When people hear stone-ground corn, they often think of tortilla chips or corn tortillas. Most people wouldn’t find stone-ground corn the most appetizing, especially if eaten by itself. Eating stone-ground corn by itself is like tossing a handful of flour in your mouth. It’ll soak up all the saliva in your mouth and cause the most severe dry mouth you’ve ever experienced. Then, you’ll want nothing to do with it ever again.
City Schoolyard Garden (CSG) is trying to change the perception on stone-ground corn. As part of the March 2017 Harvest of the Month celebration on Stone-Ground Grains, CSG partnered with the Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) Nutrition Department to bake cornbread using 100 lbs of local stone-ground corn, 15 dozen local eggs and 1 gallon of local honey. Working with the Local Food Hub, CSG sourced the stone-ground corn from Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA, fresh eggs from Shepherds Hill Farm in Stanardsville, VA and honey from Hungry Hill Farm in Nelson Co, VA. Woodson’s Mill is a water powered mill, built on the Piney River in Nelson County in 1794. Grains are gravity-fed through wooden chutes and into hoppers that control a slow, steady cascade onto the millstones below. Unlike high speed commercial flour-making, this age-old and 100% water-powered process protects the nutrition and the fresh, honest flavor of each Virginia grown grain. To learn more about how the mill operates, check out the video below (Credit: Video clips provided by Woodson’s Mill).
Volunteers from a parent Facebook group called “Parents for Healthier Foods at CCS” helped pre-measure the ingredients for the cornbread batter on Monday, February 27, 2017. On the following day, CCS Nutrition Department’s go-to specialty cook, Karen Smith, and CSG’s Program Coordinator, Kim Nguyen, teamed up to bake 22 sheet pans of delicious, moist cornbread. This was the first time the Central Kitchen has ever made cornbread using stone-ground corn, so a little experimentation was required to extend Woodson’s Mill’s recipe (baked in a 10-inch cast iron skillet to serve a family of 4) into a recipe which would be baked in 22 large sheet pans to serve over 2,750 students and community members. Walking into the task a bit concerned about the outcomes, Karen and Kim walked away satisfied after tasting moist and lightly sweetened morsels of cornbread heaven. Enough cornbread was made to serve 2,200 CCS elementary school students, the Buford Garden Aides, 450 Charlottesville High School students, and 50 Lugo-McGinness Academy students. Additional cornbread or cornbread ingredients were shared with CSG’s partners – the CCS Central Office, City of Promise, PB&J Fund, and Bread and Roses.
CCS students were provided with the following clues on the morning of Thursday, March 2, 2017 to guess the secret Harvest of the Month crop: This month’s vegetable is commonly eaten from a can, off a cob, or popped in the microwave. Today we will be eating it after it is dried and ground into flour. This vegetable grows on one of the tallest garden plants, reaching a narrow stalk high into the sky with long, floppy leaves. Many students guessed corn and were surprised to see little yellow squares hiding beneath napkins in a serving bowl. One curious and eager student went up to his teacher to inquire about the snack. See video below.
Check out some photos of students at Clark Elementary enjoying the cornbread snack. We got some “thumbs up” approvals!
Top Left: Student at Clark Elementary prepares to serve the cornbread to his classmates. Top Right: Student awaits the grand reveal of the secret Harvest of the Month crop. Bottom Left and Right: Students express their approval with a thumbs up.
The CSG Garden Coordinator at CHS, Peter Davis, sets up a Harvest of the Month taste test during the two lunches. He shared, “this stuff was literally flying off the table! They loved it and many students came back for seconds. All three sheet pans were completely emptied!”