summer fest: a vintage look at fresh corn
I WAS TEMPTED TO POST A RECIPE FOR ETHANOL to celebrate Corn Week—Part 2 of our third annual Summer Fest recipe swap—but I don’t have the secrets to ethanol’s success figured out, sad to say. Rather than look forward, then, I’m looking back: with a vintage slideshow of our corn-filled American history, and a homey creamed corn that basically contains (you guessed it) mostly just cream and corn. The recipe’s as American and at least as old as the corn-motif Bennington porcelain pitcher (top) that lives here with me—sharing my view of acres of rolling cornfields.
First, a word about Summer Fest, which I co-founded in 2008: It’s a giant round-robin of sharing themed to a single garden-fresh ingredient each week. Get all the details and latest links below, just before the comments, and stock up on delicious ideas from around the web—or add your own.
I READ UP ON CREAMED CORN this week (as did many of my Summer Fest colleagues—see the links below), and found a lot of variations included cornstarch or flour as thickeners, sugar, and even Parmesan cheese or bacon or any manner of extras. Once I shucked the fresh-picked corn from down the road, I thought: I can’t do that to this beautiful stuff, and went the ultra-simple route. Even adding cream seemed like gilding the lily. But I did.
No-Frills Creamed Corn
Thinly slice ¼ cup or so of shallots or small onions;
Sautée in 1-2 Tbsp. of butter till soft;
Add kernels cut from 5 ears of fresh sweet corn (about 2½ cups);
Add ½ cup or so of cream (depending on the volume of kernels, but start there);
Cook gently until tender, and the juices and cream thicken;
Add salt and pepper to taste;
Add fresh parsley or other minced herbs as desired.
Note: I like it even better Day 2, cold, over a bed of tender salad greens. Heavy cream will (of course) yield a thicker result than light.
Corn in Historical Imagery
MY VINTAGE PITCHER GOT ME THINKING how much a part of our heritage corn has been, and so I set off again to the Library of Congress. The show below includes a mere sampling of thousands of relics—from the Victorian era Corn Palace in South Dakota, above (its facade covered in 3,500 bushels of corn, or so the caption says) to a Seneca chief whose name translates as Corn Plant, to surprisingly social shucking-day images.
Click on the first thumbnail to start, then toggle from slide to slide using the arrows below the photo. Enjoy.
When to Pick: Determining Peak Corn Readiness
TO BE ITS MOST TENDER, corn has just a few days of peak readiness…so if you pick too late that can affect the thickness of the outer covering of each kernel and add to toughness. The time to pick is right as the silk turns fully dark and withers; a few days too late and the quality declines. Early morning or evening picking is best, when temperatures are relatively cool.
The top kernels will be juicy and fully formed, and the liquid in them will neither be sticky or thick, nor watery…but more like milk. The peak moment is about three weeks after the plants tassel.
More corn tips, and a corn pudding recipe, are here.
How You Can Join in Summer Fest:
Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.
Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites.com).
The 2010 Schedule:
- Wednesday, July 28: CUKES AND ZUKES. Read it here.
- Wednesday, August 4: CORN.
- Wednesday, August 11: HERBS-BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (any one or both/all, your choice).
- Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT.
- Wednesday, August 25: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?
- And then…more, more, more if you want it (potatoes? sweet potatoes? root veggies? winter squash?). You name it.
And in case I forget what week it is, won’t somebody remind me on Twitter? Thanks. We’ll be talking it up there, too.
That’s how a Summer Fest works.
This Week’s Corn Links
- Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Creamed Corn with Bacon and Rosemary
- White on Rice Couple: BBQ Chicken and Corn Pizza
- The FN Dish: Creamed Corn-Off: Battle of the Southern Cooks
- Alison at Food2: Freezing Corn
- Toby at Healthy Eats: Candied Corn and 4 other recipes
- Michelle at Cooking Channel: Browsing Corn Porn
- Judy/Tuscan Diva: Fried Polenta Crostini with Porcini Ragu
- Jennifer of Gilded Fork: Corn: Sweet Versatility (history, uses & recipes from cocktails to cornbread)
- Chef Mark: Gettin’ Corny! (Musings from childhood, tips & fresh-corn recipes)
- Caron of SanDiegoFoodstuff: Chino Corn Risotto with Chanterelles and Burrata
- Caroline at The Wright Recipes: Pickled Corn with Summer Onion and Basil
- Shauna at Gluten Free Girl and the Chef: a sweet corn risotto (and how to make corn stock with husks and mirepoix)
- Tigress in a Jam: Cream Corn Scones (perfect way to use up left over roasted or boiled corn)
- Alana at Eating from the Ground Up: Corn on the Kabob (invented by her artist husband)
- Cate O’Malley at Sweetnicks: Corn and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps
- Kelly at Just a Taste: Caramel Corn (plus pics of corn in its various popping stages)
- Paige Orloff of The Sister Project: Life-Changing Corn Pancakes
- Tara at Tea and Cookies: Farro Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs
- Food Network UK blog: Talking Corn