Sprouted Polenta

by Ann Marie Michaels on December 2, 2011

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Sprouted Polenta

Sprouted polenta is one of my family’s favorite side dishes, the perfect accompaniment to roasted or braised meat.

Polenta is an Italian dish made with corn flour cooked in chicken stock. I use sprouted corn flour to make polenta, as unsoaked corn flour causes vitamin deficiencies, particularly niacin.

Corn, Nixtamalization & Vampires

Nixtamalization is the process of preparing corn by soaking it for 1-2 weeks with lime (called “cal,” an alkali) and water. This reduces anti-nutrients in the corn, and helps to release the niacin from the corn, which prevents pellagra, which is a deficiency of niacin, a B vitamin.

The myth of the vampire may have originated as a result of the pellagra outbreaks in Europe. People suffering from pellagra are extremely sensitive to sunlight. If exposed to the sun, the skin turns shiny with scaly areas. They also experience insomnia, anxiety, aggression, and depression. Pellagra also causes leisions in the mucuous membranes, particularly in the stomach and colon. People with pellagra lose their appetite and can not eat normal food; this may have contributed to the myth that vampires do not eat and only drink blood to survive.

First recognized in 1735, pellagra was the scourge of Europe and then the United States for two centuries. For years, an infectious or genetic cause was suspected, but pellagra is generally the consequence of a diet which relies upon corn as a staple because the niacin and tryptophan in corn are bound and have poor bioavailability.

…according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word vampire first entered English in 1734, the year before pellagra was noted by a royal physician as a ‘disgusting indigenous disease’ among Spanish peasants. (Source: Pellagra and the origin of a myth: evidence from European literature and folklore)

During this time, pellagra was rare in the Americas, where corn was native. This is because the peasants in Mexico and Central America employed nixtamalization.

Sprouted Corn Flour

Instead of soaking corn flour, you can now buy sprouted corn flour online, thanks to Peggy of To Your Health Sprouted Flour. As far as I know, she is the only manufacturer offering sprouted corn flour. It is not necessary to soak your corn flour if you are using sprouted corn flour.

Where to Buy Sprouted Corn Flour

Visit my resources page for where to buy sprouted corn flour.

Recipe Notes

You can use butter (make sure it’s from grass-fed cows) or lard (do not buy the stuff from the grocery store; buy pig fat from a farmer you trust and render it yourself) or use expeller-pressed coconut oil. I do not recommend using virgin coconut oil for this recipe. The expeller pressed coconut oil has no coconut flavor and works great. See my resources page for where to buy coconut oil.

The leftover polenta will keep for a while in the fridge. You can just warm it up on the stove, or better yet, make patties and fry it in expeller pressed coconut oil or lard.

You should store your sprouted corn flour in the freezer.

Sprouted Polenta

Ingredients

Butter or ghee, grass-fed, or expeller-pressed coconut oil or lard from pastured pigs, not store-bought (2 TBS) — where to buy coconut oil and where to buy ghee and how to render lard
Onion, red, white or yellow (1/2 onion)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Chicken stock, preferably homemade (1 quart) — how to make chicken stock
Sprouted corn flour (1 cup) — where to buy sprouted corn flour
Butter or ghee, grass-fed (3 TBS) — where to buy butter
Sea salt (to taste) where to buy sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground (to taste) —
Parmesan, freshly grated (4 ounces or more — to taste)

Equipment

Saucepan or Dutch Oven

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Chop the onion and smash the garlic. Set aside.
3. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of butter, coconut oil or lard over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and sweat until the onions become soft, around 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for a couple more minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
4. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
5. Gradually add the sprouted corn flour while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the corn flour, cover the pot and place it in the oven.
6. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent lumps.
7. Remove from the oven and add the butter, sea salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the freshly grated Parmesan.
8. Serve warm.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Chaya December 2, 2011 at 8:48 AM

Question: For sprouted wheats, I sprout them myself and then dehydrate them so that I can run them through my mill. I make all of my own flours to include corn. I’ve never attempted to sprout my own–would you suggest I follow the same procedure that I use for my other flours, or soak it once it’s ground?

Reply

cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 9:26 AM

You could try sprouting corn. I have never tried it so I don’t know. You can contact Peggy Sutton at To Your Health Sprouted Flour and ask her how she does it.

You can also soak your corn flour in lime water (cal).

There are directions here to soak whole corn:

http://www.cheeseslave.com/homemade-corn-tortillas-part-one/

Just soak the corn flour with the pickling lime (cal) and water for several hours. Watch it because it can get moldy. Rinse before using.

Reply

Bethany December 2, 2011 at 9:12 AM

Is corn flour the same as corn meal? I order sprouted grains and flour from her, but have never tried the corn flour before because I was worried about the consistency. This recipe looks amazing!

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cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 9:27 AM

I believe it’s just how fine it is ground. Corn meal is not ground as finely.

For me, Peggy’s corn flour works perfectly for polenta!

Reply

Paula December 2, 2011 at 10:26 AM

Bobs Red Mill masa Harina is already limed, right? Its only $1 a pound in bulk up here, so that is all we have bought in the past.

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cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Yes, masa harina is soaked in the lime water. However, most manufacturers do not soak it for a long time. I called one manufacturer and found out that they only soak their masa harina for 30 minutes (instead of for 1-2 weeks as it was traditionally done). I don’t know how long Bob’s Red Mill soaks theirs.

This is why I recommend soaking all masa harina and I try not to eat storebought corn tortillas very often. It is best to make your own.

Reply

jamie December 2, 2011 at 11:33 AM

I have a bushel of blue corn coming soon which I intended to Nixtamalize (sp). What is the difference in nutrients of sprouted corn vs Mixtamalized corn flour? I have also heard that you cannot nix all types of corn. Hope blue corn is one of the types that you CAN. Any suggestions?

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cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM

They are probably pretty close in nutritional value. We’d have to ask Peggy.

I do not believe all kinds of corn can be nixtamalized. Another question for Peggy from To Your Health Sprouted Flour.

Reply

Dani December 2, 2011 at 11:34 AM

Question for you: I didn’t originally realize that corn was “soured” in ways other than wheats, and while I was enjoying the period lasting several months of what I affectionately call The Great Sourdough Experiment, I “perfected” a killer sourdough cheddar cornbread. However, knowing what I know now, I am wondering if I am doing any good at all to use my wheat flour sourdough starter to sour the cornmeal that makes my family’s favorite cornbread treat (aside from the wheat flour itself being soured, of course). Because uncultured corn meal/flour doesn’t cause me to have the immediate reaction that uncultured wheat products do, I can’t tell if I am helping or not.
Any thoughts, there? Beside the fact that sour=acid and lime=alkali, and I might be doing the exact opposite of helping make the corn ingredient more bioavailable, are there any studies that you can find? I have looked, and can’t find much…

Reply

cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 12:05 PM

From what I understand, corn needs to be soaked in lime water, not sourdough.

That said, SPROUTED corn flour does not need to be soaked.

Reply

Cathy December 2, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Can’t wait to try this- I’ve got indian corn I grew this summer that’s waiting to be ground- I’ll look into sprouting it first, though! Also, loved the history on the vampire legends in Europe being tied to pellagra- never heard that before.

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cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 12:02 PM

I hadn’t heard it before either but it is interesting, isn’t it?

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Brook December 2, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Do you know, can the sprouted corn flour be used to make tortillas – as a substitute for masa harina?

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cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Yes it can. I’m going to make tortillas tonight for brisket tacos. Tomorrow night I’ll take the leftover tortillas and fry them for tortilla chips and we’ll have nachos.

Both recipes are on my recipes page: http://www.cheeseslave.com/recipes/

Reply

cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 6:48 PM

OK I just tried making tortillas with the sprouted corn flour and it did not work. I will call Peggy and find out what I did wrong. I may need to add some fat to the dough.

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Holly December 2, 2011 at 4:11 PM

I grind my cornmeal from organic popcorn that I buy in bulk. Can I soak the cornmeal after I grind it (my grain mill does not recommend use for sprouted grains).

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cheeseslave December 2, 2011 at 4:48 PM

Popcorn is not the same thing is cornmeal. You want to buy dent corn or field corn.

Yes, you can soak it after you grind it but it is better to soak it first. I grind the wet corn in a food processor.

http://www.cheeseslave.com/homemade-corn-tortillas-part-two/

Reply

Cathy December 2, 2011 at 11:06 PM

Popcorn has a harder outer shell, (endosperm I think??!) so it makes for a much tougher corn to grind, but it does work to grind cornmeal from- I soaked some (organic) popcorn for a few weeks in lime water and ground it and it was very tasty, but still a little gritty. Sometimes organic popcorn is the only organic non-GMO whole corn available, so you just have to make do with what is available……!

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Beth December 2, 2011 at 7:06 PM

Does anyone know how Food For Life sprouted corn tortillas rate? Are they sprouted properly for a long enough time? I just read the label and it doesn’t say how long their process is. It says they sprout the corn first, then slowly produce into a “masa” using basic natural ingredients and gently press into healthy and flavorful sprouted organic corn tortillas. They even cite the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundaton on the label, in reference to sprouting as a way to release all the vital nutrients stored in whole grains.

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cheeseslave December 3, 2011 at 9:14 AM

I will buy them occasionally and they are fine nutritionally. The fact that they are sprouted means you don’t have to worry about how long they were soaked. However, they can’t compare to homemade in terms of taste. They never taste fresh enough to me. I use them to make tortilla chips.

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Beth December 3, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Thanks for your input. I like the tortilla chips idea!

Reply

Beth December 4, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Do you think that the Glutenfree Whole Grain Bread made in Germany by the brand Genuine Bavarian would be acceptable by trad food standards? Per the label, it is made with “whole rice, water, whole corn, millet, lupin flour, rice flour, thickener guar gum, salt, yeast.” It has a yummy sourdough flavor — a great butter delivery device when toasted. Their website pages http://www.bavarianglutenfreebread.com/ and http://www.bavarianglutenfreebread.com/our-bakers say they soak the rice for 24-48 hours and bake at a low temp to preserve nutrients, but it doesn’t say anything about soaking the corn — I guess I could write to them about the corn. (Also, it’s GMO-free, as you would expect from a European product.)

Reply

Pavil, the Uber Noob December 4, 2011 at 4:34 PM

I thought authentic polenta was made from the meal of chestnuts.

Ciao, Pavil

Reply

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