In one of my favorite episodes of “The Mind of a Chef“, Sean Brock declares that there is no greater pleasure than making corn grits from corn you grew yourself. I couldn’t agree more, though in my case, the pleasure comes from making cornbread.
This cornbread recipe was passed on to me by my dear friend Rebecca (thank you Rebecca!!), and has been hailed by some as “the best cornbread, ever”. The roasted squash gives it a rich golden color and a moist, tender crumb. And when you use local organic corn that is freshly milled, the flavour is pure delight!
We grow a type of field corn called Early Riser which is an open-pollinated variety that is well-suited for northern climates since it is early to mature. We take great pride in growing our corn organically, without the use of any pesticides or chemical inputs and each year, we save the seeds to plant them again in the spring, meaning that over time, our crop is adapting to our unique growing conditions.
I love this corn because it’s a bright buttery yellow (with the occasional deep copper-colored cob) and it makes beautiful cornmeal for baking. We mill it as we need it, using our KoMo kitchen mill, so it is as fresh as can be. The flavor is incredible.
This year, I discovered something else I love about this corn: it brings people together.
In late October, we hosted a corn picking party and invited everyone out to the farm to help us bring in our 2 acres of corn from the field. As they say, many hands make light work! But even more important than the helping hands was the wonderful company of friends of all ages enjoying a sunny fall day together. In farming communities across the country, this is how it used to be: neighbors helping neighbors. Corn husking bees were a much-anticipated yearly event each fall, usually involving a delicious feast. Following tradition, we served chili and cornbread made with our own homegrown beans and cornmeal – in fact the very corn that everyone was working so hard to pick and husk!
If I had to chose a word to describe our magical corn harvest day, it would be “connected”. There was a real feeling of being connected to each other, and connected to the food we were eating. So when Luke Dick allowed me to use his song “Connected” in my video, I was over the moon.
As I worked on my video and we brought in the last of the corn, Oregon and Colorado were voting on a ballot measure to mandate the labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Since most cornmeal that is bought commercially is made from unlabeled GMO corn, growing our own organic corn has a deep significance to me. Our beautiful golden ears of corn are proof that we don’t need Monsanto’s insecticide-laden patented corn seeds and that corn can be grown without polluting our soil, our air, and our bodies. So while I was husking corn and making my cornbread, I was also keeping a close eye on the polls. Sadly, both measures failed, which many say is due to millions of dollars worth of misleading ads funded by the biotech industry. So I want to dedicate this video to the many many volunteers who worked so hard to try to get these measures passed. In the meantime and as a consolation, I ate lots and lots of warm non-GMO cornbread slathered in butter! If something is ailing you, I hope you’ll do the same, this cornbread really does soothe all woes. Bon appétit!
Roasted Squash Cornbread
Make this roasted squash cornbread recipe for a golden Fall dish.
- 1 1/2 cup organic cornmeal, preferably stoneground
- 1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour (or gluten-free flour mix)
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt (3/4 tsp if using salted butter)
- 1 cup pureed roasted winter squash (Recommend buttercup, but delicata, butternut, and acorn will also work)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 1/4 cup melted butter (plus 1 Tbsp for greasing the pan)
- 1/4 cup sunflower oil
- 2 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 400 F and using a full tablespoon of butter, grease an 8 x 11 baking pan with butter (a metal baking pan yields best results). Using a lot of butter will give a nice crispy golden bottom and sides to your cornbread.
- Combine the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a large mixing bowl by whisking together.
- To make roasted squash, cut a squash of your choice in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast it cut-sides facing down on an oiled baking sheet at 400F for about 45 minutes or until soft. Let it cool and scoop out the flesh, discarding the skins. Mash the squash with a potato masher, or if you wish to obtain a smoother puree, use a hand blender or food processor.
- Whisk the eggs and maple syrup together until frothy. Add the pureed squash, milk, sunflower oil, and yoghurt. Whisk all together until smooth. Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients until almost combined. Add the slightly cooled melted butter and stir everything together until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into a greased 8 x 11 baking pan. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden, the bread is pulling away from the pan at the edges, and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm!
Yield: 12 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.