120. Cream Corn, Not Just for Folks Lacking Teeth

30 Jan

5950519991_9ae46e4c4e_mOf all the ways there are to enjoy corn–on the cob, popped, niblets, batter for frying or even sweetener for Cokes (any flavor)–I think the most under-appreciated outside the South would have to be cream corn.

Makes sense, seeing as it looks like something one would expect to find in a hospital cafeteria or airplane sick bag. I’ll be the first to admit that cream corn isn’t about to win any food porn pageant. It’s sort of what I pictured when those Little Rascals kids whined about the “mush” they had to eat. It is, after all, mushed up corn.

Knew how to make some mean mush...

Knew how to make some mean mush…

mush recipe

Imagine my surprise when I bought a book from 1903, which included recipes for mush that didn’t look half bad. This confirmed my suspicion that Spanky, Darla and the gang were a bunch of drama queens.

Now where were we? Oh, yes, cream corn.

Up until just a few years ago, I gave cream corn a wide berth. It’s not something I’d have deliberately chosen to consume and if a blob of it accidentally landed on my plate, I’d try to discretely eat around it. I can’t recall exactly when my opinion changed, but it must have been a holiday meal with my family wherein nobody went to the trouble to make my sister-in-law Karen’s amazing corn casserole. Instead, there was cream corn. Reluctantly, I sampled a bite. Then promptly went back for a second helping.

Since when was cream corn not only edible, but–dare I say–tasty?

As it turned out, this particular cream corn had never seen the inside of a tin can. Instead, it came from the freezer section in a tube reminiscent of the sort used for Pillsbury heat-up cookies. (Not the official name, but y’all know what I’m talking about.)

After returning to Seattle, I sought to recreate that creamy, corny goodness. Alas, the only frozen corn was on the cob, niblets, or popsicles (high-fructose corn syrup strikes again). One time, I got desperate and bought a can of the stuff. I cannot NOT recommend this tactic highly enough. Just say no, folks.

No, thank you...

No, thank you…

Then lo and behold, cream corn made an appearance on the menu of 5 Spot. Having been burned by Seattle’s interpretation of Southern food on seventeen too many occasions, I was dubious (but also, as I mentioned, desperate). So I ordered it. And y’all, it was awesome. Yes, I’m still talking about cream corn.

Another time I got it as a side at a BBQ joint I frequent, and it was even better. Hooray! Maybe Seattle chefs were finally beginning to embrace some classic Southern preparations without tossing in random extras like mushrooms, peppers, or kale.

Except.

The regional menu at 5 Spot changes every quarter and when I went back to the BBQ place some months later, I was informed that cream corn is seasonal. Really? Well, yes, I realize that corn is seasonal. But also, really? I mean, tomatoes are seasonal, but that doesn’t prevent Italian restaurants or pizza places from being open year-round.

Just add butter!!

Just add butter!!

When I was home for Christmas in 2011, I saw my sister making cream corn and discovered that the frozen stuff isn’t the holy grail after all. What makes it good is the stick of butter she melted into it. Oh. My. I guess I should have figured out that cream corn contains, well, cream. But who knew?

Armed with this ammo, I set out to make myself some cream corn from scratch last year. By “scratch” I mean frozen niblets since the corn season in Seattle lasts about five minutes. In a word, yum! I used this recipe as a guideline, but tinkered with the ingredients to taste, so your results may vary.

Last September in MS, I made a version of the recipe using fresh corn with the help of my 8-year-old nephew, Jackson, and he liked it so much that he saved it to eat last at dinner. (High praise amongst our clan!)

Just in case I don’t write about corn again anytime soon, I have to share my favorite corn-related anecdote:

My dad hates corn. Always has. He will not eat the stuff, even if it’s disguised as a “casserole” loaded up with cheese and saffron rice. (Although he loves corn bread, so go figure.) If I recall correctly, his rationale is that corn is what one feeds to pigs, and he can’t stomach the idea of eating pig food. He will, however, happily eat actual pigs.

One day, he was eating my sister’s homemade soup and said, “I sure do like these crunchy water chestnuts.”

Jenna said, “Uh, Dad, that’s corn.”

Delusion–the ultimate flavor enhancer.

Do you like creamed corn? What’s your favorite recipe?

Photo credits: Cream corn by Shutterbean, Flickr Creative Commons; “The Perfect Woman” book cover and oatmeal mush recipe snapped by yours truly.

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12 Responses to “120. Cream Corn, Not Just for Folks Lacking Teeth”

  1. Hope January 30, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    I’m just shocked that people outside the South don’t eat Cream (we always say Creamed) corn! My Aunt swears by the frozen tube you mentioned. I haven’t cooked it in a while. I think my kids need a big helping of it tonight!

    Food for pigs . . . he’s funny.

    • Kim Holloway February 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Oh, yeah, my dad is hilarious!

  2. Nolan Bailey Sr. January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Apparently, I am much more “senior” than most folks here. When I was a kid I used to watch my grandmother make her version of creamed corn, and it was the greatest. Of course, back then nearly every woman cooked meals from scratch. I don’t remember the exact recipe, but I know she would go to the corn patch and gather a bunch of fresh “roasting ears.” Then, she would come back and clean ’em. The corn would be placed on a cutting board, big end down. Grandmother would take a sharp knife and cut the kernels from the corn, twisting the ear as she cut. He cut took about 3/4ths of a kernel. Then, she take the side of the blade and scrape all of the remaining parts of the kernels off, along with the “corn milk.” (juice) Now, what she did from there, other than adding a tad of fresh cream, salt, and pepper, I do not remember. I loved her creamed corn, boiled okra, turnip green, “snap” beans-Kentucky Wonders, collards, and cobblers. In fact, I ran away from home just after learning to walk to go to her house, which was over the hill on a narrow, sandy, road. My grandparents found me sitting under a rose bush in my diaper. When, they asked why I came I said, “I want some of your meat. We don’t have any at our house…” I shouldn’t have done that, because if a few minutes mom came over the hill carrying a belt. She promised my grandparents she wouldn’t whip me, but she lied when we got out of sight.

    • Tiffany February 2, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Ha! Great story, save the whipping… I am quite sorry about that part!

    • Jenna Holloway Cochran February 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      Love it Nolan!

    • Kim Holloway February 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks for sharing memories of your grandmother’s cooking, Nolan! Great story, but sorry to hear about the whipping.

  3. Tiffany February 2, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    My grandmother made the best cream corn… Oh, my heavens! Every holiday, my mama says, “I wish my mama was here to make that cream corn!” Bless her heart, may she rest in peace! But really, my mama has recreated a similar effect with the tube. She, too, swears by it!

    I have to make some tonight. I’m craving it so hard now! As always, I loved the post!

    • Kim Holloway February 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Thanks, Tiffany!

  4. Karen Cronacher February 2, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    The one good use for creamed corn is to take a bag of it to the movies, sit in the back, make retching noises, then pour creamed corn on the floor. Works every time.

    • Kim Holloway February 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Gross!!!

  5. Jenna Holloway Cochran February 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Kim don’t you remember REAL cream corn from when we were little and went to “Dinner on the Grounds”? The kind that the 80 year old grandmother’s made (like Nolan’s and Tiffany’s)? Seems that you only remember the corn OUR mother made (can variety)…that is until she discovered the roll-o-corn as well.

    Alas, I will tell you one thing that can cream corn IS good for, making Mexican cornbread…mmmm….now that is good stuff.

    • Kim Holloway February 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      I have no recollection of cream corn at church. I was far too busy at the dessert table, I suspect.

      Must admit that I resorted to taking an immersion blender to a can of nibblets so I could make some jalapeño cornbread one time. Yum! (Think Mexican cornbread without the meat.)

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