Corn Fed

 


 

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Through the years, Mack managed the San Carlos Apache Tribal Ranch, and I often ate at the round-up camps. The cooks never, to my knowledge, made cornbread. Instead, they made 16-inch Dutch ovens full of biscuits each meal. Sometimes, the more talented cooks made yeast bread. Ferris Allen, who served as a baker’s assistant in the U.S. Navy made buns and loaves of delicious bread. Ferris taught several other cooks the art of baking bread, and Mack hired these cooks whenever he could.

What was mysterious to me is that I made cornbread and served it to the Apaches when they were at our house. They slathered each piece with butter and ate is with gusto. I asked a young Apache wife why she never made cornbread, and she replied, “I don’t know how.” I offered to teach her, but for one reason or another, she never took any lessons.

When ordering groceries for the roundups, Mack bought cases of canned corn. The cooks seldom, if ever, used the corn in recipes. Instead, they dumped the corn into stew kettles and heated it over the fire, serving it as a side dish. Once in a great while, I saw a cook flavor the corn with bacon drippings. Occasionally, a cook would drain cans of whole-kernel corn and add the corn to a Dutch oven filled with fried potatoes and onions. One of the cowboys’ favorite cooks, Raymond Dosella, combined canned corn, sliced potatoes and onions, chopped Spam and canned milk.  

Here are some of my favorite corn-based recipes.

Squash and Corn Casserole
 4 cups squash (yellow gooseneck, tender Patty Pan scallop and young zucchini), sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cups fresh corn
3 cups ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 cup water
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 cups shredded yellow cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all vegetables with one cup water in a saucepan, and boil until vegetables are half done. Drain well, and then place vegetables in a casserole dish. Stir in butter and top with cheese. Bake at 350-degree for 30 minutes.

Baked Corn
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup milk
½ cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 cups canned, frozen or fresh, whole-kernel corn

Sauté green pepper and onion in 2 tablespoons butter for 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, paprika and mustard, and stir until blended. Add milk, and stir until thick. Brown bread crumbs in remaining butter, gradually adding the onion mixture, egg and corn. Spoon mixture into a greased baking dish, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cornbread
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mild
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking power and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in another bowl, and mix well. Add milk to flour mixture, stirring until blended. Pour mixture into a greased, eight-inch square pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. When doubling the recipe, use a greased, 13-by-9-inch pan, and bake as described above. For sweeter cornbread, add ¼ cup granulated sugar.

Corn Pudding
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 16-ounce can cream-style corn

Beat eggs in a bowl, gradually adding butter, flour, sugar and salt. Stir in milk and corn, and mix well. Pour mixture into a greased 11/2-quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Stella Hughes was a longtime Western Horseman contributor and author of the books Bacon & Beans, Chuckwagon Cooking and Hashknife Cowboy: Recollections of Mack Hughes. She passed away last December in Kingman, Arizona, but will be remembered as a devoted horsewoman, ranch wife, cook, seamstress and mother.