An Ode to Lancaster County Corn Harvest: And an Excerpt from Blush
Nothing symbolizes the abundance of summer like a load of fresh sweet corn.
My childhood summer memories revolve around corn, which was not only the sweetest vegetable we grew but also the most communal. Here’s an excerpt from Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World about what it was like to eat roastin’ ears at our table, as I remember it:
We didn’t only eat the corn fresh out of the fields, we also processed it for winter storage. We cooked it, cut it off the cob, and packaged it in plastic bags or boxes to store in the freezer. Corn season is still a communal event for our family in Lancaster County. My sister Sue, the only farmer in the Hershey family, hosts a day of “putting up” corn. This year they did ninety bushels! Great grandma Barbara Ann had a little cramp in her hands after the day was over, but everyone had fun working together. The last time I was able to help was 2012. There were four generations in action that day!
Do you have any memories of summer corn or harvesting to share below! Love to hear your stories.
My New Beginning today is to teach my class tonight. The end of corn season and the start of school coincided for me this year. I’m very excited and a little scared to get back in the classroom after years away from it. That’s exactly the way one should feel about a new beginning!
What’s your New Beginning today? Log in here and tell me. I know I promised to take you behind the screen to talk about the amazing things people are sharing on the 100 Day Challenge. But corn interfered this time. It was just too sweet!
As children, we always had a glass of cold milk whenever our meal was corn-on-the-cob.
My father the dairy farmer would have loved to hear that, Katie. We, of course, had milk with every meal. Unpasteurized. Thanks for giving us this glimpse.
This made me hungry! Growing up in Florida, on the beach, the most memorable harvest was my neighbor’s Concord grapes—how that abundance and sweetness linger in the mind. Of course there’s famous corn grown inland, at Zellwood, Florida, but I didn’t know that then.
I hope you made up for the lack of corniness in your childhood by living all these years in Ohio, Richard. But speaking of sensuous fruits of the earth, concord grapes zoom right to the top of the list. So many ways to play with them and to eat them. You are making me hungry too!
You described the ritual of eating corn around the table perfectly! It brought back my own memories of spreading the butter on the cob, then showering it with salt, then eating it row by row (sometimes back and forth, sometimes returning to the beginning of the row, like on a typewriter). 🙂 And I remember my mother cutting off the kernels to freeze the corn to use during the winter. She could slice those cobs so fast!
It’s funny, isn’t it, Tina, how certain patterns become ritualized. Corn eating seems to be one of them. I asked people on my FB page how they ate corn, and there was an amazing variety of response. Glad to have the image of your mother slicing fast. The knife had to be very sharp!
About your new beginning tonight:
How well I remember the mixture of fear and anticipation meeting a new class and then walking in and seeing the expectant faces–it’s all so exhilarating. Can you sense a twinge of envy here?
I’m in the classroom now, Marian. Doing what Christopher Dock did: praying for the students by name as he looked over his roll. Twelve students in an honors course. Could anything be better? Thanks for your interest. I’ll try not to stir your envy but to share the delights.
In freezing corn, we always shocked it in ice cold water before cutting it off the kernels. I remember women in our community getting together around wagon loads of sweet corn to “put it up” for missionaries home on furlough! It was dumped into large galvanized tubs with big chunks of ice from the “milk house”. Sometime we children would help, but mostly we ate it fresh out of the tubs! Ice cold! We also sprinkled salt onto the ice and sucked it in the oppressive south eastern Summer heat! All this was done under the large shade trees that surrounded most southern homes at the time.
Shirley, that sounds like a beautiful memory. Yes, we used cold water also, but I don’t remember ice. Thanks for adding your Southern memories to my Northern ones!
Our granddaughters joined us for sweet corn on Sunday. We never cut the corn off the cob for little ones, just break the cob into shorter pieces, butter it up, put it in their hands and let them chew away. They’re in heaven! Makes for great pictures, too!
We put up a lot of corn on the farm where I grew up. Mom always blanched the ears before cutting off the kernels and freezing them. Pre-air conditioning, that made for one hot, steamy day. I’ve since learned cutting the kernels off cold and freezing without blanching makes for fresher tasting corn. What’s your recipe?
An Iowa farmer’s daughter has to know a lot about corn! I can imagine how much fun the small cob can be. I’ll have to try that one with grandchildren.
Our family still boils and then cools and bags the corn. A number of people have told me about the cold approach, including recipes. But I don’t have one. Do you add anything to the raw corn? What keeps it from crystallizing?
My kid brother and his twin were born on my mother’s birthday the year I was eleven. My dad took my sister and me to town to buy her a birthday present not telling us until we got there that we should hurry because he needed to take her to the hospital. My gift choice was a butter dish made of green plastic simulating a fresh husk, and the cover looked for all the world like an ear of corn with a slice off the bottom. The dish was part of a set with half a dozen sets of matching cob holders. Each holder was a tiny ear of corn atop a pair of prongs. She was still using that butter dish when my children were small.
Even though her birthday was in April, that day and that gift are indelibly imprinted on any ear of corn I encounter.
I’m sure your class is off to a stunning success. Twelve students is a perfect number. I predict you’ll be teaching this forever and loving every minute.