Corn is for the chickens! Growing up, I heard my mom say it a thousand times. Exclaimed, really. She was never neutral about corn. Not even around late November, when our off-the-boat Italian family ventured outside of our otherwise Italian-custom entrenched home to celebrate the rather ‘foreign’ holiday of Thanksgiving.
For the occasion, I wanted corn with a little butter, salt and pepper at the table next to the turkey. Like I got in my school lunches when my mom didn’t pack me something foreign-looking for my classmates to sneer at. I didn’t think it was too much to ask, but she did because…you know it…
Corn is for the chickens! (See what I mean?)
Don’t get me wrong. My mom wasn’t the Grinch of Thanksgiving or anything. She really embraced many things about this new holiday.
Getting her to love roasted turkey was a cinch, and I would watch her lovingly baste a bird slowly acquiring the beautiful color of caramel toffee. No problems there.
She even made stuffing, although she followed the European tradition of stuffing a bird by impaling meat with more meat, like chicken livers or sausage. I never took to the meat stuffing, however good my mom prepared it, and started making the more traditional bread stuffing, or dressing if I am to be technically correct, as soon as I could man the stove. No insurmountable problems there.
The need for cranberry sauce at the table puzzled her somewhat, but she nevertheless obliged me by buying Ocean Spray’s Jellied Cranberry Sauce. Yes, the one in the can. Ouch! To her it was just a throw away item. To me it was how I experienced cranberry sauce until I left home and started eating Thanksgiving dinners at other people’s houses once my parents moved back to Italy. Before then, I didn’t connect the sauce to an actual berry. I don’t know what I thought, I guess I just thought it was something that came out of a can. Then again, I was young and far more interested in playing Barbies and making up silly plays with my friend Michelle. Problem solved.
When it came to corn, though, it was a problem. There was no humoring her. Eventually I started making that too, though she never once tasted it. I don’t even think she ever touched the bowl it was in, come to think of it. Funny woman. I think if we were all judged by our idiosyncrasies, we would all be deemed certifiably insane.
Perhaps if I had made her these cheddar-y, jalapeno-y muffins she might have changed her mind about the whole corn thing.
And why not? They are wickedly dense and moist and it’s such a pleasure to bite into them. The coarse ground cornmeal gives it a slightly mealy consistency that is quite pleasing, especially when experienced with the interspersed little pieces of dewy jalapenos. The cheddar cheese adds a lovely base of flavor to the mix and the sugar brings everything together and balances out the slight heat from the jalapenos.
They are remarkably well balanced. Not too sweet. Not too hot. Not too coarse from the cornmeal. Not too airy from too much white flour.
Why, they’re the baby bear of cheddar jalapeno muffins. Just right!
And they eat like a meal. They are so rich that all you need is to eat one of these babies with a bowl of hearty soup and you are set.
This particular recipe is a hybrid of 7 other recipes. I found some too sweet and some too ‘healthy’ in that ground cornmeal texture kind of way. One recipe was so hot it made me cry and so I didn’t even offer it up to my girls. But this incantation of it…it’s really family-friendly…even with the jalapenos, which – after all- have been seeded and thus possess only a fraction of their ‘warming’ power.
making jalapeño cheddar corn muffins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 6-cup muffin tin (or just place muffin liners into each hole).
Don’t have the needed 1 cup of buttermilk in the house? No problem. Make some by combining 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or white distilled vinegar), stirring, and allowing it to stand for 10 minutes at room temperature before using.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup stone ground yellow corn meal, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a couple pinches of salt.
Place half of the buttermilk in a mug and heat in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Add a 1/2 cup of sugar and stir until the sugar has melted.
Beat 2 large eggs in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup and then add all of the buttermilk (including the sweetened one in the mug), 1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted, unsalted butter, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Mix well.
Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add 2 seeded and diced jalapenos and 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
Toss gently to combine.
Transfer the batter back into the Pyrex measuring cup and pour the batter into the muffin liners. Doing so makes it so much easier and less messy to boot!
It makes the whole process of filling up those muffin liners so much easier and with considerably less mess. Place the muffin tin into the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops of the muffins are nice and golden.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Makes 6 large, satisfying muffins.