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Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

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Summer Sweet Corn, Chess Pie…. and Bacon

Phil Gurley

By Karen Ranz

Photo by Steve Peters

Photo by Steve Peters

While it seems every food writer is still going great guns for bacon and yet more bacon, I’ve grown weary of the hulaballoo.  Shouldn’t we about call it quits?  For example, I found a recipe in my in-box recently for bacon-wrapped peaches done on the grill.  While I’m not saying it doesn’t sound good, it seems to promise a minor conflagration before the bacon wrapping the sides could cook.  Besides, peaches don’t sweeten as they ripen off the tree, and this isn’t South Carolina.

I also have recipes now that include caprese salad with bacon proving that some things should just be left alone, cut-the-fat bacon-wrapped shrimp, and a wonderful-sounding packed-in-by-sherpa campfire bacon — cast iron skillet and sherry vinegar the least of which…  Although it hasn’t arrived yet, I expect to see one for bacon s’mores turn up any day now.

And yet, as much as I’m tired to death of seeing bacon hogging the act, there is one recipe I can vouch for where a bit of bacon does very nicely – fried sweet corn.  At Cherry Bend Pheasant Preserve, Mary had the men plant a super-sweet bi-color hybrid.   It was picked fresh, minutes into the pan from being pulled off the stalk.  Successive plantings with the old Allis Chalmers tractor ensured we’d have it as long as possible.  This recipe was a nice change from shucking fresh ears into water boiling in the turkey fryer in the side yard.  Man, was that living!  Every extra bit that I could manage to cut off the cob went into one of the locked chest freezers downstairs with the smoked pheasant and it never lasted long enough!

Fried Sweet Corn

In a cast iron skillet, fry several strips of bacon and drain on paper towels.  Cut the kernels from 6 or more ears of corn.  Add these to the hot bacon fat and cook uncovered over medium heat with one chopped onion and salt to taste, stirring occasionally until enough of the liquid steams away to concentrate the flavor and natural sugars.  While this is cooking, crumble the bacon.  The kernels will begin to brown and become a bit leathery.  Then add the bacon back to the pan and serve at the picnic table with grilled steak sandwiches, a summer salad, watermelon and something cold to drink.

Here’s a nifty idea that landed in my in-box recently:  To cut corn off the cob without a mess, stand the ears one at a time on end in the center hole of a bundt pan, letting the little kernels drop right into the pan.  Now isn’t that a nifty idea?  It’s practically guaranteed to work out well in your kitchen.  My own, however, seems to be equipped with laws of physics that don’t apply elsewhere.

Old Fashioned Vinegar Pie makes a nice dessert for a supper like this one.  Don’t be shocked:  this is resurrected from a Farmer’s Almanac cookbook, a riff on Lemon Chess Pie that farm wives made when lemons were only available seasonally.  The origins are also a bit in dispute.  Southern ladies want to claim it; Midwest cooks call it theirs; I’ve even run into people here who remember their grandmothers making it.  As simple as it is, it caused enough stir in a live auction between a group of nice church ladies, lacrosse teams from both Howard and Georgetown, and a professional chef to win by a mile first place in a DC benefit for Martha’s Table last year.  It’s now on the menu of Eatonville Restaurant in the U Street Corridor.  I used to make three or more of these each morning for the hunters.  (This is meant to be tooth-achingly sweet!)

Old Fashioned Vinegar Pie

  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Stir all the ingredients together and fill a 9” fluted pie shell.  Bake at 350⁰ for about 50 minutes.  The center should look set but should still jiggle a bit when it comes out of the oven.  The filling will continue to cook as it rests.

Mary and I used to joke that when she finally retired – no one knew her exact age – we’d sell the mineral rights to all the lead bird shot on the property after 53 years and sit out on the flagstone patio sipping lemonade and telling lies.  Mine was to be that my name is Allis Chalmers.

Originally published in the Rutland Herald.