Saturday, August 23, 2014

Betsy - Challenge 6: Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables

This is going to be the least sexy, most convoluted challenge I have done.

I knew I wanted to do a recipe I hadn't done before, with seasonal foods that were maybe a bit unexpected. I am still enamored of the Prairie Farmer, and went back to it for a seasonal produce recipe. I found another recipe in Rae Eighmey's compilation for "corn and beans", so I went back and looked for the original recipe, based on her 1849 date.

I found nothing.

Please note that the Prairie Farmer has been digitized all over the place. Still I ran into dead ends everywhere. I'm not sure what happened, if Eighmey misquoted the date or if I just missed something, but the Prairie Farmer had no references that I could find to this dish. I finally found a mention in the Country Gentleman - a similar periodical that freely admitted to stealing from the Prairie Farmer - for "methods of cooking green corn", that alluded to the Eighmey-cited recipe with corn "mixed with butter beans, seasoned with butter, pepper and salt, makes succotash, a capital dish". So, I gave it a go.

Despite the fact that I'm writing and posting this just before the challenge ends, I actually cooked it before this challenge even began, and served it the day it started. So, this is likely the only time I will be early to finish a challenge.

The Challenge: Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables

The Recipe: Composite from The Prairie Kitchen by Rae Katherine Eighmey and "Methods of Cooking Green Corn" from The Country Gentleman

Date/Year and Region: Eighmey gives the date as 1849, The Country Gentleman was printed in 1854. The Prairie Farmer was located in the Midwest, while the Country Gentleman was printed in Albany, New York. Make of all that what you will.

How Did You Make It: It was really simple. I cut up the salt pork and cut the kernels off the corn cobs to reserve in the fridge. I boiled the cobs with the salt pork until the pork was falling apart. (As a side note, I may have trouble getting all sorts of interesting ingredients, but my grocery store carries salt pork in abundance. The joys of country living.)

I took out the cobs, and put in the corn and the lima beans. I cooked them until tender, then took them off the stove. The recipe was not clear as to whether or not the vegetables should be drained, but reading between the lines, it read as a recipe for a salad rather than a soup. So I drained off the water, then added butter, salt and pepper.

Time to Complete: Half an hour or so? I was doing other things while the cobs boiled.

Total Cost: The corn was $2 from a roadside stand, the salt pork was $1.50, the beans were given to me for free and the butter, salt and pepper were negligible. So, about $3.50, and with four cobs of corn and about 4 cups of lima beans, there was plenty of food - enough as a side dish for a table of six, for sure.

How Successful Was It? It was...corn and beans and salt pork with butter. Tasty and fresh, not necessarily innovative, but simple and inexpensive and good. And really, really easy.

How Accurate Is It?: As always, I have no idea if the types of corn and beans I used were around in the period but I highly suspect not. I also clearly had some tenuous recipes to work with, but the reference in the Country Gentleman to succotash is pretty clear so I felt confident that, while I maybe hadn't started from a clearly-documented recipe (IMPORTANT: CHECK ORIGINAL SOURCES), I had ended up with one through my research.

And here's a picture of the dish on our period picnic table...which had, in fact, been rained on. Don't worry, the corn and beans were covered and survived and were still quite delicious.


  1. Sources are confusing. Which is why it's so important to quote them properly...

    I must say this is exactly the kind of dish I wouldn't be excited by at all. I'm not keen on corn. But yay for affordable and easy recipes!

  2. Succotash is made with Indian corn isn't it? I saw some maize at a local farmer's market but didn't buy any. It sounds like you managed to make the recipe mostly authentic. I stuck with another family recipe.

    1. This recipe specifically called for "green corn", which is young fresh corn. I have not done any research on the etymology of succotash and how it changed over the years, as I was seeking just to replicate this recipe, so I can't say whether or not it should be Indian corn, but I used the corn called for by this recipe.