Appalachia Appalachian Food

How to Make Cornmeal Mush


Pap told me his family often had cornmeal mush for breakfast, and sometimes they had it for supper too. His mother would pour leftover mush into a pan or other container and let it set up. For supper she’d slice the pieces of mush and fry it in grease. They poured sorghum syrup over it much like you’d eat pancakes. Cornmeal was readily available to folks like Pap’s family who grew their own corn for making meal as well as to feed their animals.

The Deer Hunter’s Aunt Wanda still makes cornmeal mush. She said she ate it often when she was a girl and that it’s become one of her favorite comfort foods since it reminds her of childhood.

Anyone who has made grits or oatmeal already has the process of making cornmeal mush down pat. Aunt Wanda said in the old days folks would sift the cornmeal before cooking to get the larger pieces out.

Cornmeal Mush

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil
  • Add a pinch of salt
  • Pour 1 cup of cornmeal into the boiling water while stirring the mixture
  • Continue cooking until thick
  • Add butter, sugar, syrup or whatever pleases you to the mush


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  • Reply
    Daniel L. Davis
    August 2, 2019 at 10:58 am

    I also had cornmeal mush as a kid in Southern Nebraska. Just last week I fixed some for myself and shared it with my stepdaughter. She really liked it. What I had left I put in a pie tin and let cool then had it fried for mu lunch. It’s really good either way . Thank you for sharing your story.
    and all your stories.

  • Reply
    Paula Vibert
    January 1, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    My mother frequently made fried mush. I just made it the other day. Just sliced thin and fried in butter until lightly browned. Add salt and pepper and you’ve got a real treat.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I have never had it . My youngest daughter loves cornmean gravy. My mother in law will make it for her. I dont like it. I love Cornbread but that’s all. Lol

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    December 10, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    My Dad used to talk about having cornmeal mush and I think he used to make it for himself occasionally.

  • Reply
    Ruth Binder
    December 10, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    In reply to Harry Adams: Corn meal is available in Ohio at the Amish bulk food stores. Just bought some in October in Sugarcreek.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    December 10, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Tipper Truman and I was in Philadelphia small cafe they had mush course Truman had never had mush and ask the waitress how it was made. I looked across the table and told him I could have told him how to make mush. He looked surprise that his new bride knew how to make mush. I was at awh knowing a cafe up North made southern mush

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    December 10, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    My mother made mush from time to time. I didn’t realize it then but now I know it’s because the cupboard was getting bare so she would resort to what she had on hand. I didn’t care for it but she and dad liked it.
    I guess they grew up eating it often since they grew up in hard times. You make do with what you have!

    • Reply
      Janet Miller
      December 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      My mother made this and we fried it nd put butter on top. One of my favorite meals. Always had trouble getting it firm enough to fry. Need to try again. So easy on the stomach when in the bowl with milk. A good post for memories.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    December 10, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Mama fixed it both ways! Except she fried the cold mush squares in butter and we ate them with homemade maple syrup (made with Mapeline). MMMMMMmmmmm! I still make mush occasionally.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    December 10, 2018 at 11:51 am

    I’ve only had mush a time or two, if we had a grain for breakfast it was oats or white rice. We ate the rice just like the oats with milk and sugar added to it.

    My son and his wife are home from Ca. and somebody burnt hamburger in my cornbread skillet. Good grief!!!!

    • Reply
      December 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      AW-you sound The Deer Hunter-the girls are always burning something in his cast-iron pans 🙂

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 10, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Donna Lynn opened her Party Line Program with the Pressley Girls and Paul. They all sung “Working on a Building” and it’s another Favorite of mine. I like anything by Chitter, Chatter, and Paul.

    Dean Martin’s daughter, Deanna was on Fox and Friends this morning and she sung “Let it Snow.”
    They done it up real nice for Deanna, and her dad was always one of my Favorites.

    I heard Mama and Daddy talking one morning about Corn Meal Mush. They came thru the Depression and raised three boys. They talked a lot about the days of the Great Depression and my Daddy said after it was over, they couldn’t tell any difference in their part of Appalachia. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    December 10, 2018 at 9:24 am

    Although I am a southern girl, I never could acquire a taste for grits. After 52 years of marriage my husband still looks at me says, “you don’t like grits?”. Our second daughter stood up in her highchair, hands on her hips & said, ” where’s my grits?! “… when she didn’t see them on grandma’s table. We still laugh at that memory.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    December 10, 2018 at 9:21 am

    I have ground my own cornmeal using a hand grinder. I sift the flour and usually regrind and re- sift. The large particles are cooked. The “grits” take much longer than store bought grits. If you look at store grits, they will most likely be hominy grits. Stone ground grits are what is needed for mush.
    The corn for hominy grits was made into hominy, dried and ground. It has been precooked. I think it has lost a lot of the starch or whatever glues the corn together when it cools.

    In other countries, it is polenta. I had it cut into squares after cooling and deep fried in Brazil.

    Plain corn meal can be cooked into mush, but it will be much finer than true grits or mush. Bake it thin and you have tortilla chips.

    Most of this is from my experimenting.

    Interesting note to get yellow corn meal, I have to buy it in SC on visits and bring it north. No grocery in Ohio sells “plain” yellow corn meal.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 10, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Yellow corn meal isn’t readily available even in the south. I can find it but I know which stores have it. Ingles in our area but it is not prominently displayed. Other stores might have it in the breader section. I never see it in bags bigger than one or two pounds. Why you would have to buy half a dozen bags it you wanted to feed a family gathering.
      We also have yellow corn grits. That’s what I eat. It has a cornyer flavor. Yellow grits with butter and a little extra salt tastes like extra buttery popcorn. Yum!

  • Reply
    December 10, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Mom has told of eating nothing but cornmeal mush for every meal when times were hard. Times were always hard for them, some worse than others. She served mush to her children along with scrambled eggs many times. I love grits and I think they taste the same.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 10, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Tip, I never liked cornmeal mush, I think it was the texture. I also boiled pork with the mush once, let it set up then sliced and fried it and it wasn’t bad. Now days I eat less pork and fried things for health reason.

    I’m sure your correct Tip, whether the cornmeal is self rising or plain would not matter for much.

    We must also consider the old time cornmeal is very different from the meal in the grocery store today. It was fresh, home grown corn that had been locally ground. That’s a far cry from current corn meal that has been genetically “improved” and treated for long shelf life.

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    December 10, 2018 at 8:20 am

    my mother made Pa. dutch scrapple or pon haus with pork scraps in the cornmeal mush. she fried slices in bacon grease and we put real maple syrup on it. i have seen scrapple in the freezer section of grocery stores here in florida. i have never bought it because i know i would be disappointed in the taste, none so good as that made by mom.

  • Reply
    Diane Tuttle
    December 10, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Oh my! I haven’t thought about corn meal mush in years! It used to be my favorite because my grandmother would make it for me when I wasn’t feeling well. I know what my breakfast is going to be tomorrow. Thank you for reminding me!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 10, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I remember mush for breakfast. It was a have-to food, when there wasn’t anything else. At that time I had never even heard of grits. In fact I am still not clear on the difference unless it be that grits are the ‘heart’ of the kernel and cornmeal the hard outer part.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 10, 2018 at 8:50 am

      Cornmeal and corn grits are the same thing. Cornmeal is just ground a little finer. Hominy grits are different. They are made of ground hominy which is corn that has had the husk and germ “heart” removed.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Corn was probably among the most necessary because it was necessary for the farm animals, and was ground for cornmeal by my grandparents. Memories of their corn crib blowing over when empty still brings forth sweet memories to myself and remaining aunts and uncles. Studying the history we have a great picture of an old time corn shucking in the area. I have let down my ancestors miserably, as I cannot grow corn without some sort of critter getting to it before I do.

    I have a memory of my mother making corn mush, but she only cooked it once that I remember. It did not go over well, so she never tried it again. Unfortunately, by the time she tried it we had already been spoiled by easily available cornflakes and oatmeal. Cornbread was different, and there was never any left.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 10, 2018 at 8:44 am

      Your ancestors who grew corn probably ate the critters that ate the corn before they could get to the corn. If you can learn to eat deer, coon and squirrel, you can grow corn.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    December 10, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Aunt Wanda said in the old days folks would sift the cornmeal before cooking to get the larger pieces out.
    When the corn was ground the corn husk was separated from the meal, but there seemed to always be a certain amount of corn husk that still made it’s way into the meal. Mom always sifted the meal to make sure no corn husks were left in the meal.
    We had cornmeal mush, but I do not remember having any fried. I would guess that the fried was good since it was fried in grease! Sometimes I think the perception of how good food is or isn’t depends on the level of hunger?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 10, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Self rising cornmeal has baking powder and salt added. The baking powder serves no purpose in making mush. It will rise but won’t keep its volume. Don’t use self rising cornbread mix for sure if you want authentic mush. It has flour as well and although you may like the end result it just ain’t the same.
    Livermush is just mush with pork liver and spices stirred in and allowed to set. Some people add other strange pig parts into theirs but I like mine plain.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 10, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Liver mush and souse were two things we had but I don’t remember corn mush.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 10, 2018 at 8:37 am

      If you had liver mush you had corn meal mush. It is the base for livermush.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    December 10, 2018 at 7:22 am

    My Grandpa Helms loved his Mush. I never acquired the appreciation of the “texture”. Most of my family were Grits people. Mama fried her leftover Grits the same way as Pap’s mother. We just put butter on them. Definitely a comfort food.

  • Reply
    Marshall Reagan
    December 10, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Do you use plain or self rising cornmeal or does it matter? that & liver mush is something I haven,t had in years

    • Reply
      December 10, 2018 at 7:02 am

      Marshall-I’m sure their cornmeal was plain, but I think self-rising would work too.

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