Betty’s Scalloped Corn

When I asked my siblings for recipes that I might use on Courage in the Kitchen, my sister Betty offered this one. She says that Mom and Dad liked it when they visited her and Rollie. My brother-in-law has died, so Betty doesn’t cook as much as she used to, but this was one of the recipes she made often years ago.

It is a version of a midwest comfort food that many of us remember from our childhoods. With just six ingredients, it is quick and easy to prepare. I have added two steps to the preparation. Betty said that she just laid the bacon strips over the top of the casserole, but I like the results when the bacon is chopped into bite-sized pieces and cooked a few minutes before being added to the batter.

Scalloped corn is an excellent side dish to complement beef, pork or chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

About 1/2 row soda crackers (1 cup crushed and divided)
3 strips of bacon
1 large egg
1 15 oz. can creamed corn
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 375º, grease a one quart casserole and crush the crackers. Reserve two tablespoons of crackers to sprinkle on top of the casserole or crush a couple of extra crackers when you are topping it off.

Cut the bacon into half-inch pieces and fry it over moderate heat until it just begins to brown. The bacon should not be crisp.

Beat the egg until it is lemon yellow in a mixing bowl. Add the corn, milk and crackers to the egg along with half of the bacon. Season with a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and a dash of salt. Stir well and pour the batter into the casserole. Top with the remaining bacon and crackers.

Bake uncovered forty-five to fifty minutes. Use a table knife inserted near the center of the casserole to check for doneness. If the knife comes out clean, the casserole is done.

NOTES: Be careful with the salt in this recipe as three of the ingredients have plenty of salt. The amount of salt I use is about what I sprinkle on an egg cooking for breakfast.

This recipe makes four generous servings. If you are cooking for a larger party, you can double the ingredients and extend the cooking time a few minutes.

Buttered Rutabaga

“I think Pa had a blacksmith make this tool. Can you guess what it’s for?” my father asked me. He was giving his five-year-old son an educational tour of Grandpa Rang’s barn.

The tool he was showing me had a flat steel blade with a slightly curved cutting edge mounted on a long wooden handle like a shovel. I ventured a guess, “A barn scraper?”

“Nope,” said Dad, “it’s a rutabaga chopper. Pa planted rutabagas every year to feed to the cows in the winter. They loved ‘em, but we had to chop ‘em first. We used to have a box to chop ‘em in.”

That was the first time I had heard that cows ate things like we did. Mom put “beggies,” which is what most people called rutabagas when I was a kid, in soup and mashed them with butter sometimes. They had a sweet but strong taste and were not my favorite food.

Rutabagas have about the same sugar content as carrots, so that may help explain why grandpa’s dairy cows liked rutabagas. After a main course of dried grass, a few mouthfuls of moist sweet rutabaga probably tasted like dessert.

Dairy farmers today don’t generally plant rutabagas to feed their cows, but this relative of cabbages and turnips is becoming more popular as a food to include on the family menu. Gourmet chefs have got into the act and offer rutabaga purées, glazed roasted rutabaga and rutabaga salads with various flavors of vinaigrette dressing—all I am sure at premium prices.

Cumberland, Wisconsin, celebrates the root every summer with a three-day festival of fun and food including bratwurst made with rutabagas by award-winning sausage maker, Louie’s Finer Meats. Before you turn up your nose at one, try a perfectly cooked rutabaga brat at the Louie’s food stand manned by local volunteers during the festival. Like me, you may decide that those “beggie brats” are pretty good.

As I grew up I learned to appreciate the rutabaga. It adds a rich flavor to soups or stews and it’s an essential ingredient of genuine pasties. It is also delicious simply diced and steamed with butter, salt and pepper. Here is how to prepare this simple side dish.

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium rutabaga (4 to 5 inches in diameter)
Water
4 T butter
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
Dash of freshly ground black pepper

PROCEDURE:

Peel and chop the rutabaga into a half-inch dice. You should have three to four cups of diced rutabaga. Put it into a three quart saucepan with a half teaspoon of salt and just enough water to cover the vegetable. Bring the pan to a boil and simmer the rutabaga for twenty to twenty-five minutes or until fork tender.

Drain the rutabaga, then add the butter cut into teaspoon-sized pieces along with a quarter teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Stir to coat the rutabaga, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Rutabaga is especially good with beef or pork.