How To Dry Corn and Grind it Into Corn Meal

Carol Suhr's guide on preserving a crop of homestead corn, including how to dry corn, grinding corn meal, and recipes for cornmeal pancakes, dried corn pudding, and corn tamale pie.

| September/October 1975

Drying corn

Last year, for the first time, I discovered the joy of drying and grinding my own corn for winter use. This simple, non-energy-consuming method of preservation was long practiced by the Indians.


Last year, for the first time, I discovered the joy of drying and grinding my own corn for winter use. This simple, non-energy-consuming method of preservation was long practiced by the Indians and in many cases was the key to their survival during periods of crop failure. Certainly the practice deserves a revival . . . and what better place to start than in our own organic gardens? Even the smallest corn patch is likely to have enough over-mature ears left on the stalks at the end of the season to warrant a little experimentation.

How To Dry Corn and Grind it Into Corn Meal

The fact is, though, that my own discovery of dried corn came about through sheer laziness. By late summer of last year-when the last buttery mouthful of kernels had been chomped off the last tender cob, and I was rapidly growing weary of freezing corn every day — I was dismayed to see that many maturing and overripe ears remained on our garden's cornstalks. What's more, they positively challenged me to do something with them.

Well, I did: I just let them hang there to grow bigger and fatter and tougher. Then, before the first heavy frost, I made a last trip up and down the rows and snapped off enough ears to fill my wheelbarrow. Some were left to feed the birds and other hungry creatures once the snows fell . . . and come spring, any scant remains would be tilled back into the soil to complete the cycle, with nary a grain gone to waste.

The next step was to pull back the husks from my harvest and spread the ears on clean newspaper in the garage where they could continue drying out of the weather for a few more weeks. I then brought the corn into a dry room in the house, and forgot about it until winter was well established and life had settled down to a gentler pace.

It's my good fortune to have a Thoreau-like father-in-law who possesses a marvelous hand-cranked corn sheller of a long forgotten vintage. Thanks to him, I was able to complete the shelling process in just a few exhilarating minutes of cranking, clanking, and whirring. The ears were dropped one by one into the machine's opening, where spinning wheels quickly separated kernels from cob. The dried corn pinged into a metal tub, and the stripped ears came flying out their special hole to fall in a heap on the floor . . . from which they, were removed to their final resting place in the kindling box by the Franklin stove.

If you should come by the use of such a sheller, the only necessary precaution — other than keeping your hands out of the works while the wheels are spinning — is to be sure your corn is perfectly dry. Otherwise the machine will jam and you'll have the tedious task of picking smashed, gummy kernels out of its insides and out of the bucket. (Hand-cranked corn shellers are available for $29.95 from Sears and other suppliers, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS General Store, Flat Rock, N.C. — MOTHER). 

9/24/2017 8:34:24 PM

Don't forget the process of nixtamalization. Prior to milling the dried corn, the corn must be nixtamalized, redried and then ground. Or the grain can be ground wet for making dough for tortillas. SW U.S. Indians, including descendants of the Myans and Aztec nation peoples used this process to supplement the meager protein in their diet.

9/24/2017 8:34:22 PM

Don't forget the process of nixtamalization. Very crucial step in the milling of corn. It doubles up the protein in the corn seed to increase the nutritional value of the corn.. Check out the process on the Internet for an explanation in greater detail.

9/2/2015 2:30:42 AM

Of cause,use the Corn grinding machine. You can find all kinds of Corn grinding machine and bean peeling machine here Also you can search in Google for the keywords: Lucao Corn grinding machine

4/15/2015 8:43:06 AM

The most important part of corn preparation was NOT included in the article..nixtamalization. Without nixtamalization, those depending on untreated maize as a staple food risks malnourishment, and are more likely to develop deficiency diseases such as pellagra. Untreated ground corn is unable by itself to form a dough on addition of water. This simple process has been used by indigenous people for 1000's of years. When corn was introduced into Europe, the process was deleted from the milling process which led to wide spread deficiency diseases.

11/25/2014 7:59:07 PM

Professional pneumatic corn milling machine can grind corn into flour. With breaking, cutting, hulling, rubbing of the material, the effect of grinding is achieved. It depends on one pair of opposite differential rotation to peel materials, extracting the endosperm and milling it into flour. Corn milling machine has the following features: 1. Pneumatic corn milling machine has electrostatic spraying surface, bright color, elegant design, and luxurious appearance; 2. Automatic pressure control can be controlled individually or remotely by computer, high degree of automation; 3. In addition to pneumatic clutch, electromagnetic clutch can also be applied. Small size, low cost, easy to install, reliable performance; 4. The eccentric structured grinding roller is an independent self sustaining system and well shock absorbed; 5. Flat grinding roller set, the material is easy to enter the grinding chamber, efficient, convenient to maintain; 6. Synchronous rotation roller, smoothly operated, low noise, safe and environmentally protected; 7. The centre of the pneumatic corn milling machine with negative pressure suction device can improve feeding status, lower temperature of the material; 8. Finished products of grits, flour in uniform particle size, excellent quality, and large output.

aslan balaur
2/2/2014 3:12:39 PM

I liked the article, and it is very informative, however, the hand cranked corn sheller is no longer available via Sears or Mother Earth News. I found a few, for VERY high prices on Ebay. It would take a LOT of corn to make this economical.

ron turner_1
7/11/2008 3:51:47 PM

I found the article on drying corn very helpful. I was looking for a way to dry whole grain corn in order to eventually make parched corn, which also was an early colonial and native american trail food. The colonist would use bacon fat to fry/parch the dryed corn in order to "squeeze" every ounce of moisture out of the corn to make it a bit lighter in weight and easier to manage on the trail. I have been able to find whole grain frozen corn in the past to make this dish. This year I am going to be forced to make this from scratch. Thanks for the help and the info.

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