We all must possess a few fond childhood summer memories that involve some corn-on-the-cob. Mine tends to circulate around our mother, who took advantage of its economical bounty, and made it the star attraction in many summer meals. In fact, truth be told, Mom would often serve it alone, and from a big white enamel pot that sat on her stove.
Mom took summer family dining to a whole new level of simplicity. Choosing not to serve us our meals, but rather allow us to serve ourselves, and straight from the stove.
This liberty allowed us the freedom to choose whatever bowl, plate, spoon or fork we wanted to, and placed no limit on how much we could consume.
I can still hear Mom issuing the edict, “Eat all you want,” as we’d enter the room. However, given that her meals were always fresh-produce-forward, the copious amounts of fiber they naturally contained made it almost impossible for any of us to ever be able to overconsume.
What’s interesting is that while we could always look forward to countless bowls of lightly steamed vegetables to consume, when the menu switched to corn on the cob a different rule of eating was gently instilled.
Our corn consumption had to be kept track of because Dad wanted to know just how many cobs his children were able to consume. What’s funny is that it was not for any serious reason. It was just another one of his silly games he designed to simply amuse.
While we all loved corn, as a child (and as an adult) I struggled to eat just one and a half cobs in one sitting, and my older, larger-in-size sisters were lucky to get down two. However, my skinny-as-a-rail sister, Nancy, who was three years my senior, surprised us all by gobbling down a full three ears!
Impressing us all, Dad was so tickled by her feat that he awarded her with a whole quarter, which was big money for a little girl in the 1960s, and officially donned her with the family title of being “queen” of corn on the cob eating, a moniker that sticks to this day. God bless Nancy and all the corn she gets to eat in heaven these days.
While those childhood summers feel like they were a few lifetimes away, the memories of them still warm my soul as though they happened yesterday.
I think it’s awesome that a few sweet kernels can rekindle warm memories stored in our hearts, and I can’t think of a better time than summer to recall them by buying a few fresh-picked ears and dusting that old recipe box off.
There is no greater way to step back into your childhood self than by consuming a favorite corn recipe from the past, and one of my favorites was a creamed corn recipe that Mom made from white corn she procured from a local farmer she knew.
The memory of her creamed corn came quickly to mind when hubby and I happened to stop by Grossnickle farms in Kavela recently.
What triggered it was watching two men carry baskets of fresh-picked white corn out of the field, triggering old memories I shared in childhood with Mom.
Incredibly, I began to feel like that little kid again and even began hearing echoes of my mother’s voice reminding me of what to look for when choosing corn as I set about to select the best.
“Fresh cob and with no wilt,” she’d retort followed by, “Fresh-looking silk. Healthy-looking tip, good smell, and a long, fat, heavy-weighted ear (because light ones are old and dry), and of course, no peeling!”
Leaning over the bushel, gathering my carefully inspected lot, I marveled at how the corn so swiftly returned me to feeling like I was back in my youth.
Pausing for a moment to allow myself the chance to take it all in, I suddenly felt Mom’s presence, as if she was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, helping me sort through that bin. Sweet kernels, indeed!
Here now are some old-fashioned favorites to help you savor some sweet kernels too, and if you’d like to rekindle your memories in the same place I did, I’m sure the Grossnickle’s in Kaleva would be happy if you stopped by for a visit, too. Enjoy!
Laura Kurella is an award-winning recipe developer, food columnist, and author of the new culinary memoir, “MIDWEST MORSELS,” which celebrates both the old-fashioned and the favored flavors of the Great Lakes Midwest. She welcomes comments at email@example.com.
Laura’s Incredible Creamed Corn
Prep: 5 mins; Cook: 10 mins; Total: 15 mins. Yield: 8 servings
1/2 cup unsalted quality butter
1 large sweet onion, minced
2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
4 cups corn kernels (about 8 to 10 ears worth)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon unrefined (colored) sea salt
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or preferred sweetener)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup half & half
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
In a skillet over medium heat, combine butter and onion. Cook, stirring, until onions begin to caramelize, about 7 minutes. Add pressed garlic and cook for one more minute, then add the corn, cream, salt, syrup (or sweetener) and pepper.
In a measuring cup, whisk together the half & half and flour then and stir into the pot.
Bring pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until mixture is thick and creamy. Serve hot.
Classic Scalloped Corn
Prep Time: 15 mins; Cook Time: 30 mins; Total Time: 45 mins. Yield: 8 servings.
4 cups creamed corn
1 cup crushed saltine crackers, divided use
½ cup unsalted butter, melted, divided use
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian (sweet) paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of an 8 x11 x 2-inch casserole dish.
In a mixing bowl, place half of the cracker crumbs (1/2 cup), and then sprinkle them with half of the melted butter (1/4 cup). Blend to combine, then add creamed corn and eggs to the buttered cracker crumbs and mix well. Pour mixture into the buttered dish.
Returning to the mixing bowl, add remaining 1/2 cup cracker crumbs to the unclean bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup melted butter and toss, then sprinkle with the paprika and pepper. Mix well, then using hands sprinkle butter-spiced crumb topping over the top of the casserole.
Place in the preheated oven and bake until topping browns slightly and filling bubbles along edges, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Classic Corn Pudding
Prep Time: 10 mins; Cook Time:1 hr.; Total Time:1 hr., 10 mins. Yield: 8 servings
5 large eggs
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or sugar sub)
1/2 cup cream or half & half
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups cooked whole kernel corn
4 cups of creamed corn
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs lightly, then add milk, melted butter, syrup (or other sweetener) and cornstarch. Whisk until well combined then stir in both types of corn, mixing until fully blended. Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish, place in the preheated oven, and bake until golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve immediately.