1. First, “make friends with a farmer,” says Martharene. You are looking for someone who grows Merit corn (yellow) and Silver Queen (white).

  2. Next, ask your farmer friend to let you know when he will be picking the corn and have it ready for you to come get it. You want to get your corn right after it has been picked. Your goal is to get the corn from farm to freezer as quickly as possible.

  3. Prepare your workspace by spreading newspaper on the table and floor because this is messy work. Shuck the corn and remove all of the silk. Wash the corn and use a silk brush to remove any remaining silk.

  4. To cut the corn, first hold an ear to get the feel of it. Hold it with the bottom cradled in the palm of your hand and with the top inside your arm. Using a large sharp knife, you will cut the ear of corn three times. On the first pass, cut the top part of the corn kernels. Cut it starting at the top and pulling the corn down to the tip. The second time, cut the bottom half of the corn but don’t go too deep as you do not want to go down to the “shucky” part. The third time, scrape the cob to get the milky part. Use the sharp side of your knife to do this and you will see the milk ooze out of the cob. You should cut the corn directly into a very large bowl.

  5. Every now and then, when your hands get sticky, rinse the milk off your hands and knife by running a little bit of water over them while holding them over your  bowl of corn. This will add more milk to the corn.

  6. Put the corn into freezer containers and add water, if needed, to cover the kernels. Freeze immediately.

Martharene McMillin’s daughter, Martha. Photo by Whitney Ott

Martharene McMillin’s daughter, Martha. Photo by Whitney Ott

  1. Buy thick (one inch) fatback in one piece. Look for solid white fat without any dark streak-of-lean meat. Bacon fat or butter can be substituted but fatback is best. The corn will cook up quicker and thicker with fatback.

  2. Slice the fatback into strips – not too thick, approximately ¼ inch and about three inches long. Next, take your knife and cut the fatback by making vertical slices, starting just below the skin part and slice downward but stop before the bottom. You are not slicing it all the way through. The reason you do this is that it will cook better. Cut enough pieces to spread around the bottom of your heavy black iron skillet. Rinse the salt from the cut fatback before placing it into the skillet.

  3. Cook the fatback on medium high heat until the skillet is full of grease and the fatback is cooked up. Remove the fatback and place on paper towels to absorb the grease, then you can eat and enjoy it.

  4. Remove the skillet from the burner. Pour thawed corn into the skillet. Some corn will remain in its container so add a small amount of water to the container and then rinse it over the corn in the skillet. You want enough water to barely cover the corn.

  5. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar over the corn. Add approximately ½ teaspoon of salt. Increase the heat to cook the corn and allow it to bubble up and come to a boil  Stir the corn frequently. Once it comes to a boil, decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Keep stirring the corn.

  6. Then add approximately two teaspoons of cornstarch, if needed, to thicken the corn. Mix the cornstarch in water before adding. (Note: Old-fashioned corn did not need to have cornstarch added.) If the corn is too thick after adding the cornstarch, add water to get it to the right consistency. You do not want it to be too runny or too gloppy.

  7. Continue stirring because this is what makes it creamy. Taste periodically to see if it needs more salt but don’t put too much. It probably will not need more sugar.

  8. When the corn is almost ready, it will start sticking to the bottom of the skillet. Add a half tablespoon of real butter for flavor. Keep stirring and once the butter has melted into the corn, it is ready.

  9. Immediately pour the corn into your serving container (it is a good practice to first fill your serving bowl with warm water in order to warm the bowl, but pour out the water before pouring in the corn). Cover with a cloth or lid to keep it warm until ready to eat. If you leave the corn in the skillet, it will discolor.