The word ‘mush’ doesn’t sound appetizing but once you’ve tried this pioneers recipe you will be definitely be coming back for more, especially as you can dress it up for serving like this!
Corn meal lasted well on the trail west and sometimes the pioneers were able to trade with friendly Native Americans for cornmeal when supplies ran low. The first Americans ground it using a hollow stone for the mortar and a stone pestle.
Mush can either be made with yellow maize meal or white maize meal. Some people rave about the yellow cornmeal but it can be a bit gritty, and in my opinion is best served with a more spicy stew. Most people prefer the white maize meal for its smoother texture when making it as a breakfast dish.
You can vary the consistency according to choice from mushy like mashed potato, firmer and crumbly like couscous or made with added water so the porridge is smooth and soft. Generally if it is a breakfast dish it is eaten with maple syrup or honey and cream or butter and would be a softer consistency.
If eaten with a stew or other meat dish it would be made to a thicker consistency so it can mop up all the delicious juices.
Cornmeal is not the same as corn flour, which is much finer and cannot be substituted for the corn meal.
This recipe serves two people. Simply double or triple the quantities to feed more.
Cornmeal Mush Recipe
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon salt
To serve for each bowl:
- 1 knob butter
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2-3 edible rose petals optional
- dollop of whipped cream optional
- sliced bananas optional
- Pour three cups of water into a pot and bring to the boil over moderate heat.
- Add ½ a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water.
- In a jug mix 1 cup of cornmeal with 1 cup of cold water until you have a smooth paste – make sure there are no lumps. It is important that the water is cold to ensure the cornmeal doesn’t clump.
- Slowly, stirring all the time, pour the contents of the jug into the boiling water and mix to a smooth consistency.
- When bubbles start erupting like mini volcanoes, which will happen within a minute or so (watch out they can burn if the droplets of mush jump up and touch your skin), reduce the heat immediately to very low.
- Put the lid on and leave to cook for around 20 minutes checking now and again to make sure the mush does not catch on the bottom. Be sharp about reducing the heat as the mush can burn quickly and that burnt smell will permeate the whole pot.
- If you prefer a thicker mush then reduce the water or add extra corn meal to alter the consistency.
- Serve cornmeal mush in a bowl topped with a savory stew, or on its own with a little milk and sugar, or a blob of butter, whipped cream, some berries, sliced bananas and/or maple syrup or honey.
Once the mush is done, or if you have enough over press it down firmly into a greased bread tin and refrigerate overnight.
The next day turn out the loaf, cut into ½ – 1 inch slices and fry in some butter, olive oil or bacon fat and serve with anything from bacon and eggs, to breakfast sausages or an omelet.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.