Autumn is my favorite time of year in New England, with its cooler weather, the changing of the leaves and harvest time bringing fresh pumpkins, squash and sweet ears of corn to the local roadside farm stands.
The Indians called it maize and introduced the grain to the first American settlers who were amazed to see them munch on a whole roasted or boiled ear. The curious Pilgrims sampled this novel delicacy and learned its secrets from their Indian neighbors. They adopted it as their own and renamed it “corn,” the generic English word for grain. They learned to make corn meal, corn breads and cakes, corn chowder and puddings of every variety—from hasty pudding to corn custard. Soon corn became a staple of the Colonial diet and was grown on every early American farm.
At harvest time, the fresh corn stalks brought an opportunity for neighbors to come together for a husking frolic. The task of husking and shelling, which would prove tedious for a single family to accomplish on their own, was turned into a festive gathering for men, women and children. Food, drink and dancing often followed and it was a great opportunity for young people of courting age to meet a potential love interest.
Among the many delectable dishes that settlers learned to make with corn, corn custard was considered a Colonial mainstay. It was known to be a favorite dish of Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan, and it remains a favorite around holiday time in New England homes today. Here’s an easy receipt that serves 6.
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or canned (and drained)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 eggs, beaten well
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350º. Mix the corn and dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk and butter. Bake in a buttered casserole dish set in a pan of hot water for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
What is your favorite corn dish or way to enjoy corn?