If you have finished developing your new food business's menu, you may be in the process of contacting food suppliers and distributors. Even if you have some experience in the kitchen, figuring out exactly what you need from the suppliers can be difficult. For instance, if many of your dishes require cornmeal, you may be surprised at just how many options there are. First and foremost, talk with you chef or other kitchen staff about their preferences. Take a look at some common options at your disposal and which ones may be suitable to your business.
You may be thinking that cornmeal is already free of gluten. While it's true that corn- and rice-based ingredients don't contain gluten like whole grains, many are still processed in plants with whole grains. In fact, many distributors cannot claim that their corn is gluten free because it may have trace amounts from being exposed to grains.
However, there are food suppliers that segregate the cornmeal processing, thus certifying it as gluten free. If you are intending on catering to the rising gluten-free niche, then it's a good idea to order this kind of cornmeal so that you don't get customers with food sensitivities sick.
You may notice that some cornmeal is labeled as "white," "blue," or "yellow." Blue cornmeal and yellow cornmeal are great choices for health-conscious customers because they have lots of antioxidants and vitamins. Blue cornmeal is grown in Mexico, so if your menu contains traditional Mexican cuisine, this kind of cornmeal can add some authenticity to dishes. If you are using the cornmeal as more of a base in your recipes and not the main flavor, opt for white cornmeal since it has a milder taste.
Cornmeal that is ground can range from a powder to chunkier pieces. If you want your menu to use more powdery cornmeal, choose finely ground cornmeal. If you want more texture, then medium-ground or course-ground cornmeals are good bets. Cornmeal that has more texture is quite suitable for "soul food" cooking, like cornbread and muffins.
You may be confused to see polenta on an ordering form for cornmeal. After all, polenta is an Italian dish that uses a variety of coarsely ground grains for porridge. However, in North America, polenta is often used interchangeably with cornmeal. If you have Italian dishes in your menu, clarify with your food supplier whether the polenta is an authentic mix of grains akin to Italian cuisine or whether it's just a type of cornmeal. If you are looking for coarse cornmeal, then it may actually be labeled as polenta—or even grits--on the supplier's order form.
Many other cornmeal mixes have the germ (the living part of the corn) and the hull (outer coating of the corn) removed when they are ground down. However, stone-ground cornmeal is different because the germ and hull are left in, meaning that more fiber, vitamins, and flavorful oils are kept in. If you are wanting high-quality cornmeal, then stone-ground is the way to go. So what's the catch? Because the germ contains some fat, it is more perishable. You can store this type of cornmeal in a freezer or a fridge to extend its life, but you should keep its perishable nature in mind if you have a tight budget and need lots of cornmeal.
Contact your food supplier for more information on your cornmeal choices and other ingredients that you will need.