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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Harvest of Corn



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 350ยบ.  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?

14 comments:

  1. My grandma and mama made this corn custard like this. They called it corn pudding. They passed the recipe down to me and I enjoy making it now. And this is one of my favorite dishes. I love it!
    Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed it very much.
    Joy Hannabass

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    1. Thanks for sharing about your grandma and mama, Joy. Nothing warms the heart (and tummy) like a passed-down recipe. There's no better comfort food. I bet you make a delicious corn pudding. Yum!

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  2. Very nice, Lisa. We love sweet cornbread and we often have spoonbread for breakfast.

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    1. Mmm, Janet, spoonbread for breakfast-my mouth is watering! I just had a drab (and probably unhealthy) store-bought muffin for breakfast.

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  3. Very good, Lisa. Corn, in any form, is one of my favorite foods! Wonder if it could be a gene from my Cherokee great grandmother whom I've been told made Indian corn mash every day? Your recipe could easily be made Mexican corn bread probably by adding half a small can of mild Mexican chopped tomatoes and/or chili peppers. Blessings, Elva Cobb Martin

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  4. Blessings, Elva. What a very interesting heritage you have. I love that stories have been passed down to you about your great grandmother. Thanks so much for sharing a way to put a Mexican twist on the corn custard. It sounds delicious, definitely worth trying.

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  5. Great post, Lisa, thanks so much! My mom had a number of corn recipes. I am a hominy addict, though, and this makes me want some of that today! Blessings!

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    1. Carrie, I'm getting so hungry! There are so many satisfying dishes to be made with corn, aren't there? Yum. Thanks for sharing your love of hominy.

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  6. Corn! It does keep popping up in all my historical novels. If you write a rural early American setting, you can hardly escape it. When it came down to writing about corn the first time in a novel, I was amazed how much I didn't know about it. Like the fact that not all corn is harvested green, ready for the steamer, but that some corn was dried on the stalk for other purposes. And when each was harvested. And what a person did to prepare each, store each, and fix each for supper.

    Great article Lisa!

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  7. Thank you, Lori! I appreciate the added information. There is so much to know about life in colonial times. I know what a thorough researcher you are and expect you could write a whole follow-up article on the subject!

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  8. I am positively drooling ... will have to try that receipt! (Love the antique way of saying it!!) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for visiting with me, Shannon! I hope you enjoy the "receipt." :)

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  9. My favorite corn recipes are cornbread, & fried corn. But - it seems that corn is an ingredient in most of the foods we consume now, both good & bad, isn't it? Thanks for the interesting article, Lisa, & the recipe!

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    1. I eat cornbread all the time, but, mmm, I don't think I've had fried corn. Anything fried sounds good! Yes, corn has been around a long time. Food is a great way to connect with the past. We might not live like the colonials did, but we can enjoy the same foods. Blessings!

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