I grew up in the southern United States where cornbread is a staple food. Cornbread has a long history of being a simple and inexpensive food for sustaining life and limb, even during hard times. In this recipe I created an extra tasty version that is also extra healthy.
I made my own modifications to an excellent cornbread recipe I found in Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon. Reading this cookbook I learn why it is important to pretreat cornmeal with lime and also just how simple it can be to add an extra probiotic dimension to many foods, including cornbread.
In this recipe, I intentionally used masa flour instead of regular cornmeal because the masa flour grain is pretreated with a solution of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). Traditionally the native peoples of Mesoamerica and North America used a pretreatment with either wood ash or lime to accomplish this same alkali treatment.This alkali pretreatment is important for two reasons.
The first reason while cornmeal made from untreated ground corn is unable by itself to form a dough with the addition of water, the chemical changes in masa (due to the alkali treatment) allow dough formation.
The second reason is that treatment with an alkali solution causes a chemical reaction called nixtamalization. This reaction makes the niacin (vitamin B3) in corn available to the human body. If you are vegan or vegetarian, treating your corn with an alkali solution is especially important.
Pellagra is a disease caused by niacin deficiency. It is characterized by “the four D’s”: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and death. This niacin deficiency is often caused by a diet high in cornmeal not pretreated with an alkali solution. Pellagra is endemic everywhere corn is a staple food but this preparation method is not used, and the population does not get enough additional niacin either directly from supplementation or indirectly from eating proteins containing the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is found in meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Pellagra was once endemic the poorer states of the southern U.S, including my home state of Alabama. Between 1906 and 1940 more than 3 million Americans were affected by pellagra. More than 100,000 died from it. It was also once common in rural northern Italy. It is still endemic in Africa, Indonesia, North Korea, and China.
The next healthy addition in this recipe is kefir. The kefir 1) adds healthy probiotics for everyone, 2) improves digestibility for those with lactose intolerance, and 3) gives the cornbread a delightful tang. Combined with the sweetness of the onions, the texture and aroma of cheese, and the smooth creamy texture of the masa flour, I find this cornbread to be one of the most delicious, decadent versions ever. I salivate just thinking about it.
By the way, click here for the link to the article I mentioned in the video about healthy gut bacteria (like in the kefir) preventing strokes by lowering the level of inflammation in the body.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Do you have any other healthy modifications to suggest?
Are you motivated to try either masa flour (easy) or treating regular cornmeal yourself with a lime solution (more ambitious)?
Does this use of kefir inspire you to make a batch?
2 cups corn masa flour (unlike regular corn flour, masa flour has been treated with an alkali solution to increase the bioavailability of niacin in the corn and allow the flour form a dough.)
1 quart Kefir (To make your own Kefir click here. In brief, pour milk into a quart canning jar containing a kefir grain. Let sit a day or two at room temperature. The kefir is ready when its texture is thick and creamy.)
1/2 cup water (if necessary)
6 oz. parmesan cheese (optional)
2 onions diced (optional)
Almond Oil (or any other oil that is safe for you)
1. Mix 1 quart kefir and 2 cups corn masa flour in a mixing bowl and let the mixture sit overnight.
2. If the batter is too stiff after sitting all night, add 1/2 cup of water (the more water you add, the less stiff the batter). Mix until the batter has absorbed all the water.
3. Optional: Mix 6 oz. of parmesan cheese into the batter. If you are intolerant to cheese, skip this step.
4. Optional, but it will add sweetness and texture. Dice 2 onions. Add almond oil (or any other oil that is safe for you) to a frying pan. Add onions. Sauté onions until lightly brown. Add them to the batter and mix well. If you have a negative food sensitivity reaction to onions, skip this step.
5. Add sea salt to mixture according to taste.
6. Coat the surface of a baking pan with an oil of your choice. I used corn oil because I was already using corn masa flour and therefore it wasn’t introducing another food. Pour the batter into a baking pan with a lid. I used an enamel baking pan with a lid: Granite Ware 6106-6 13-Inch Covered Oval Roaster because the enamel transfers heat well and the lid allows for slow cooking times without drying out..
7. Bake in a conventional oven slowly (so the bacteria have time to transition into a form that is resistant to heat and stomach acid) for 2 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Solar oven: 2-3 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. After 2 hours remove from oven. If the cornbread is not firm enough, then put back into the oven and check every 20-30 minutes until you get the consistency you want. If you added cheese, the cornbread will firm up as it cools.
9. Enjoy your freshly baked cornbread!