Sweet Corn

Corn – around here you can see it for miles. That’s probably because Tennessee grows about 780,000 acres of it every year. I’m sure it’s mostly grain corn and not the kind I find so delicious, but nonetheless, it looks beautiful in those endless rows with its tasseled tops. And it’s a staple in a great Southern meal. As a child my mother served it cut off the cob with a meal of fried chicken, lima beans, okra, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and sliced tomatoes. On the farm where she grew up, along with tobacco, corn was always grown -grain corn for livestock and sweet corn for the farmer and his family.

Corn – around here you can see it for miles. That’s probably because Tennessee grows about 780,000 acres of it every year. I’m sure it’s mostly grain corn and not the kind I find so delicious, but nonetheless, it looks beautiful in those endless rows with its tasseled tops. And it’s a staple in a great Southern meal. As a child my mother served it cut off the cob with a meal of fried chicken, lima beans, okra, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and sliced tomatoes. On the farm where she grew up, along with tobacco, corn was always grown -grain corn for livestock and sweet corn for the farmer and his family.

At my homestead, putting up a supply for winter is a summer chore. While I’ve grown popcorn and broom corn, I’ve yet to venture into the world of sweet corn planting. That’s why finding local farmers that do is a yearly adventure. My mother was often a part of these corn searches. Several years ago we set out to meet a man we thought was a local farmer. Following the directions we were given, we arrived in the parking lot of a corporate office – not exactly the farm we were expecting. The man who met us at his car shared that his father raised corn in Kentucky and he was helping him sell it. So much for “local.” Several times we drove to an Amish community where the corn was sweet and the barefoot children even sweeter. One year I came across an ad that a mother had written in desperation. Her teenagers had decided to plant a field of corn in the hopes of earning a bit of money. Apparently, the ambition was short-lived and an unruly patch of corn was in danger of rotting on the stalks. She offered it for a dollar a dozen – “You Pick.” In her late eighties at the time, my mother was ready for the ride and the picking and the putting up. The corn was beautiful with stalks standing above our heads as we trampled down weeds to reach it. We picked way more than we actually needed, but it was so lovely and cheap, we couldn’t resist picking just one more ear. We brought our load of golden sunshine back to my homestead and sat out under the shade of trees to unwrap our treasures.

At my homestead, putting up a supply for winter is a summer chore. While I’ve grown popcorn and broom corn, I’ve yet to venture into the world of sweet corn planting. That’s why finding local farmers that do is a yearly adventure. My mother was often a part of these corn searches. Several years ago we set out to meet a man we thought was a local farmer. Following the directions we were given, we arrived in the parking lot of a corporate office – not exactly the farm we were expecting. The man who met us at his car shared that his father raised corn in Kentucky and he was helping him sell it. So much for “local.” Several times we drove to an Amish community where the corn was sweet and the barefoot children even sweeter. One year I came across an ad that a mother had written in desperation. Her teenagers had decided to plant a field of corn in the hopes of earning a bit of money. Apparently, the ambition was short-lived and an unruly patch of corn was in danger of rotting on the stalks. She offered it for a dollar a dozen – “You Pick.” In her late eighties at the time, my mother was ready for the ride and the picking and the putting up. The corn was beautiful with stalks standing above our heads as we trampled down weeds to reach it. We picked way more than we actually needed, but it was so lovely and cheap, we couldn’t resist picking just one more ear. We brought our load of golden sunshine back to my homestead and sat out under the shade of trees to unwrap our treasures.

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While we could leave it on the cob, cutting it off and then scraping the cob makes for the best cream corn you’ve ever tasted.  The recipe I use came from my husband’s mother and it’s simple and delicious.  So here’s how it’s done:  Cut raw corn off cob and mix two quarts of corn with two cups of water.  Add ½ cup sugar (optional) and two teaspoons salt.  Boil gently for ten minutes.  Cool completely and put in freezer containers.  Preserved in this way, it tastes as fresh as the day it’s picked.

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This year’s corn is already put up and it’s time to begin canning green beans and tomatoes. But the sweet corn escapade memories I have with my mother will last far beyond the last bite.

This year’s corn is already put up and it’s time to begin canning green beans and tomatoes. But the sweet corn escapade memories I have with my mother will last far beyond the last bite.

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Karen Shaw1 Comment