Food: It?s sweet corn time
I think one of the best parts about this time of summer is all the corn stands I see as I travel through the countryside. I eat a lot of this vegetable, knowing when the snow blows it’s one I will be craving.
In fact, many times when I’m looking through my seed catalogs during the dead of winter, I stare longingly at the sweet corn section, even though I don’t grow this vegetable. It is, admittedly, self-inflicted torture. These perfect specimens make my mouth water and as I gaze at them longingly, I wish for exactly this time of year.
This summer, I’m preparing for that aching feeling, though. Whenever I boil up some fresh ears of corn, I always make extra and then cut it off the cob and freeze it. While this is a good substitute, it’s just not the same as crunching into a sweet cob fresh from the field.
One summer, I worked for a farmer who grew acres of sweet corn in southern Wisconsin. My job was to get up before dawn and wrench ears of corn off stalks, toting them along in a bag similar to what newspaper delivery people wear. It was grueling work and by the time the sun was just a little over the horizon, I was bent and beat.
Luckily, sweet corn season is relatively short and so that particular summer job didn’t last long, but I’m still very thankful for the folks who bring it in from the fields and sell it at their road stands. As I sort through the ears in the back of pick-up trucks, I remember those early morning walks through tall stalks of corn and how in a few short months I will be once again drooling over pictures in seed catalogs.
Which, for me, makes corn season one of the sweetest of all.
Fresh Creamed Corn
2 cups fresh corn, boiled and cut from cob
1 cup half-and-half
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs. butter
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. flour
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Mix together the corn, half-and-half, salt, sugar, pepper and butter in a skillet. Whisk together the milk and flour. Over medium heat, stir the flour mixture into the skillet. Stir until mixture thickens and heat through. Add the Parmesan cheese.
Corn and Shrimp Chowder
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups diced red potatoes
1 ½ cups fresh corn, boiled and cut from the cob
1 bunch chopped scallions
1/2 lb. thawed shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Boil the potatoes in the broth for five minutes. Add corn and white portion of scallion; simmer eight minutes. Remove 2 cups and puree in a blender. Return to pot, then stir in shrimp. Cook shrimp until bright pink then stir in cream, lemon juice and scallion greens. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Aunt Jane’s Sweet Cornbread
1 cup flour, sifted
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup half-and-half
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup melted butter or shortening
½ cup sugar (but leave out if you don’t like it sweet)
1 cup fresh sweet corn
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thoroughly grease and flour a 9×9-inch baking pan, or use a cast-iron skillet. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Combine the half-and-half, eggs, butter (or shortening) and sugar. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until the flour is moistened, no more than 10 to 15 seconds. Then fold in the corn. Don’t over mix the batter.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the edge of the cornbread starts to separate from the pan.