Corn Lover Delights



I get carried away sometimes with my misgivings about corn farming, so I have to balance that out occasionally with praise for one of my favorite foods. A reader, I think it was Ken, recently asked me to write about our experiences with cornbread and so I will, although I know many of you could do it better.

Daughter Jenny provided the photo of me and the corn.  The ear is 14 inches long with 22 rows of kernels if I remember correctly. I don’t see any practical reason to try to grow big ears of corn except for the fun of it, although with ears like this it would not take an impossible number of stalks per acre to make a record breaking yield. The corn is open pollinated Reid’s Yellow Dent, which I grew for about 35 years and quit only last year when the deer started eating every bit of it. I hope to be able to grow a bit of it in the garden now. Friends and family who have used it for cornbread always come back for more. I have a hunch that if our corn does taste better it is because it is fresher than store-bought meal.  As any food ages, it loses taste. We use new corn every year. The trick is to store it on the cob in a dry cool place, shelling only as needed. Leave the corn out in the field in the fall as long you can. When I bring it in, I tie the ears we want to save for cornmeal by the husks to wires in our airy garage with metal disks at both ends of the wire so mice can’t get to the corn. Looks sort of like clothes on the line. Carol also stores ears of corn in the freezer after they are dry. This is a good thing to do if you are having problems with weevils.

We grind cornmeal in a C.S.Bell hand-cranked mill. It has metal grinding plates, not stone, but hand-cranking is so slow they never heat up. The old worry that metal filings get into the meal may be true, but in forty years we have not been harmed. I bought a Bell because they are made in Tiffin, Ohio, fairly close to where we live and I could go over there and look at them. I am so old-fashioned I like to see something and talk to the seller personally before I buy.

We use our mill mainly to grind wheat for regular bread flour, with cornmeal as a sideline. This mill does both quite satisfactorily.  Grinding by hand is rather hard work. I could put a motor on the mill, but we grind only small amounts at a time, so hand-milling suffices. Good exercise. The crank turns harder on corn than on wheat, but not easy in either case. The trick is to let the grain dribble into the grinding plates slowly. Carol usually controls the feed rate while I crank. The mill can be adjusted for various grades of fineness. We like our cornmeal, as well as our wheat flour, on the crunchy side. We think sweet corn is too gummy to grind into meal but we have not experimented with it very much. Carol thinks that some of the older sweet corns, like Yellow Bantam or (white) Country Gentleman, might grind okay if well dried. There are of course other foods where corn meal comes into play, especially as breading for fried fish and vegetables like eggplant. Yum.

Carol has tried many cornbread recipes and this is her favorite: one cup sifted all purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 cup yellow corn meal, 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of soft shortening. Sift flour with sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in corn meal. Add eggs, milk and shortening. Beat with electric or hand beater until just smooth, about one minute. Do not overbeat. Pour into 9 by 9 by 2 inch pan or in muffin pan. Bake in hot oven, 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until done. Our daughter, Jenny, who is as particular a cook as Carol, favors the same recipe. If she has to buy cornmeal, her preferred kind is Bob’s Red Mill.

There’s a detail in freezing sweet corn that we think makes a difference.  Carol shaves the corn from the cob with a sharp knife but cuts a tiny bit high so as not to cut into the cob. Then she scrapes the cob with her knife to get out all the milky pulp. That’s why we think her corn tastes so good, especially when it is fried with strips of green pepper and onions in bacon grease. Double yum.

We love parched corn, using white sweet corn, dried as described above. We currently prefer Silver Queen or Argent. Pour  a little oil in the popper pan, dump in enough corn kernels to almost cover the bottom, stir or shake pan to prevent burning and shortly the kernels will puff up or almost pop a little. Sprinkle a little salt on.  Triple yum.

My sister Rosy and her husband are our neighborhood’s popcorn champions. They grow their own —preferred variety now is Robust Yellow after trying many others over the years. After experimenting with every conceivable popping method, they use a Whirley Pop popper from Wabash Valley and use naturally dried corn (as described above) starting about Thanksgiving after harvest on the current year’s crop. They shell about twenty five ears at a time and store in their freezer. About February, Rosy starts sticking a moist paper towel in the container with the kernels so they don’t dry out too much. She uses peanut oil for popping, sometimes vegetable oil or lard. With the stove burner almost on high, two thirds cup of kernels pops in about a minute to a popper full. She adds only a sprinkling of salt, no butter. I differ on the butter, my favorite food. On the other hand, the newer varieties of sweet corn are so tasty to me that I no longer smear the roasted ears shamelessly with butter.


Yep, down here in Kentucky Carol’s “cornbread” would be called “corn cake”–ha! When I moved here in 1974 and married a country fellow, I’m not sure I’d ever had cornbread. His mother used no sweetening and made it like pancakes–fried until crisp in bacon fat. Incredibly delicious! Can’t wait to try Bloody Butcher corn this spring–people around here say it’s a good cornbread corn too. Thanks for a fun post!

Sweet corn is living proof God wanted us to eat butter, and on popcorn and grits with salt and pepper.We raised and sold produce growing up from 4 acres of our farm and nk 199 and silver queen was our best sellers.There was an extra sweet corn called honey comb i loved then silver queen. Seems white whatever is always sweeter. WHite corn,white peaches. etc

Hickory King for me, tall, white, big ears, huge kernels. The deer put an end to it, alas. Newly fenced garden this year, so maybe…

It all sounds wonderful–except for the sugar in the cornbread. I’m a product of a mixed marriage (Southerner + Carpetbagger Yankee), but I’m 100% Southern when it comes to cornbread: No sweetener. The folk singers Sparky and Rhonda Rucker claim that one of the leading causes of the Civil War was the d**n Yankees putting sugar in the cornbread.

That said, Gene, I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and we are all in your and Carol’s debt for everything you do and are. I’m sorry I was out of town during the recent “tribute” post, or I would have chimed in on it.

Ken, I have always resisted selling my o-p corn seed because when I was singing its praises for garden farming years back, I didn’t want the naysayers to accuse me of writing favorably about it so I could sell it. Now, last year, the deer really did eat up almost all of it and I don’t have but a wee bit left, which I hope to plant in a garden plot. If you go online, there are lots of sources for Reid’s Yellow Dent and many other heritage varieties, as I suppose you know. Gene

I’m still trying to get a good pop on my popcorn grown last season. I, too, have a whirley pop–love it. I can’t tell if my kernels are too dry or not dry enough, since it is my first try at popcorn. It grew wonderfully, and I harvested it when the papers were yellow/dry, read up on how long and how to dry. I tried an open pollinated multicolored variety. I loved opening the ears–it was like opening presents, with new colors every time.

“Morrison”s Feeds and Feeding”, the old bible of livestock feeding (on bullet 684 on Page 410 in my copy) , indicates that yellow corn contains carotene which has vitamin A value. Butter , as I understand it, especially from grass fed animals contains actual Vitamin A . I’ve read that Vitamin D, which we get from sunlight and cod liver oil (now that is a double yum food) is best for the body when accompanied by Vitamin A.

So I’m thinking that good yellow Sweet Corn or good corn bread slathered in butter and eaten during a sunny day is probably a “natural” vitamin supplement for both Vitamins A and D. I also read that these two vitamins are often in short supply in the Standard American Diet.

So I think maybe Gene is on to something. It could explain why his post leaves me hungry for good sweet corn fresh picked from the garden, cooked immediately, then slathered in butter and some salt while it is still steaming and then eaten immediately on a nice warm day. I’m probably just craving a “natural” Vitamin A and D supplement. Alas, considering it is still close to freezing at night, said natural vitamin supplement will just have to wait a few months.

Contrarily, of course, if I stop to consider that the Silver Queen Cultivar is a white corn which likely doesn’t have as much Carotene then probably I won’t receive as much Vitamin A from consuming Silver Queen. However, I can probably make up the Vitamin A value difference of the Silver Queen versus Yellow Corn by slathering on more butter. OOPS! I just drooled on the Keyboard. Thanks again Gene for the wonderful visions I receive which are attributable to .your words.

I grow a flour corn (Painted Mountain) which works well on the poor soil and short season we have here. I also grow an open pollinated no-name sweet corn which I use for roasting, freezing for winter use, and dried fully ripe for parching. My mill is an old Corona with metal plates and a hand crank (good exercise!). The secret to getting corn or any grain is to grind a little bit at a time. Also, I grind twice. The first pass is coarse, the second fine.

I agree that sweet corn is gummy but if you grind twice its no problem. Not a good corn meal for bread though so I parch it (like pinole) and then grind that to mix with my flour corn. The results are good and I don’t need wheat flour to hold the bread together.

That’s great looking ear of corn you have. Mine Painted Mountain gets only 8 rows but the ear lengths range from 4 to 10 inches. I’ve been growing for only six years so there’s still room for improvement.

I got some Daymon Morgan’s to try this year; we’ll see if it displaces the Reid’s and Golden Bantam. Like you, Gene, my husband loves the butter. He uses the bread heels as an applicator — slather the bread thickly with butter and then roll the hot corn back and forth over the top. Very effective. Now I wish it was August sobe I could have corn on the cob!

I’m hungry after reading this post.

I use pretty much the same cornbread recipe but substitute maple syrup for the sugar and cut down on the milk a bit to compensate for the liquid sweetener.

Since the advent of the super sweet corns, I have eaten more ears raw rather than cooked and never really favored drenching with butter or salt. Good corn, like a good steak, holds its own without additament. Forty years back I would use lots of herbs and spices when cooking and aim for exotic. These days the ingredients are the stars. My wife says that my job is to put the garden on the table. She hasn’t complained yet.

We also mill small batches with steel burrs. Keeps the arm in shape.

We also grind our own corn although we usually raise open pollinated blue corn in a garden patch. I got the original seed from Ned Place at Greenfield Farm near Wapakoneta OH in 2005. He used to raise and sell several hundred bushels of Reid’s every year and even had the equipment to sort seed by size and rounds/flats. He died in 2010 and was 94 – quite an interesting guy to talk to. He developed the blue corn by saving the occasional blue kernel from the Reid’s, planting in isolation and then selecting ears that were breeding true. It took him a number of years to have any sizable amount to sell. We think it has a little nuttier flavor than yellow meal and particularly like it for fried mush and in our pancake mix. A couple times I have put lard in the big cast iron skillet and parched whole kernels, many of which partially popped, and seasoned it with some garlic pepper. I hadn’t thought about that for a while but I may have to do it again soon thanks to you. We may put out an acre of it this year as a joint project with the oldest grandkids.

I suspect Carol could make a very passable shortbread out of sawdust if she had to.
Great post.

We can attest to how delicious this cornbread is. Gene and Carol sometimes give us their cornmeal for Christmas–a truly welcome gift. Yum.

Yes Gene it was me asking about corn meal. I am looking into that C.S. Bell grist mill as we speak. The Chinese versions are pretty worthless.
You mention you only grind a little as you use it. I assume that is because the corn is not de-germed and would go bad with the oil still in it. Is that correct?
The corona mill I use will not grind dry corn. I had to soak the corn first, grind it course, dry it and grind it again.
I tried the bantam sweet corn and I like it a lot I just have had a hard time grinding it. I assume it is due to the cheap Chinese mill I am using.

At any rate, you need to sell some of that Reid’s Yellow Dent corn seed. I will be the first to offer you some money for a handful of GL Corn. (Not to be confused with GMO Corn)
I am as serious as a heart attack about buying some of your corn seed.

Thank you for the recipe too.

Silver Queen roasted in the husk on the grill is a personal favorite. However, you should be severely punished for getting my taster all set for something that won’t be fully satisfied for another 5 months at least. We have nothing left in the freezer from last summer. 😦

I’m going to have to start wearing a bib while reading your posts…especially when you rhapsodize about slathering butter on corn. Corn porn.

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