Corn offers a wonder of provender for the household. The husks can be used to wrap foods for keeping them moist during steaming. Fresh, the kernels can be enjoyed right off the cob, added to salads, made into imaginative creamed and gratineed concoctions. Or they can be dried and ground into meal for all manner of life sustaining dishes, as Native Americans have done since they first came to corn agriculture in prehistoric times. The dried husks and cobs can be used to make dolls for religious purposes or child’s play, corn cob pipes, or, in a stroke of ingenious thrift, corn cob syrup for slathering on corn meal pancakes.
The batter for the pancakes, made into small cakes, also works for sporting a luxe topping of caviar and sour cream. Pass the vodka, please!
Corn cob syrup, for serving, optional (see the sidebar)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup polenta
1 1/ 2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
3/ 4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/ 4 teaspoon salt
Kernels from 1 corn cob (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
Butter or vegetable oil, for cooking the cakes
2 cups mixed blackberries and raspberries, for serving
1. Make the corn cob syrup, if using (or use maple syrup).
2. To make the batter, place the cornmeal in a large bowl, pour the boiling water over it, and stir to mix. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to soften the meal.
3. Add the melted butter, egg, and milk to the cornmeal and whisk to mix. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to mix (the batter will be lumpy). Stir in the corn kernels.
4. To cook the pancakes, heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. In 1/3 cup amounts, spoon in some batter and cook until bubbles form across the top, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over the cake and cook on the second side until golden on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes more.
5. Top the cakes with berries, drizzle the syrup over all, and serve.