The first time I said to Joe that I was going to make cornmeal mush, he raised an eyebrow and said, "Isn't that a Depression-era dish?"
I didn't know about that. Fried cornmeal mush was simply something I grew up eating. But I guess it makes sense. If you have some cornmeal, hot water, salt, a bit of flour, and a bit of grease to fry it in (bacon fat, butter, or oil), then you have cornmeal mush. Simple and inexpensive ingredients.
A few days back I realized that I needed to use up my buttermilk before it went bad, and I had also run out of cornmeal. Those two thoughts collided, and the result was this experiment.
If basic cornmeal mush was made with water, why couldn't a richer variant be made out of milk or buttermilk? As it turns out, there's not reason why not.
The basic cornmeal mush proportion is approximately 4:1 ratio of water to cornmeal. When I added buttermilk, I started with the basic Betty Crocker recipe and substituted buttermilk for only a portion of the water. The result is a dense slab of cornmeal mush with the decidedly sour tang of buttermilk. You don't have to use buttermilk. You can use regular milk instead, or even all water.
Buttermilk Cornmeal Mush
Note: require refrigeration for ~12 hours, so prep the night before you want it.
3/4 C cornmeal (fine grind preferred)
3/4 C buttermilk
2 1/2 C boiling water
3/4 tsp. salt
butter/oil/bacon fat for cooking (I usually use a mix of butter and vegetable oil)
Set some water to boil. A teapot works great for this. Mix the cornmeal and buttermilk in a pot large enough accommodate it all (2 quarts-ish). Whisk in 2.5 cups boiling water and the salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and begins to boil (bit bubbles will come up through the mush). Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Grease a loaf pan. Stir the thickened mush and pour into the loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
You can unmold the entire loaf of mush or carefully cut slices of the pan. You can cut thick slices or thin ones, depending your preference. Thick slices will have soft centers, and if you use buttermilk, its sour tang will be more noticeable. Thin slices will be crunchier.
Dredge the slices in flour. Pan fry in a bit of butter, oil, or bacon fat until crispy. Carefully turn and cook on the other side.
Serve with butter (if you like) and maple syrup.