Cornmeal is a grainy flour which has been ground from the dried kernels of yellow or white corn. Today cornmeal can be bought in fine or coarse grades as well as stone-ground, which is made from whole kernels and produces a richer flour.
It is used in many cuisines, especially in South America where corn rules supreme, and can be used to make bread, often with the addition of a wheat based flour.
Although wheat in the form of Pasta is thought by many to be THE staple of Italy, in reality this was largely only true in the south. Cornmeal in the form of Polenta, has traditionally been the staple for the poorer classes in the North and in Roman times is was widely used to feed the Roman soldiers. Interestingly, northern Italians are called "polentoni" because of their extensive use of polenta in their cooking.
A very versatile ingredient, once mixed with water it can be boiled, fried or baked, sometimes flavoured with cheese, onions or herbs and eaten as an accompaniment to meats and poultry, or used as a base in recipes such as Polenta Lasagne. In general the coarse grained yellow cornmeal is used for Polenta although a fine textured, white type, made from white corn is sometimes used.
Just to confuse matters, when you buy the ingredient (cornmeal) to make Polenta, it is usually just called “Polenta”. But if you look at the ingredients list, it is simply ground maize – cornmeal.
Steel ground yellow cornmeal, common mostly in the United States, has the husk and germ of the maize kernel almost completely removed. It is conserved almost indefinitely if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Stone ground cornmeal retains some of the hull and germ, lending a little more flavor and nutrition to recipes. It is more perishable, but will store longer if refrigerated.
White cornmeal (mealie meal) is more traditional in Africa. It is also popular in the Southern United States for making cornbread. Blue cornmeal is made from the rarer blue corn or by adding blue food coloring.
As a release agent to prevent breads and pizza from sticking to their pans when baking.
Cornstarch, ground from the endosperm, or white heart of the corn kernel, is used as a binder in puddings and similar foods.
As a natural pesticide as some insects' digestive organs will swell after consuming cornmeal and water, causing them to die.
Added with a detergent in a 50/50 mix for skin decontamination.
As an ingredient used for corn dog or cornbrats batter
Used to coat English muffins