The Weston A. Price Way

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recipe for Hush-Puppies - Using Nutrient-Boosting Soaked Cornmeal

I couldn't find it.
I searched for hours, but found not one single recipe to share about making hush-puppies traditionally, using the nutrition-boosting power of soaking. I found cornbread and other cornbread-related recipes. But this one was just not to be found. I made my own soaked hush-pups recently, but I did not use lime water for the soaking, so I know my method wasn't as effective.
It's not that the pickling lime for making the lime water wasn't available. It was in the cupboard. It's been there about three months. I knew with summer coming, our intake of fish would increase and I wanted to be ready with the typical southern side of cornbread or hush-puppies. But for both, I have taken the short cut each time...and crossed my fingers that it was at least a little effective.
But the last time I did it this way, I had a check in my mind and spirit about my method.
Once I allow myself to feel a check, I am bound to make changes, so, I researched more but still came up dry regarding a traditional cooking methods of preparing hush-puppies, so, I did 'the logical thing'.
This recipe didn't look the same when I first found it. It has been tweaked and pinched and changed so that it doesn't much resemble its former happens with most recipes over time. Added to those changes, are the Nourishing Traditions nutrient-boosting twists as well as a lime-water 'how-to'.
Why bother?
Because in truth, the corn kernel is the toughest grain to break down into a more digestible food. It requires more than the typical methods of grain soaking. But once soaked, B-3 is released, amino acid quality is improved, and as with the soaking of all grains, digestibility and assimilation of all the good nutrition residing within the kernel is multiplied.
Native Americans, who introduced newcomers to corn, always soaked their corn. How they understood the need for this, we do not know, but when we started taking shortcuts by not following suit, we caused ourselves a nutritional problem. Basically, foregoing this important step in corn preparation renders it a filling but rather non-nutritive food. In the absence of meats or other niacin-rich foods, as in the South during the Depression, poorly prepared corn became the meal that 'fills-but-kills' as it opened the door to Pellagra. Many people literally ate themselves to death. Read about it in detail at, Pellagra in the United States: The Eradication of Pellagra.

 (Last tip prior to beginning the recipe: I keep my cornmeal in the freezer because I don't use it very often and it can become rancid quickly.)

Soaked Cornmeal Hush-Puppies 
Makes 48-50 Large Hush-Puppies
If you do not already have lime-water prepared, make it the day before you start your soak. See recipe for lime-water at the bottom of this article.
If your lime water is already prepared:
Start ahead of baking day with:
2 cups yellow corn meal
1 & 1/2 Cups lime water*
Soak the corn meal in the lime water for 7 hours. (If you want the hush puppies for the next night's meal, soak the corn meal overnight. Don't sweat it if you go past 7's more of a minimum time than a maximum time.)
After Soaking Time, Add:
1 & 3/4 Cup unbleached white flour (I use fresh-milled hard white, but if you don't mill your own, you can use another excellent brand, such as King Arthur or Bob's Red Mill.)
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt (Organic if possible.)
Soak all this,(bowl covered with a dish towel), for another 12-24 hours. (My 'twist' on this is to soak it as long as I possibly can before continuing with the recipe. HOWEVER, if that means I need to cut the soaking time to 8 hours instead of the 'minimum' of 12, I will. One of my traditional food prep 'mentors' has assured me that 8 hours is plenty of time for soaking.)
To complete the batter:
You will notice pockets of liquid have collected on top and perhaps along the edge of the top of your batter. This is NORMAL and GOOD...It's a sign that your soaking efforts are effective! Still, it will add excess liquid to the batter, which you don't want. To counter this, use a large tablespoon or ladle, (my preference), and gently push the bottom of the spoon down against the puddled areas and against the edge of the bowl. The liquid will flow into the bowl of the spoon and can then be discarded. Remove as much as possible before continuing with the recipe.

Now add:
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (opt.)
1 teaspoon baking powder (May be home-made.**)
2/3 teaspoon baking soda
Up to 1/4 C. finely diced onion (Optional, but I wouldn't recommend leaving it out!)
2 TBS. bacon grease/melted lard. (Or in their absence, some other, 'WAPF-Friendly' oil.)
*Some people like a little sweetness. If you are among them, you may want to add a couple of tablespoons of unrefined sugar. I do use this in my recipe.
*Others enjoy a little heat-Add Tabasco sauce to taste.
Mix well. 

The batter should resemble that shown in the picture. If it seems a little runny, add more flour, only by tablespoons, until it thickens. Remember that this flour is not soaked grain, so we really want to add as little as possible until it's just drop-able, (as opposed to drip-able), from the spoon.

About cooking oil for frying: You may see Nourishing Traditions or the Weston A. Price Foundation for recommendations. In the absence of pasture-grazed lard or tallow, I like peanut oil. It's not the highest in all-around nutritive value, but it's better by far than shortenings or canola oil and has a higher burning point than some other good choices. Use organic if possible. Peanuts are one of the most-sprayed (with pesticides) crops.
Many deep-fry their hush-puppies, but I prefer to fry them in about 2 inches of oil right in my cast iron skillet. I turn the heat on high just to get the temp up. After 3-5 minutes, I turn it down to 7-8, (out of 10), setting. When there are little bubbles on the bottom of the pan, I wet one hand and shake the excess water over the oil. If it sounds a little sizzly, it's ready, if it spits and sputters voraciously, it needs to be turned down and allowed to cool a little before dropping in the batter.
When the oil is ready, drop the pups in by the spoonful. You can use dinner teaspoons for small, round ones, or a larger, serving-type spoon for larger, elongated ones. If using a small spoon, drop directly from spoon into the oil. If using a larger spoon, drop from the side of the spoon into the oil. (If you dip the spoon into cold water between each drop, the batter will move more easily off the spoon.)
This isn't a job you walk away from. (My somewhat strange tool of preference is my large serving fork.) Turn the pups, watching for that golden-brown color on each side. Don't overcook. Drain on paper towels or recycled paper bags. 
If you aren't eating immediately, put hush-puppies in a ceramic serving bowl and place in oven on lowest heat. Once the oven's warm, you may want to turn the heat off so they don't dry out. Try to eat them asap! Many consume 'as-is' while others like to slice them in half and spread a little butter on each half.

In a 2 qt. canning jar, put about 1 inch of pickling lime. Fill the jar to the top of the shoulder with filtered water. Cover with lid and shake well. Allow it to settle several hours or overnight. The clear liquid above the lime that falls to the bottom is the lime water. When a recipe calls for this, do not shake the jar, but carefully pour or ladle out the amount of water called for. 

** HOME-MADE BAKING POWDER-(Excerpt from "How I 'Roll' with Blackberry Roll")
 To make baking powder yourself, Wardeh shares this mix: 1 part baking soda, 1 part arrowroot powder, (Bob's Red Mill has this, but many grocers carry it as well), and 2 parts Cream of Tartar, (usually found in the spice section at the grocery store.) I store mine in my cupboard in a small jelly jar.

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