
In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, milk and whey. Stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 7 hours, or up to 12.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
Add the baking powder, egg and Sucanat to the soaked mixture and stir together thoroughly. Add the melted butter and incorporate.
Pour into prepared baking dish. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Here it is, just out of the oven:
I refused to wait until it had cooled very long, so here is my piece with lots of nice butter, ready to eat!
I encourage you to try soaking your cornmeal.
Since there are only 2 of us here most of the time, I will cut this into serving-sized pieces and wrap each one carefully, plop them into a freezer bag and freeze them. Then I can take out what I need and the extra won't be wasted. This much cornbread will last us for 4 meals.