The Sweet Road to Corn-utopia


Kachina Grilled Corn, thepatricianpalette.com

Spicy Grilled Corn

Recipe by Executive Chef Jeff Bolton, Kachina Southwestern Grill
Photos by Mark Woolcott Photography

  • Cut off tip & base and peel back a few layers of the husk
  • Soak in cold water for at least an hour, making sure it is submerged
  • Char the outside of the corn on a grill (approximately 3 minutes on each ‘side’)
  • Peel back the husk leaving enough on the bottom to hold onto
  • Season with salt & pepper
  • Put back on grill & cook until the kernels turn golden brown
  • Top with your favorite toppings:
    • Butter
    • Chipotle Mayo
    • Cotija Cheese
    • Chile Powder
    • Cilantro, finely chopped

Ohio Cornfields

My father passed away on September 16, 2013. I flew back to Ohio to be with my family, and while traveling the country roads to Mom’s house, I was reminded of how beautiful our corn fields are and the memories made there. Ohio corn is the American counterpart to France’s sunflower. The land is combed with miles and miles of green and yellow giants that cradle caramel-haired bundles of sweet, sweet joy.

Mom and Dad literally live in the middle of a cornfield, and it’s been that way for their nearly 60 years together. Dad grew up on a farm where free range chickens meant they were free to get into the house, not just strut around the yard. As kids, we would make family trips to my grandparents’ and great grandparents’ farms where we’d help milk the cows and watch the pigs roll in the mud. We just had to be careful where we walked and shoes came off before we got back into the car. Dad would literally put us in the car, sans shoes, as he put them into the trunk for the ride home.

Dad was a weekend farmer. It started each winter with me sitting on my dad’s lap while he perused over a stack of seed catalogs. His favorite corn seed was called Peaches and Cream and it came from the Burpee seed catalog. The kernels were a mix of yellow and white.

When spring came, he’d be on the tractor tilling up the crusty soil. This was the easy part as I just got to pull the rabbits around in our little red wagon and watch. He looked so grand on that John Deere.

Cornfield in Lancaster, Ohio, thepatricianpalette.com

But then it came time to getting those seeds into the ground. Dad had the dirt all nice and soft after a thorough tilling with the tractor. But it was all manual labor after that. He’d drag a hoe by hand with one sharp end in the dirt  to create a V channel. These were 50′ long rows and there seemed to be no end to them. This was followed by lots of stooping while Mom, Dad, and the three kids carefully placed 3-4 corn seeds at a time, 18″ apart, into the furrowed ‘corn hole’. Dad would say:

“Plant one for me, one for you, and one for the birds… they have to eat, too.”

As the growing season evolved, Dad would send us out to see if their “noses” were peeking through the ground. And one day, one of us kids would race back to the house to announce “their noses are showing!”

You’ve heard the phrase: “knee high by the 4th of July?” That’s how we’d gauge whether the corn was flourishing or slow-growing. We’d spend the summer watching the corn grow and playing hide-and-seek in the magical forest of green giants. Corn leaves can feel bigger than your head.

Being the baby in the family, my jobs were fairly few and easy, but I’d still find ways to get out of my fair share of husking the bushel after bushel of corn that Dad carried in. I’d find multiple reasons to have to go the bathroom (I confess!). The whole family would sit in the garage for days cleaning the corn and pulling off every last tendril of silk. The green leaves made a wet squeeky sound as we peeled them off.

In the kitchen, Mom was in charge of shaving the kernels off each ear — running the knife up and down the cob to get all the juice out. Kernels would come off in sheets and many would go flying onto the floor. It was kernel mayhem. Then she’d prepare about 50 pint containers to freeze it all. We had a freezer in the basement just for corn. Dad would love to go down there and admire his stash. It was a different kind of gold for him.

Corn is getting a bad wrap these days. It is accused of having too much sugar and will make you fat or it’s been genetically modified and is dangerous. This is depressing for me. I just want to enjoy my corn. How can corn be bad when it gives you wonderful memories like these with the most influential man in your life.

Stop the hate. Love corn, instead.

Make some memories with your kids. Plant some corn next year. Even city folk can make room for a few stalks. Put them in a pot on your deck. Do your best to buy GMO free, organic corn if you are concerned. You can learn more about what GMO means at the www.nongmoproject.com.

I was raised on corn and am proud of it. And it didn’t make me fat and I haven’t grown horns… yet!

Things to do with Corn

Corn is versatile. You can cook with it, snack on it, decorate with it, make games with it, play in it, and maybe even fuel your car with it. What other food can do all that? Here are some of my favorite corny things. What are yours?

Eat It

  • corn dogsCorn Shocks, Lancaster, OH, thepatricianpalette.com
  • creamed corn (ick, but my dad loved it)
  • mush and polenta (which is the fancy name for ‘mush’)
  • hush puppies
  • corn chowder
  • corn chips
  • hominy

Play in and with it

Craft with it

Bake with it

  • corn syrup (it isn’t evil… it’s a necessary ingredient in baking, especially candy work)
  • corn starch (a thickener in sauces and pies)

 

IN LOVING MEMORY

In loving memoryDad, big sis, big brother, me, and mom taking the photo on my first communion day.  Don’t you love my glasses. Behind us is RR 188 where we’d set up our corn stand where we’d sell a dozen ears for $.50.

 

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One Response to The Sweet Road to Corn-utopia

  1. Carolyn Sittler October 8, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    “Big Sis” also fondly remembers those days. Little sis thank you for sharing such wonderful memories. I hope some of your followers take your advice and plant some memories.

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