On our farm we keep time in the summer by specific events and activities. Like when the strawberries ripen and we pick twice, sometimes three times a day. Or when the wild blackberries are ready, and we spend early mornings filling buckets in the patch. The county fair, several annual neighborhood cookouts and town festivals help us keep track of our summer days. Perhaps one of the most anticipated summer activities is doing corn.
“Doing corn” is not just an act; on our farm it is an event. Growing up, we knew when the first sweet corn landed on our dinner table, doing corn was not far away. My mom would make the calls to family, neighbors and friends and a few days later our farm would be bustling with activity.
Grandpa Ray and Dad would greet the sunrise, picking a hayrack load of sweet corn from various patches they had planted in an effort to outsmart the cunning raccoons that enjoyed our sweet corn as much as we did.
By 7 a.m. people began to arrive and we’d hike out to the cattle pasture to husk that load of corn. In the shade of the hickory trees, folks settled into the beginnings of the day’s work. Back at the house, we enjoyed a short coffee break of homemade cakes, pastries and rolls while the corn cooked in a big black iron cauldron under which an enormous hot fire burned.
When the first batch of corn came off the fire and had cooled, the work began in earnest. We fell into a familiar rhythm. The adults were cutters, wielding their kitchen knives, sitting up to picnic tables with a cake pan or cookie sheet in front of them to catch the cut corn. We kids also served an important role. We were haulers. We hauled cooled corn to the tables, cut cobs to the pigs, and bagged corn to the deep freeze in the basement. We made sure the cookers had corn from the hayrack to fill the cook pot, the cutters had cooled corn to cut, and the baggers had baggies aplenty.
Doing corn would take the better part of a day. Everyone joined the clean-up because what followed was a feast of what else? Sweet corn. And biscuits, watermelon and other delicious homemade treats. A simple meal made fantastic by the people with which it was shared.
Not much has changed. These days we do corn at my house. Now I am the cutter, my kids, niece and nephew are the haulers and we still end the day with a feast of corn.
As it did in the past, the true reward comes in deep winter, when we pull a bag of sweet corn from the freezer and savor its taste and the summer memories of doing corn.