This post is especially for my American friends, particularly those with an interest in food history, and very especially those fascinated by the spread of maize around the world.
The story for today comes from The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld) of 5 December 1846. To put this date into perspective, a micro-history of the area goes something like this:- In 1824 the first penal colony was established in Moreton Bay, which was at that time part of the colony of New South Wales. In 1838 the area was opened up to free settlers, and the first immigrant ship from England arrived in 1848. It was not until 1859 that Queensland was formally separated from New South Wales, and became a self-governing colony.
MAIZE.-As many of our readers are, doubtless, unacquainted with the various modes of preparing maize as an article of food, we have taken some pains this week in collecting and laying before them the following particulars, which have been compiled from an article that appeared in the South Australian Register of the 10th Oct. last. It is well known that the attempt made by Mr.Cobbett to cultivate maize in England failed, owing to the climate being too cold. In this climate it can be produced in the greatest abundance; and in this district in particular, the crops have rarely been known to fail. Dr. Bartlett, of New York, addressed, in the year 1842, to Lord Ashburton, "An Essay on the Advantages of Maize, or Indian Corn, as a cheap and nutritious article of food," and which was re-printed in London for general circulation, and dedicated to B, Escott, Esq., M.P., as "the first public man in England to call for the free admission of a new, cheap, and wholesome article of food for his poor and suffering countrymen." He is of opinion that maize is a cheaper article of food than any of the grains now in use, and says, that it can be imported ground, and retailed in Great Britain at less than one penny sterling per pound. " It is the farinacious food in general use in the rural districts of the United States. Upon it children thrive, and adults labour, without the assistance of wheat. It is prepared in an infinite variety of ways-in cakes, in puddings, in the form of bread, &c, and possesses a superiority to barley in powers of sustenance, in flavour, and in expansibility during the process of cooking. It is found from daily experience in America, that persons, instead of becoming tired of the article became daily more attached to it - thus giving a physical illustration of Shakspere's remark, that ‘increase of appetite grows by what it feeds on.’ The palatable auxiliaries of this preparation are sugar, molasses, and butter; but the best and most healthful by far is milk, a small quantity of which gives it a most agreeable flavour, and renders it highly digestible and nutritious. Wheaten bread, with an addition of one-third corn meal, is decidedly improved by it, and obtains the preference at the tables of American families. It acquires by this addition a sweetness in flavour, and a freshness that we in vain look for in bread made entirely of wheat. The following recipes have been procured from America, and were published in the Sussex Advertiser,-" Indian corn, when ground, makes excellent gruel, prepared in the same way as oatmeal gruel; and what is called mush is the same thing as Lancashire oatmeal porridge ; but it is necessary in making this, that it be well boiled. In summer it is eaten cold, and is very much liked. Treacle may be eaten with this. Indian meal is considered a great improvement either to white or brown bread ; about one-third of Indian meal should be mixed with wheaten flour; this is especially advantageous in case of the flour being damaged by wet. Indian bread is excellent, and is made thus:- to a quart of sour milk or butter milk, as much corn meal should be added as will make it into a thick batter; a little salt, and a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda dissolved in water, acts upon the acid of the buttermilk and the effervescence causes the bread to be light; a spoonful of coarse sugar is an improvement, as is also a little butter or melted lard. This must be baked in well-greased tins, sufficiently large to allow the cakes to be about an inch thick; they must be baked in a quick oven. They are best eaten hot, but are very good cold. Treacle is excellent with these. When sour milk cannot be procured, fresh milk maybe substituted, adding a tablespoonful of vinegar; but the carbonate of soda must not be stirred in until just before putting into the oven. Another way of making this bread is to pour boiling sweet milk over the meal, and, when cool, add three eggs and a little salt. What is called Indian snap jack would be very available in those parts of Great Britain where girdle cakes and bread of that description is used. They are very excellent, and are thus made :-Scald a quart of Indian meal; when lukewarm add a few spoonfuls of wheaten flour, half a teacupful of yeast, and a little salt, and, when sufficiently risen, bake them on a well-greased bakestone. They are best eaten hot. Another way, and the most approved here, is to mix about half the meal into boiling milk and water ; when cool, stir in the remainder of the meal, so as to make a thick batter, mixing in two or three spoonfuls of flour, three eggs, and two teaspoonfuls of salt. To make johnny cakes:-Scald a quart of Indian meal with a sufficient quantity of water to make it into a thick batter; stir in two or three spoonfuls of salt; mould it in the hand into small cakes, rubbing a good deal of flour in the hand to prevent them sticking. These cakes are fried in lard; when browned on one side turn the other. They take about twenty minutes in baking. Eat them hot with treacle. To make hoe cakes;-Scald a quart of Indian meal with a pint of water, enough to make a thick batter; stir in two teaspoonfuls of salt, and a small quantity of butter, melted ; put it into a well greased tin, and bake it half an hour. Hominy is made from the unground Indian corn. The husk is freed from the grain in a mill, and the grain in this state resembles the finest tapioca. Boil it till soft in water. It is extremely good thus boiled and eaten in milk, and, with the addition of a little sugar and spice, resembles English fermity. What is called sluts' hominy is made by steeping the grains in weak ley, which loosens the husk, so that it is easily removed, without the necessity of the mill. Bannocks or Indian cakes are made thus,- and are fit for the most luxurious table:-Stir to a cream a pound of butter and a pound and a half of brown sugar; beat six eggs and mix together ; and a teaspoonful of cinnamon and the same of ginger; stir in three pounds and a quarter of sifted Indian meal and a quarter of a pound of wheaten flour. Bake in cups [f]or small tin moulds, and eat when cold. It is said that the importation of maize into England has excited much attention, and that it is beginning to be highly appreciated. Bread baked from it is coming rapidly into vogue; and several bakers are driving a brisk business in it already. At a recent meeting of the Philosophical Society, Dr. R. D. Thomson read an able paper on its nutritious qualities, which he ranked very high; and at the same time exhibited various kinds of bread and biscuit which had been baked from it. Some of the specimens were mixtures of maize and wheat, and maize and rice, in which state the loaves can be better fermented than when the maize is used alone. The bread and biscuits were very palateable and pleasant. A Mr. Gibbons, of Liverpool, has succeeded in producing very good bread from a mixture of one pound of maize flour with four pounds of English, and of one pound with three pounds, with satisfactory results, the bread being sweeter than that commonly sold by the bakers. Maize flour has been found a valuable ingredient in many articles of confectionery. As a vegetable maize is in general use in South America. It is procured when young, and eaten in the same manner as peas; sometimes it is fried in pans, it is then called "recado," and forms a very agreeable addition to the vegetable food of the inhabitants of that part of the world. In Peru, beer is made from maize, and the liquor thus produced is one of the most wholesome and refreshing beverages that can be taken in a warm climate. The Spaniards call the beer made from maize, che-che, and great quantities are daily consumed by the Europeans residing in Lima, and other cities in Peru.