Moonshine is only one way to enjoy corn this summer

June 24, 2022

Because we overslept last Saturday, we didn’t make it to the Historic Lewes Farmers Market in time to stock up for the week. Then we remembered Magee Farms – not their main farm in Selbyville, but the colorful stand on Wescoats Road in Lewes. It was like going to a miniature farmers market – they had similar items for sale, not quite as much variety, but all in one place.

For Father’s Day, they offered a well-priced package deal that included Italian sausage, corn on the cob, a choice of barbecue sauce and an apron. Jack selected the sauce, opting for the Moonshine variety. Reading the ingredients, moonshine was listed without explanation (along with ketchup and other typical components of a tomato-based barbecue sauce).

What exactly is moonshine? Many of us associate it with Prohibition, when alcohol sales were against the law. Moonshine is typically a high-proof alcohol made from the fermented sugar of grains or fruit, most commonly corn. Making it is fairly simple, which is why it has had the “home brew” reputation through the years. The name itself comes from the practice of operating the still at night to keep it hidden.

Since the 1970s, it has been legal to brew beer at home without paying federal tax, and the same is true for wine production. However, if you distill alcohol and sell it without a permit or license, it remains illegal at the federal level. When you search the internet for legal moonshine, you’ll find it available from several producers, all of whom have called their products moonshine and claim connections to old family recipes.

With the same basic production process, what is the difference between whiskey and moonshine? Taxes. Moonshine is simply untaxed whiskey. If you’ve seen artisanal cocktails featuring moonshine as an ingredient at your favorite bar, you should expect that the source was not a backyard still, but a licensed distillery, which is operated responsibly and under quality controls to manage the alcohol percentage and purity of the product.

When we tried the moonshine barbecue sauce, I couldn’t detect any hint of alcohol, so the amount in the mixture was likely quite low. The sausages (we chose sweet, not hot) were tasty, but quite thick, so we had to split them lengthwise to keep them from burning on the outside before the interior was fully cooked. I love the flavor of fennel in Italian foods, but I wish they had crushed the seeds instead of leaving them whole.

As for the corn, I was originally concerned because the supply at Magee’s seemed sparse, and the husks were not as moist as expected for fresh-picked ears. After cooking them, the taste was delicious, with tender, juicy kernels (see photo). Of course, every time we make corn on the cob, there is always an ear or two left over. That’s because I always make sure to buy one extra in case I discover a bug got there first.

What do you do with leftover corn? One easy dish is succotash – just mix the kernels with cooked lima beans and seasonings. Another tasty destination is corn fritters, which could be served at breakfast, brunch or as a dinner side. Add some interest to your next batch of corn muffins by adding shredded cheddar and corn kernels. Of course, you could always keep some corn for a batch of moonshine.

Corn Fritters

1/3 C flour
1/4 C cornmeal
1/8 t paprika
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 C buttermilk
1 beaten egg
2 C corn kernels
1/2 C Havarti cheese
1 sliced green onion
2 T butter

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add remaining ingredients. Stir to form a loose batter. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet. When bubbling, add 2 T portions of the batter and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Turn with a spatula and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.

Corny Corn Muffins

1 1/4 C flour
3/4 C cornmeal
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 C buttermilk
2 eggs
4 T grated cheddar cheese
2 T melted butter
3/4 C corn kernels

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line the wells in a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins.

Spicy Corn

4 C cooked corn kernels
3 T butter
1 t crushed garlic
zest & juice of 1 lime
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t black pepper
1/2 t salt
1/4 C chopped cilantro

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium. Add garlic, lime zest, chili, cumin, paprika, pepper and salt. Cook until fragrant, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add corn and stir to coat completely with spices and heat corn thoroughly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Garnish with cilantro to serve. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


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