It’s time to say farewell to that fresh summer produce

By Don Bingham

It’s quite easy when we think of things “made in the 501” to celebrate the many fresh vegetables and food products that are grown and produced in this wonderful Southern countryside! From the pecans in the harvest season to the fresh tomatoes and corn in late summer, the kitchens are in full-steam production with canning and freezing for the coming winter months. We are loving the last-minute vegetable dinners!

There are as many recipes to share as there are available vegetables. Most of us Southerners grew up with delightful produce from our family gardens, with purple hull peas, cream-style corn, fried okra, fresh-sliced tomatoes with cucumbers and onions as staples. In the 1950s, we had a regular “peddler” come on Tuesday and Thursday, driving down the streets of our neighborhood in Huntsville, Ala., with his truck loaded with vegetables from his garden, ready for us to walk to the street in front of our home and purchase the vegetables for the evening supper.

One of my chores was to shuck the corn. I can’t say I always loved that chore, but I endured it more than the chore when we sat on movable stools and picked beans up and down those seemingly ten-mile-long rows in the hot sun! I was never a country boy at heart, just loved fresh vegetables. One of my favorite eating establishments was in Gatlinburg, Tenn.—The Hays House—where the daily lunch menu was served family style, with large trays of bowl after bowl of fresh vegetables and meats to pass. What a delicious memory! Here are some Bingham favorite simple recipes for these final days of celebrating the wonderful products of home-grown delicacies. 

Cream-Style Corn

4-6 ears of corn, shucked and cut off cob

1/2 cup water or milk

2 Tbsp. heavy cream or half-and-half

1 heaping Tbsp. cornstarch

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. sugar, if needed

Place corn in a saucepan, then add water or milk. Bring to boil, then cook for 6-8 minutes. Make a slurry of the cream or half-and-half and cornstarch; mix slurry till smooth, with no lumps. Slowly add the slurry to the middle of the saucepan of corn, stirring continuously until corn is at your desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and (if needed) sugar to taste. 

Helen’s Sauteed Squash

5-7 small yellow squash, sliced in rounds

3 Tbsp. butter

1 small onion, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. sugar, if needed

Place squash in pot and cover squash with water Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until tender. Drain squash and set aside. 

In a skillet, melt butter and sauté diced onion until translucent. Add squash and blend in butter and onion mixture; taste for salt and pepper. Cook for 7-10 minutes, adding 1 tsp. of sugar, if needed.

End-of-Summer Cornbread 

2 cups of self-rising buttermilk cornmeal mix

1 whole egg

1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup corn oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, placing an iron skillet in the oven to heat while making cornbread mixture. Reserve half (¼ cup) of the corn oil, then mix remaining ingredients, adding more buttermilk and/or oil to the mixture if the consistency is too thick. When the oven reaches 450, add the remaining 1/4 cup of corn oil to the hot skillet. Pour cornbread mixture into the hot skillet and bake until the cornbread is browned and set, about 15-20 minutes.

Don Bingham
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