Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Iowa Corn Pudding

September and October is an odd time in Iowa. Take a drive out to the countryside and you will see weird sights. Alien looking vehicles with lights all over, stirring up the dust in the fields. It's harvest time in Iowa. 

I might be a city girl, but I definitely live in an agriculture state. For over 150 years, farmers in Iowa have chosen corn as one of their main crops. In a typical year Iowa farmers produce over 100 billion pounds of corn. Used for food, animal feed, exports, fuel production, and so much more, field corn is THE major crop in this state. For comparison, the sweet corn we all love so much is less than one percent of that total. That was a little hard for me to comprehend considering all the corn stands and corn festivals we have every summer. 

I absolutely love the corn festivals and corn stands. Pulling up to the stand on a warm summer day, loading a few dozen ears of sweet corn into the car and heading home for a day of shucking, blanching, cutting and freezing is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. It's like filling the freezer with summertime. I like to pack one quart bags full of cut corn. It freezes quickly and is easy to measure out of the bag if I need a smaller amount for a recipe. I have tried canning corn at home but the lengthy processing time and high temp int he pressure canner causes the sugars in our very sweet Iowa corn to caramelize. The corn browns slightly and gets a slight burnt sugar taste. With freezing the corn retains its fresh taste and texture.

Bags of summertime, ready for the freezer.
Harvest time is also holiday time, with Thanksgiving right at the end of the season. My family always asks for scalloped corn for Thanksgiving, and I've always made my mom's recipe. Simple and easy, made with store bought canned creamed corn, eggs and saltines it's quite tasty with a browned crunchy cracker crust on top and creamy corn filling. This year I decided to step it up a few notches and pass on the commercial canned corn and use frozen sweet corn, creamy half and half, a hint of cheese and scallions. That crunchy cracker crust will still be there just like Mom's.

Iowa Corn Pudding

6 cups fresh corn kernels
6 scallions, minced
3/4 cup finely shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 cup crumbled saltines, divided
4 tbs melted butter, divided, plus more for dish

Generously butter a 2 quart baking dish. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the corn, scallions and cheese. Mix in the eggs, half and half, sour cream and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the butter.

Pour into baking dish. Toss remaining cracker crumbs with remaining butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 50 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Sprinkle with sliced scallion tops to garnish, if desired.

The pudding puffs up during baking and has a delicious custardy texture that's so much better than the old style creamed corn in a can. The cheese adds just a bit of depth and the scallions bring in just enough savory to keep that Iowa sweet corn from being too desserty. This delightful dish is going to be a regular on my family's holiday table from now on!

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