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Aw Shucks:
Fresh Corn & Dried Corn

Fresh Corn
by John Raven, Ph. B.

Shucks have to be removed to get at the staff of life. Corn. You might refer to shucks as "husks," but down here in Texas they are shucks.

As did the Pilgrims in New England, the first settlers in Texas relied on corn to keep body and soul together. The German settlers in Texas quickly adapted to the many uses of corn. In Germany, they had relied on wheat and rye, but soon found that in Texas their strains of wheat did not do well. So they started raising corn.

There is nothing quite so delicious as corn fresh from the field. As soon as a green ear of corn is harvested, the sugar in the kernels starts to turn to starch, that is why the younger and fresher the corn, the sweeter.

Dried corn keeps well and can be turned into a variety of food products. Cornmeal, grits, hominy, and masa are all dried corn. There are also all the corn cereal products.

  • Cornmeal is simply dried corn ground into a fine powder.
  • Grits are ground hominy.
  • Hominy is dried corn with the tough shell removed.
  • Masa is flour made from hominy.


How do you make hominy? Very simple. In a heavy pot, bring to a slow simmer three quarts of cold water, three pounds of dried corn and three ounces of hydrated lime. Simmer the pot until the hull slips easily off a sample kernel. Then cool the pot and remove all the hulls. Easier to just buy a can.

By grinding the fresh hominy, you get masa, the base for tortillas and tamales. You all know the tortilla is simply flat Mexican style bread. Tamales are spiced pork filling wrapped in masa and a corn shuck, and then steamed.

The omnipresent corn chips are simply fried tortillas.

Corn and corn products come in three basic colors: white, yellow and blue. Blue corn is mostly found in New Mexico and Arizona. The multicolored "Indian Corn" is mostly for decoration.

These days, most ground corn is processed in metal grinders, but there are still places where you can find "stone ground" cornmeal, that is, corn ground on stone rollers. You can try both kinds and decide which you prefer.

Nary a week went by in early and modern Texas that the family didn't have beans and cornbread. A diet of beans and corn is very good for you. Something to do with simple proteins combining to form complex proteins. You can research it if you please. The Indians and Mexicans discovered this early on, and beans and corn comprised a major part of their diet. Nearly every modern Tex-Mex dish includes corn and beans.

Volumes can and have been written on recipes for corn. We're going to look at a few of the German/Texan uses of corn.

Most popular use of corn is the making of cornbread. Cornbread ranges from the simple to the exotic. You can find the basic cornbread recipe on any container of cornmeal. We'll include a "Mexican" cornbread recipe a little later.

A German breakfast in early Texas might have been "corn mush" -- cornmeal boiled in water and served as a hot cereal with milk and sweetening. Honey goes very well with corn. "Hoe Cakes" had a lot of devotees: cornmeal mixed with boiling water, then shaped into patties and fried on a griddle or a clean hoe. I suppose a shovel would work too. Again, pour on a little honey. Hush Puppies are just hoe cakes with various seasonings added and deep fried.

Fresh corn was prepared as "roasting ears" -- fresh corn ears, with the shucks or husks and silk removed, and boiled. Served with butter and salt. Ummmmm.

A dish that migrated down to Texas with the Pennsylvania Dutch was "scrapple". Scrapple is corn mush cooked in stock with pieces of pork, usually from the hog's head, incorporated. The scrapple was poured into loaf pans and when it cooled, it was sliced, dredged in flour and fried. Usually served for breakfast.

You can prepare fresh corn roasting ears on the grill quite easily. Pull back the shucks and remove all the silk. Pull the shucks back into place and place the ears on the grill. Turn them every so often to prevent burning or hot spots. When the corn is piping hot, it's done. Be sure to have lots of butter and napkins.

I assume you have some experience cooking and will know when something is done or needs a little water or whatever. What I want to do is to encourage you to experiment and be creative with your cooking, no matter the recipe.

Mexican Cornbread

To your basic cornbread recipe add:

  • A small can of cream style corn
  • Two or three minced jalapeo peppers, seeds and veins removed
  • A small amount of diced red bell pepper for color

    Bake in the usual way.

    Corn Mush

    Whisk about a cupful of cornmeal into 2 cups of boiling, salted water. Cook about five minutes stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken well. It will also go "plop plop" and may splatter, so be careful. When it's done, serve hot with butter, sugar or honey and milk.

    Hoe Cakes

    Add enough boiling water to salted cornmeal to make a thick paste. Let it sit for about an hour and then pat into cakes about one-half inch thick. Fry until brown on a greased griddle. Serve hot. Goes well with beans.

    Hush Puppies

    To make Hush Puppies, add some minced onion or onion flakes and some garlic to the above (Hoe Cake) mixture. You can also experiment with some minced jalapeos in the mix. When it cools, form into one inch balls and deep fry. This goes with your fried catfish.

    Here's one for you barbecue addicts:

    Leslie's Barbecue Corn Salad

    • 4-6 ears Fresh corn, husked
    • 1/2 cup Diced red onion
    • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
    • 1-2 Fresh jalapenos, minced
    • 1/2 Large red bell pepper, diced
    • 1/4 cup Fresh, minced cilantro
    • 1/2 tsp. Cumin seed
    • 3/4 cup Barbecue sauce (Leslie prefers Stubb's Spicy)
    1. Grill the corn over charcoal, brush with barbecue sauce. Grill until slightly blackened but still tender. Don't over cook. You want the kernels to remain soft.
    2. Cool the corn and cut kernels off the cob. Separate.
    3. Combine all ingredients in large bowl with 1/4 cup of the remaining barbecue sauce.
    4. Salt and pepper as needed.
    5. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4-8.

    Here we need to add that corn is the principal ingredient of Bourbon. You gotta get grandpa to tell you his recipe for that. Enjoy.

    See TexasCooking.com's article "Corn on the Fourth of July" for more corn recipes.

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