The next step up from Lettuce Leaves with Vinegar and Sugar, Molly and I decided, was Parched Corn. The recipe sounded fairly simple and only used three ingredients: corn, butter, and salt.
Parched corn is on page 212 of The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker and shows up in Laura’s book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, when talking about her Thanksgiving.
“There were corn dodgers and mashed potatoes. There were butter, and milk, and stewed dried plums. And three grains of parched corn lay beside each tin plate.
At the first Thanksgiving dinner the poor Pilgrims had had nothing to eat but three parched grains of corn. Then the Indians came and brought them turkeys, so the Pilgrims were thankful.
Now, after that had eaten their good, big Thanksgiving dinner, Laura and Mary could eat their grains of corn and remember the Pilgrims. Parched corn was good. It crackled and crunched, and its taste was sweet and brown.” (81)
Laura writes fondly of parched corn, so Molly and I thought we would try it, as it seemed simple enough to match our cooking abilities.
The recipe calls for one ear of dried field corn or one cup of dried sweet corn. I would recommend getting an ear of corn and having it dry out before attempting this recipe. This is where Molly and I ran into a few problems. First of all, the local grocery store did not have ears of corn at the time, as the crop in South Dakota was not in at that time.. Instead we used a can of sweet corn and left it out to dry. By the time we were ready to make the parched corn, our canned corn was nowhere near dry enough.. We ended up having to bake it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes. At that point, we thought it was dry enough and decided to parch it.
In hindsight, I would say if you are going the canned corn route to either give your corn about a week to dry out on a cookie sheet or just start by drying it in the oven, which is probably the fastest way.
Once you have your dry corn, the process is fairly simple from there. The recipe says to use two tablespoons of butter to cover the pan. Once the butter is melted, cover the skillet with the corn kernels. Then stir the corn constantly, as it begins to puff up and jump on the skillet (and, in some cases, right onto your face) You will do this for about 3-5 minutes or until it looks done. At that point, you can add some salt for flavor and then it is ready to eat! The taste is similar to popcorn, but with more of the corn flavor retained. I would definitely recommend eating it fresh though. We brought some in for our coworkers the next day to try and they were not quite as impressed as we were!