Sweet Corn, Northern Extrasweet Variety
Sweet Corn,...
Wally Eberhart
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American Food!

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"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn."
~ Garrison Keillor

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A Field of Mature Cornstalks Ready for Harvest
A Field of Mature Cornstalks
Ready for Harvest
Photographic Print

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Maize, or Indian Corn Plant
Maize, or Indian Corn Plant
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Fresh Picked Sweet Corn
Fresh Picked Sweet Corn
Art Print

Brown, David...
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Produce at an Outdoor Market, Helsinki, Finland
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"Corn Harvest," Saturday Evening Post Cover, October 9, 1948
"Corn Harvest," Saturday Evening Post Cover, October 9, 1948
Mead Schaeffer
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Cornfield near Burwell, Nebraska
Cornfield near Burwell, Nebraska
Joel Sartore
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La Belle Cuisine



“As Midwesterners know, corn ought to be ‘knee high by the fourth of July’.
There is nothing more American, except apple pie, of course, than a juicy ear
of corn in the hot summer months. Yet corn is an integral part of many dishes
around the globe, from posole and polenta to corn chowder and Yankee corn relish…”
 (from the publishers of Corn: a Country Garden Cookbook icon)

In the course of writing “Ugly Americans?” this on Independence Day 2002, I found myself contemplating the intriguing question: Just exactly what IS American food? Almost as impossible a question as “What is an American?” due to the vast and complex diversity we enjoy. And, of course, I am referring not only to North American food, but more specifically to U. S. American food.
During my tenure in Germany I found the knee-jerk response to this question to
be “hamburgers,” or “hot dogs,” or both. In the minds of a great many Europeans, these two foods constitute our sustenance in the good ole (unenlightened) US of A.
We have not researched this extensively, but I am sure nonetheless that the reference is to the city of Hamburg, Germany. Ground meat Hamburg style.
 Once again, no extensive research, but Frankfurter is only half of the term, i.e. Frankfurter Wurst. The same goes for Wiener, only this time the reference is to Wien/Vienna, Austria. Viennese Wurst, if you will. We just dropped the “wurst”.
American, yes. North American, no. That goes for both the sweet potato and
the so-called “Irish” potato. Courtesy of The Food Museum, we offer you the
following potato facts:
" Sweets: The Other Potato
The American plant that saved China and Japan from famine is also an integral part of the food history of the southern United States. A member of the morning glory family, the sweet potato was one of the first foods Columbus ate in the Americas."
"Better than Gold: The Potato
The world's most important vegetable, the potato may have influenced history more than any other food. The American native made the massive Inca empire possible, underpinned the European Industrial Revolution, created the discipline of plant pathology, prolonged World War I and was key to the downfall of Poland's Communist regime."
This is it, right? Has to be! Well, yes and no. American, yes, but once again the
origin is Central – not North – America.
"Amazing Maize!
America's contribution to the world's edible grasses, corn or maize is the ingredient most prevalent in the processed foods eaten in North America. Native to Mexico or Central America, corn is also a powerful source of industrial products. The United States grows half the world's corn."

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“And those who came were resolved
to be Englishmen
Gone to the World’s end,
but English every one,
And they ate of the white corn kernels,
parched in the sun,
And they knew it not,
But they’d not be English again.”
~ from “Western Star” by Stephen Vincent Benet

Close enough, I’ve decided. It appears to me that the United States, Mexico in particular, and Central America in general, have made corn/maize their own more than any other countries on the globe. At least that is true enough for me to be content with doing this month’s feature on corn. (It occurs to me that squash may
well be the most “American” food of all, but this month we shall concentrate on
corn anyway and save squash for another time.)
Corn is grown in Europe, of course, but very seldom consumed straight from the
field by humans. The Italians have found a way to love it: Polenta! A great com-
fort food to be sure. By and large, though, Europeans seem to consider corn  just
so much fodder – excellent sustenance for pigs and cows. (This is based on my per-
sonal experience – not intended to be authoritative. No righteous-indignation mail
please.) Obviously those making such a ridiculous assessment have yet to spend a
summer feasting on fresh sweet corn in the (U.S.) American Midwest. Makes my
mouth water just to think about it!
One of my favorite cooks, authors, gardeners, and creators of beauty in general,
is a zealous gentleman named Lee Bailey. Last I heard he was making his home
in New York and Miami, but he is a Louisiana native. His Southern heritage
comes through loud and clear. Among his many charms is the desire and ability
to entertain dinner guests with ease and grace.
As if that were not enough, Mr. Bailey is also a fellow corn aficionado. He is, in
fact, crazy enough about corn to have written a cookbook entirely devoted to that delectable vegetable. It is our distinct pleasure to pass some of his favorite corn recipes on to you.

Lee Bailey's Corn icon
by Lee Bailey, 1993, Clarkson Potter


“I’d hazard a guess that, along with vine-ripened tomatoes, just-picked corn
steamed on the cob must be on the top of everyone’s Favorite Summer
Vegetables list. O.K. O.K. I know tomatoes are technically fruit, but what
you have here is poetic license.
Whatever, corn seems to make us all behave like kids with butter on our
noses. Remember being told to calm down because you and your cousins had
got too rambunctious, vying to see who could chomp down and back a row
of corn kernels the fastest? Obviously this didn’t have too much to do with
gracious dining. This was corn as sport…”


Steamed Corn on the Cob

“Honestly, is there anyone out there who doesn’t think
corn on the cob is one of the best things about summer?”

This method of cooking corn is the best I’ve ever encountered. It eliminates
that problem of keeping corn warm once it’s been cooked without over-
cooking. Here’s how you do it. Use a steamer and arrange the ears standing
on the stalk ends. Cover tightly and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
When the water begins to steam and the lid starts to jump around, time it for
1 minute and then turn off the heat. (If you’re using an electric stove, remove
the steamer from the coil.) Allow the corn to continue cooking by retained
heat for 10 minutes more, covered (or a little longer if the corn is not young
and fresh) before serving. It can stay like this for up to 1 hour.


Barbecued Corn on the Cob

“Barbecued corn on the cob is specialty of Troy Wilson, chef-
owner of Grandville Café in Charleston, South Carolina.”

1 cup cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Jack Daniel’s bourbon
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 medium red onion, diced
Two 14-ounce bottles ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons ballpark mustard

Combine all ingredients except the ketchup, mustard, and corn in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook
for 10 minutes. Stir in the ketchup and mustard off the heat. Let cool, then refrigerate.
Now husk your corn, clean it, and roast it over coals. While it’s still hot,
brush it all around with the sauce.


Peppers Stuffed with Corn

 “You can use green peppers for this, but I like the way red or
yellow ones look. And they are slightly sweeter in taste. Either
way, choose peppers that will stand easily.”

6 medium red or yellow bell peppers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons minced celery
6 tablespoons minced onion
2 cups fresh corn kernels
(scrape the cobs)
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and
chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup soft bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten (or egg substitute)
1 cup shredded Emmenthaler cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees [F].
Slice off the stem ends of the peppers and remove the seeds and mem-
branes. Place in a pot of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes to
soften. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and
cook the celery and onion until wilted, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl
and add the corn, tomatoes, salt, and pepper and toss. Toss  in the bread
crumbs and then stir in the eggs. Stuff the peppers, mounding with the
stuffing. Place in a pan with about 1/2 inch of hot water, top with the
cheese, and cover with oiled foil (the underside). Bake for 50 minutes,
uncover, and bake for another 10 minutes to brown. Serves 6.


Savory Corn Pie with a Cheese Crust

“Serve this as a main course with a salad, as a side dish for a larger
meal – say, with grilled meats or sausages – or as a first course.”

2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter,
cut into bits and frozen
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening,
cut into bits and frozen
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup ice water

4 eggs (or egg substitute)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or
evaporated skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups fresh corn kernels
6 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch
strips, fried until crisp and drained

Make the pastry: Toss the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in
the butter, shortening, and cheese with 2 knives or a pastry blender until
the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the water, mixing well but
quickly. Divide in half and form into 2 balls. Flatten each slightly be-
tween sheets of waxed paper and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees [F].
Roll out the dough between the sheets of waxed paper and line 2 8-inch
pie pans. Line crusts with foil and weight down with dried peas or pie
weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes,
until firm. Set aside.
Reduce oven to 350 degrees [F].
Make the filling:
Combine all ingredients except bacon. Process 2 cups
of the mixture in a food processor until smooth. Then return the purée to
the original mixture and stir it in. Divide the bacon equally between the
two partially baked shells. Pour in the filling and bake until puffy and
set, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serves 8 to 12.


Corn Relish

“This is another of our family recipes. My Aunt Freddie
used to make it every year.”

1/4 cup salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
One 1 1/2-ounce can dry mustard
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 quarts distilled white vinegar
20 ears of corn, kernels cut and
scraped from the cobs
1 medium cabbage, sliced
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
 6 large onions, chopped
One 4-ounce jar pimiento, drained and chopped
4 hot red peppers, seeded and chopped
6 to 8 celery ribs, chopped

In a large pot, combine the salt, sugar, dry mustard, turmeric, and vinegar.
Bring to a boil and add all other ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer for
45 minutes.
Spoon the relish into hot sterilized pint jars and fill with liquid, leaving
about 1/4 inch of head space. Seal. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling
water bath. Makes 10 pints.

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