Heritage Preserving/Canning



After folks had gathered in their corn, came the process of making it into cornmeal for human consumption. Most of the cornmeal we buy today has been ground with steel rollers and the hull and germ have been removed to make the meal a finer texture-it also allows the cornmeal to have a longer shelf life.

Back in the day, cornmeal was ground between 2 millstones usually powered by water. This process produced a coarser cornmeal-it was also more nutritious as all the parts of the corn were left in. However, it was a more perishable cornmeal.

I wrote about the process in June of 08:

Pap can recall several gristmills that operated when he was a child. His family would take a couple bushels of Corn each month to be ground. If you got more than you needed, you took the chance of weevils getting into the meal. Most mills in this area kept part of your cornmeal as payment.

When Pap’s Mother was a young adult still living at home, her father, Jewell, went to the gristmill one day-he never returned. When they begin to search for him-they found him shot dead. None of us still living, know the details of what happened that day, and Mamaw didn’t talk about it. Now as an adult, it makes me wonder if every time my grandmother went or sent to the gristmill she had to re-live part of the day her Daddy died.

Most mills used water to power their grinding. Pap said some had chutes that carried the water a far piece-from the creek down to the water wheel. Makes me think of a wooden water slide. The water used to turn the wheel resulted in a mill pond. Several years ago Pap showed me where a gristmill had been about a mile from our house. Nothing remained- except the creek. After all these years-the place is still called the Old Mill Pond.

As Appalachia became industrialized and folks started going to work instead of farming, the need for gristmills disappeared.

I can never think of gristmills without thinking of Maggie. For this Picking & Grinning In The Kitchen Spot-I Wandered To The Hill Maggie.

Hope you enjoyed the song-pretty neat arrangement on the vocals.

Have you ever eaten stone ground cornmeal?


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    November 12, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I’m sure the cornmeal my Grandmom used was stone ground as it was back in the early 50’s. I don’t remember much about it other than it was ‘more to the bite’ than cornmeal today.
    As always, Pap and Paul sing like angels and my foot was just a tapping to the tune. Thanks for the clear shot of the spider fretting as you know I so enjoy it. xxoo

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    November 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

    My great grandfather operated a grist mill, he moved his family to Shoal Creek at Qualla. He operated a grist mill there. This was near the Indian Reservation and the Cherokees gave him the name “Tee-Toska” {meaning “the grinder”} He remained at the old homeplace at Qualla the rest of his life.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    November 8, 2009 at 12:40 am

    When I was a kid in Kingsport in the early 50s there was an operating grist, not a museum but a continuing business and people took their corn there for grinding. People had to wait their turn so it was a place for sitting on the porch and talking with neighbors also waiting their turn. The mill also made flour.
    We have an operational mill at one of our state parks here in Indiana at Spring Mill State park. It dates back to the 1700s and is at the center of the restored village that grew up around and because of the mill’s commerce.
    It’s an overshot waterwheel driving the stone burrs. The water is sluiced through the valley from a spring up a holler.
    The cornbread made from that stoneground cornmeal is wonderful. We always have a bag or two in our pantry. Cornmeal mush for frying the next morning in bacon grease is better if the roughage is sifted out and the meal made finer.
    Beautiful song and singing and playing.
    I was so happy to see you in the newspaper. I knew a long time ago that you would succeed and have an evergrowing bunch of friends and fans.
    Makes me feel real good that I can join in.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    We have several old mill ponds in this area and there is one grist mill remaining. It is where hubby and I went to see the War of 1812 reenactment in the summer. The sluice is still there and the wheel is still working…it is a historic site.
    Enjoyed your post. Wishing you a pleasant evening.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I forgot to add,
    That’s a sad story about your great-great? grandfather.
    Have you ever thought about investigating the murder? I guess it might be impossible though with the passing of so many years. Plus, happenings like that back then in the mountains were a lot different than if it happened in a town or city somewhere. It’s still kinda like that today, huh?

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    November 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Great posting on making corn meal. My mama has told me many times about taking the corn to the meal.
    By the way, Congratulations upon the fantastic article about your blog that appeared in the SENTINEL. That was a great feature! I enjoyed it very much. I’m so glad your blog has been so succesful. I enjoy reading it very, very much.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Here in the Ozarks we still have working Grist Mills. The most famous is at Silver Dollar City. I buy my cornmeal from there. It is so good. Like where you live there are so many remains of mill ponds and fortunately there are remaining Mills, some working some just for picture taking and exploring.
    Great post. I love the way you bring back the past to us.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 11:52 am

    You know, Tipper, I think I have had stone ground cornmeal from our Homestead Hollow festival many years ago. It made a pretty good cornbread! Quite diffferent from store bought.I had completely forgotten about that cornmeal.
    Happy Saturday!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Such a mystery surrounding your Great-Grandfathers death. Makes me want to dig in and find out what happened.
    I’ve never had stoneground cornmeal. I imagine that it’s dense, kind of like homeground flour.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 7, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Yep, I’ve had stone ground corn meal. There was a mill near Brevard here in NC, Morgan Mill. It may still be there. I would call May, she and her husband ran the mill, tell her how much corn meal I needed and whether I wanted white or yellow. I always buy white, for some reason I like it better. So, May would ship it to me with the postage ticket taped on the outside of the package and I would mail her a check for the cornmeal and the postage on the outside of the package.
    I kept this cornmeal in the freezer to keep it fresh and alive.
    I can’t imagine anyone doing business that way now…it’s a credit card number and pay up front!
    The old country ways were easier in lots of ways and hard in others.
    I love hearing about the old ways of raising and processing corn. Now we have to worry about GMO corn. The majority of corn grown now has been genetically altered and less healthy because of it.
    Thanks for sharing these memories with us!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

    There are still quite a few working grist mills in East Tn and other parts of the country..at some you can purchase bags of stone ground cornmeal or flour.
    The first water wheel run mill that I remember visiting was of course The Old Mill at Pigeon Forge, Tn. Over 170 years old built in 1830. It is an authentic working mill and on the National Registar of Historical places..we bought meal there often when passing through Pigeon Forge to visit relatives in NC.
    There is the Rice Grist Mill built in 1798 located in Norris Dam State Park, Norris, Tn..Corn meal can be purchased there in the summers..we fished on the lake and brought home meal…
    Another one we have visited was Old Grist Mill at the Crosseyed Cricket (campground) in Lenoir City, Tn..built in the 1800’s and restored in 1979..we purchased a small bag of meal there..
    Of course Dollywoods Grist Mill was built in 1982. The first one built in Tenn. in over 100 years..all authenic construction that grinds wheat and corn…
    I always wanted to visit all the working water wheels in this country…that would be a fun vacation picture challenge I think.
    My favorite mill was my grandfathers in NC..he had his own mill, in a long shed by the barn..It was run by a big engine with a large wheel that sat in the rear of the shed. He cranked the wheel to get it started…I would stand at the end of the conveyer and wait until the meal would come powdering down into the large, rectanguler box and raise the lid on the old box for a peek. This would send my grandfather into a “fit of sorts”, knowing that I would get the white meal powder all over my clothes..lol..but I loved watching the flour come out of the little chute..I also liked to turn the crank on the corn sheller and shell and scoop it into the bucket to be ground…he would only shell enough for a bag or so and never left shelled corn in the box…

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Several years ago I bought ground meal from an old couple that ground & sold it but since their deaths have no idea where to buy it. It made the best cornbread I’ve ever had. So if your readers can get it I’d tell them to try it. Will be hard to settle for store bought again tho. You have the most interesting blog I’ve found. Always stories to touch hearts & entertain. Love it & always love the music. You have a very talented family.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 7:53 am

    When we lived in Mt. Airy, NC we used to go to Mabry Mill on the Blueridge Pkwy. They had stone-ground grits, buckwheat flour and stone-ground cornmeal. I mixed it with “store-bought” because the texture was too coarse, but it’s very, very good that way!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Loved the song. As usual. Such memories you are making.
    No, I’ve never eaten stone ground corn meal. Atleast not that I know of. This makes me wonder what the taste difference would be.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Those old Mill Tails and Mill Ponds on creeks made good swimming holes. The water was deeper in the dammed up portion of the creek than in other areas. Stone ground meal is still available if you look for it. War Eagle Mills in north western Arkansas still has a working grist mill. It is also said to be a sure way to cure fungus infections of the feet and hands (nails). My mother says putting stone ground (rough ground) meal in a sock and wearing it at night will cure the infection over a week or so. Be sure to secure the top so you won’t get a bed full of meal. The same method can be used on the hands using a sock or glove. I bought some “Natural” fungus treatment for my lawn a while back and when I opened it to spread, I noticed it looked just like rough ground corn meal. Must be something to it. I also love to eat it in various recipes for cornbread, and hush puppies. Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    I’ve never ate stone ground meal before. I think grist mills are so picturesque and pretty. Enjoyed your post, Tipper.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    That’s quite a story. Going to the mill must have been real hard for her. I didn’t know that about corn meal. I guess we trade nutrition for shelf-life, then.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    November 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Tipper: I remember an old grist mill on the slippery Rock Creek in PA not far from where I grew up. It was restored and a neat place with the big water wheel. Paul and Pap did a great job on the song. I’ve never had this ground cornmeal.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    I would like to live in the old days!!! I know, I would give up a bunch of “modern day”but,sometimes
    I think it would be worth it..

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 6, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t know that I have ever had stone ground cornmeal, but I buy stone-ground grits from Allen Bros. (Adluh Mills) in Columbia, SC. They are excellent. Cook them in about a half-hour with one part grits and one part heavy cream with 3 parts of water. The best grits I think I have ever had. The recipe is from Corner Kitchen in Asheville, which uses Adluh Mills grits in its restaurant’s dishes.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I love how they do that song, Maggie! That’s an old scottish song – they sing it up home (Cape Breton) too. About the corn, yes, stoneground is available in our area (the old mill at the Wayside in, Sudbury MA) and have cooked with it. Makes good cornbread, but I guess it’s only as good as the corn put into it. Around here, yellow corn varieties were grown for the cows, and I don’t think they cared about the taste mucj:-) The favorite hear is the butter sugar – strictly for fresh consumption. Not sure what the old varieties tasted like, but it would be intersting to find out. I’m really curious about ‘indian corn’ the kind with the multi-colored kernals. I have some hanging on my front door right now! All I know is it’s used ornamentally, has pretty colors and the chipmunks love it! Do you know anything about it?

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    November 6, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    We grew Bloody Butcher corn this year, Tipper, just for making corn meal I might try grinding some this weekend. I have a hand-cranked Corona mill that I used in the 70’s and 80’s. We;ll see if it still works. Hickory King used to be another favorite variety for meal, I think, although most people liked it best for hominy. I grew that before too and it does make good hominy.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    We have an old grist mill not to far that they have kept up for history purposes.
    I do so love cornmeal and what you make with it.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    My grandfather used to talk about going to the grist mill, but I think most of his corn went into moonshine.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Great story! What a sad memory. I can’t wait to hear how they cooked with it. My favorite batter for snitching is cornbread.

  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    November 6, 2009 at 10:26 am

    That is an interesting (and sad) story about your Grandmother, Tipper- I’m sure she never went to the mill but what she didn’t think about her daddy.
    I have had stoneground cornmeal a couple of times… each time I tried to make cornbread out of it, it was very hard to swallow. I like smooth cornmeal much better. (Especially self-rising!)

  • Leave a Reply