Cornmeal for Christmas

Cornmeal from Yates Mill in Raleigh, NC

The first time I visited Yates Mill in Raleigh, N.C. for its holiday sale, I was about eighth in line at opening time, directly behind someone who purchased 12 bags of cornmeal. I learned my lesson. Now, the mill allows advance orders of its white and yellow cornmeal, which is stone-ground at the water-powered  1756 gristmill, one of just a few of its type in the country.

The holiday sale is Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You won’t be able to see the mill in operation – those tours are held March through November. You can place advance cornmeal orders by emailing

William Robbins, the miller and member of Yates Mill Associates, the non-profit group which raises funds to keep the mill going, says the dried corn he uses is grown in Franklin and Vance counties, and used by other mills. He thinks that the reason his cornmeal tastes better than many commercial version is in how it’s made and handled. The water-powered mill, which Robbins spent five years helping restore, turns at a slower speed than motor-driven mills (most commercial stone mills are driven by engines, he says). The higher speed grinding heats the cornmeal and changes the flavor. The slower speed lets the result taste more “corny.”

Yates Mill’s cornmeal is unbolted, meaning that it’s not sifted and contains the whole corn bran. Robbins advises sifting it before using, because sometimes a whole kernel of corn will slip through. Robbins advises refrigerating or freezing the cornmeal. It freezes almost indefinitely – just put the bag inside an airtight freezer bag first.

Robbins says the next project for the mill is purchasing equipment to make stone-ground grits as well. People ask me all the time where to get good stone-ground grits. Well, you grits fans should donate and join the associates by going here.

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